Court Is in Session
A new program developed by Gabriel Franklin ’24 puts basketballs and Haverford’s educational resources in the hands of Ardmore’s young people.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Haverford men’s basketball guard Gabriel Franklin ’24 is a New Yorker at heart. And if there’s one thing he loves as much as the Big Apple, it’s basketball.
Franklin’s basketball career began in the park when he was 11, leading to organized basketball in middle school and, later, a spot on Hunter College High School’s varsity team, where he drew Haveford’s eye and led all of New York City in scoring during his senior season. Now, as his time winds down at the College, Franklin has brought an important part of his childhood to campus for the benefit of young players in the surrounding community through a program he calls the Ardmore Hoops Initiative.
“Playing college basketball had always been a goal of mine,” says Franklin, an English major and economics minor. “I’ve made a lot of great relationships I wouldn’t have made without basketball, and I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person.”
During high school, Franklin was involved in an after-school program with the Boys’ Club of New York that helped develop his skills on and off the court. Before he and his fellow ballers could get into the gym to play, they first engaged in educational activities covering various subjects, including visual arts, computer science, and reading. Franklin credits the program with exposing him to different concepts, meeting other players, and, ultimately, inspiring him to bring a similar concept to Haverford.
“I thought maybe I could set up a program like Boys’ Club, but at Haverford. I know I benefited from it when I was younger. So, I wanted to pass that forward to the next generation,” he says.
Franklin launched the Ardmore Hoops Initiative in early December with funding from several College departments and a pledge from an alum. The bulk of the financial support was provided by the Marilou Allen Office of Service & Community Collaboration, which funds projects that make it easy for students to participate in Ardmore-area service and community engagement. That includes transportation to and from a volunteer site, clearances to work with children, and providing food for an on-campus program, all in order to strengthen connections between Haverford students and the surrounding community.
Across eight Saturday sessions, a group of about 25 young people, ages 12 to 18, learned about subjects including creative writing, computer science, and reading comprehension led by Haverford professors or students. Discussions focused on inclusivity and topics like mental health awareness and activism followed the day’s lesson.
Then came the basketball. The participants received one hour of athletic instruction from Haverford athletes and one hour of free play in the Douglas B. Gardner ’83 Integrated Athletic Center. On Feb. 3, as Haverford faced off against Gettysburg College, initiative players took to the court at halftime to show off the skills they’ve developed.
Emily Johnson, the director of the OSCC, says she likes what she has seen from Franklin and his dedication.
“He has impressed me with his commitment to this program and how he has grown it from the ground up,” said Johnson. “He has recruited Haverford students to coach, and managed the entire program from start to finish. The kids participating are doing so at no cost, and to be able to share Haverford’s resources with the community is something we are always looking for creative ways to do.”
Johnson sees the initiative as a powerful example of how the OSCC fulfills its mission of building relationships between Haverford College and the Ardmore community by supporting students as they pursue community-engaged work and position Haverford’s campus as a welcoming place for its neighbors.
As Franklin nears the end of his college and basketball career at Haverford, he says he appreciates the participants’ willingness to learn, listen, and stay active. He is also grateful for the opportunity to engage with them through the program.
“I am glad I could provide a safe space for them,” Franklin says. “And a place where they feel they’re put first. It felt special when instructors or coaches showed interest in me, so I wanted to provide that for them. I’ve involved my teammates, some of the women’s basketball team, and students at Haverford to be role models for them. Giving them motivation and a positive direction is important to me.”