CHICAGO (CBS) — Basketball helped a Chicago man get out of low-income housing and into a successful life, and now, he has launched a full-court press to help more teens thrive.
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reported, Michael Horton is known to most everybody as “Skeet” – and does he ever love the game of basketball. Horton has been connected to the game for most of his 48 years, and he says basketball saved him.
“It gave me an opportunity to connect with mentors; gave me an opportunity to connect with other positive kids in the community,” Horton said, “It gave me an opportunity to move outside of my community.”
Horton grew up in the Cabrini-Green public housing development in the 1970s and ’80s.
“Coming from the Cabrini-Green area and being surrounded by all the negative things, you don’t see positive, positivity,” he said. “You don’t see heroes throughout your day.”
Horton first picked up basketball in seventh grade. After his first attempt to make the school team failed, Horton kept at it and ended up playing in high school and college.
After graduation, Horton took a job with the Chicago Demons basketball program. Along the way, he began sharing his love of hoops with other kids from his neighborhood.
“To try to keep them off the street, and I started with them – just trying to nurture them, to be their role model,” Horton said.
Henry Stephens, now the Demons’ 15U travel head coach, was one of them.
“He’s a coach and a mentor, a friend before anything,” Stephens said.
Last year, Horton took his game up a notch – starting the Hoop ’Til It Hurts Foundation to keep young players on the court for as long as possible.
“I look at him as like a good figure in my life, somebody I could look up to,” said one young man on the Demons team.
“I want us to be able to support one another so that every kid can live out their dreams – or at least pursue their dreams – without having to go through such hard times,” Horton said.
So far, the foundation has bought uniforms and has helped fund the other team’s expenses. Horton raises money in part by selling inspiring shirts.
“A donation or providing a resource for a kid to play in a basketball leagu,; play in a tournament – it seems like that’s what we’re doing,” Horton said. “But what we’re really doing is keeping them in the game so that they can find connections and resources to do bigger thing in life.”
Horton says Hoop ’Til It Hurts also helps pay for academic tutors and strives to provide other off-the-court support for the players too.