WILLIAMSPORT – Alize Johnson may have made it to the National Basketball Association, but he has not forgotten about his hometown of Williamsport, Pa. In his latest mission to give back to his community, Johnson’s charitable arm, the Alize Johnson Foundation, is building three NBA regulation-size basketball courts at the site of Flanigan Park, corner of Walnut Street and Little League Boulevard.
Johnson, who was drafted as a rookie player to the Indiana Pacers team in 2018, said he wants to provide a place where youth can work on their basketball skills. “It is something I wanted to have in the city because I grew up playing ball here,” said Johnson, a graduate of St. John Neumann Regional Academy who spent time as a youth playing basketball at city parks.
The site, which currently houses two basketball courts and one tennis court, is owned by Firetree Place (formerly Bethune Douglas). The courts have not been used for quite some time due to disrepair. The surfaces are cracked and have been closed due to safety reasons, according to Firetree Place’s Executive Director, William Dayton. Though they wanted to see the courts used, they didn’t have the money to repair them. When the Alize Johnson Foundation approached Firetree Place executives earlier this year, it was the ideal solution to the problem. “This was a perfect opportunity for us to get those courts up and going and to provide access to community members,” Dayton said. He added that, “basketball is a very big part of Williamsport.”
Originally, foundation representatives looked at Memorial Park as a possible site for the courts. Memorial Park was where Johnson honed his basketball skills as a boy. However, there was a lengthy approval process needed through the City of Williamsport. The foundation wanted to begin construction on basketball courts now, according to Jaron Bartholomew, spokesman for the Alize Johnson Foundation. The Flanigan Park site owned by Firetree Place already had the fencing and lights that are needed, he added. When the foundation members approached Firetree Place, “they were more than willing,” Bartholomew said.
The projected opening date for what the foundation is calling WtaWtaW Basketball Courts is June 1, 2019. The name comes from the foundation’s slogan, “When there’s a WILL, there’s a WAY.” The project will include new fencing, adjustable hoops, new lights and bleachers. Cost is estimated at around $120,000, according to Bartholomew, and will include security throughout the summer months to ensure the area is safe. “During the first few months, we will have some type of security guard from the hours of 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Saturday,” Bartholomew added.
Community support has been positive so far, according to Bartholomew. Several local companies have offered sponsorship, including PRN Home Health Services, who pledged $10,000. Pepsi Bottling Group in Williamsport donated $5,000. “These were huge donations that helped us get the project started,” Bartholomew said. Other donors contributed as well. A list can be found on the foundation's fundraising page: https://fundrazr.com/41ShQ7?ref=sh_c7ssh2_ab_7xHKHPjOOBQ7xHKHPjOOBQ.
The new basketball courts will serve the entire Williamsport community and also will be used by Firetree Place as part of their youth programming and adult sports leagues. The courts will provide recreation in a part of town that has been devoid of outdoor recreation for some time. “I think it will benefit everyone in providing more activities, especially in the warmer weather,” Dayton said.
Johnson is hoping that Williamsport youth will take advantage of the courts to work on their basketball skills and possibly make it to professional leagues, and maybe even the NBA. He already has given back to the community by donating sneakers to all the basketball players at his high school and distributing Thanksgiving food baskets last year. The basketball courts will be his biggest project here yet. “That’s something that’s important to me, that the kids can benefit from. That’s like my thank you to the city and to everyone who supported me,” Johnson said.
More information on the Alize Johnson Foundation can be found at www.wtawtawfba.com or on their Facebook page.