Peoria basketball legend starting free co-ed basketball league for 3rd, 4th graders


PEORIA, Ill. — Peoria is well-known for having basketball legends come through our local schools.

One Peoria basketball legend, alongside Peoria Public Schools, is upping the game for local basketball.

Peoria Public Schools Director of Athletics AJ Guyton has quite the history with the game of basketball.

“Basketball is the lowest-hanging fruit for me, it’s the easiest to put together. Being with my basketball history. We decided to start with third and fourth graders because they’re old enough and are mature enough to go through an actual system,” Guyton said.

He played for the Chicago Bulls, he played overseas, but he grew up right here in Peoria and played ball at Peoria High.

Now, Guyton is ready to give back with the ‘District Youth Basketball Experience.”

It’s a basketball league for third and fourth grade boys and girls.

And, it’s free!

WMBD’s Matt Sheehan spoke with Guyton Thursday and learned how the programs’ goal is to help kids on and off the court.

But he needs your help to make this a success.

“This is a community, parent, volunteer led initiative. This is not a situation where we’re looking to pay people to do certain things. We’re also looking for community sponsors,” Guyton said.

Guyton has been working with Peoria Public Schools PTO groups to make this league happen.

“I was going around town for the last month, having meetings with each and every school, all 13 K-4 schools. I’ve been getting to know and creating good relationships and letting them know this isn’t just about basketball; it’s about developing, it’s about fundraising, and school spirit,” Guyton added.

The season will officially start Monday, Sept. 23 where Guyton will host ‘combines’ to see how many kids will come out to be a part of the league.

Mondays’ combine will be held at Woodruff High School from 6-8 p.m.

Tuesday will be at Richwoods from 6-8.

Wednesday will be at Peoria High from 6-8.

Thursdays’ combine will be at Manual from 6-8.

“We’ve broken the teams up into divisions. Our north division will consist of Hines, Charter Oak, Kellar, and Northmoor. Our south division will be Roosevelt, Harrison, and Trewyn. Our central division will consist of Thomas Jefferson, Whittier, and Maude Sanders. Our west decision will consist of Lincoln, Glen Oak, and Franklin,” Guyton said.

“We want to practice more than we play. The first year, there won’t be as many games. There’s only five weekends of games. We’re looking to possibly play on Saturday mornings to move out of the way from the scheduling during the week,” said Guyton.

“We’re gonna practice two times a week from Sept. 30 through the week of Dec. 9. It’ll all come to an end Dec. 14. It’s only between 15-20 practices and between 8-10 games,” Guyton added.

“The main purpose of this experience is to help our kids socially, emotionally, and skill wise. We want to reinforce all the values they’re being taught throughout the day, in the spirit of basketball, and help them understand they all work together to produce a well-rounded student athlete,” Guyton added.

If you own a business or just want to make a donation to the Youth Basketball Experience, you can call Guyton at 309-696-2358.

Guyton says the District is also working on bringing more sports leagues to the area, but basketball is just the beginning.

He is also looking for other basketball coaches, past players, and community leaders to get involved with this program.

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