A venerable youth basketball league is expanding to serve players both on and off the court in a new program created to help prepare student athletes for college.
The Boston Neighborhood Basketball League is initiating a college-readiness curriculum intended to help teenagers learn how to prepare a college application, apply for financial aid, understand NCAA requirements of student athletes, and navigate athletic recruitment programs, according to Michael J. Crotty Jr., the league’s new operations manager.
“One of the things that drives me and that I’m passionate about is working with young people, not just on the basketball court but in academics as well,” Crotty said in a ceremony Monday evening at the Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury.
The league’s new educational component, developed by staff from the Boston Scholar Athletes program, will initially work with about 500 high school-aged students, but officials eventually hope to offer programs geared to students in middle and elementary school, Crotty said in an interview.
The basketball league, now entering its 44th season, will offer the education program through a partnership with the Boston Celtics and Suffolk Construction.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino heralded the collaboration and its benefits for city youth at the Roxbury ceremony.
“You can’t just work hard on the basketball court; you have to work hard in the classroom,” Menino told a crowd of student athletes.
John F. Fish, chief executive officer of Suffolk Construction, said Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca jumped at the chance to join in the new partnership with the city.
The Boston Neighborhood Basketball League “is a great program,” Fish said.
“It always has been a great program,” he said. “We will take this BNBL program to all new heights.”
Administered by the Boston Centers for Youth & Families, the basketball league is the oldest program of its kind in the country and serves more than 3,000 young people ages 6 to 18, according to city officials.
To help build the educational program, Suffolk hired Crotty, a former director of player development for the Celtics. Crotty was a standout athlete at Belmont High School and in the Middlesex Magic AAU program founded by his father, later playing point guard for the Williams College team that won the NCAA Division 3 title in 2003.
The program’s first meeting, on Saturday at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury, got off to a good start, Crotty said.
“We had a lot of fun, really,” he said. “I think what the kids realize is that learning about this stuff is really educational and fun. It’s not summer school.”
Takora McIntyre, 15, of Dorchester, said she learned about college requirements, including the SAT and grade point averages, and about athletic scholarships. “They made it fun, and it seemed like everybody learned a lot,” she said.
Imani Lennon, 15, also attended. The Mattapan resident said her mother went to college, and two older sisters are in college or about to start.
Still, she said, she realized Saturday that she did not fully understand the process of applying and getting accepted.
“I was just eavesdropping in the house . . . but I never really sat down and had a conversation with the guidance counselor or another adult,” Lennon said.
The process seemed less intimidating now that some of the mystery has been removed, she said. “I learned what I didn’t know and assumed that I knew,” Lennon said.