Kennedy Park in Lewiston is always filled. 

The basketball courts, adjacent to the Lewiston police station, always have people playing, especially after 6 p.m. when players begin to file in. 

Many Lewiston High School players go there to work on their craft, as well as some Edward Little players. Others are just Lewiston residents looking to forget things for a while and play ball. 

Edward Little graduate Ibn Khalid plays at Kennedy Park, or KP as it’s known in the area, every day if he can. So does EL grad Wol Maiwen. 

Khalid has been coming since he was 10 years old, while Maiwen started to come consistently around eighth grade. 

“Summertime, when it’s nice out like this, I come everyday,” Maiwen said. “You see the same regular players, sometimes you get new players here and there but it mostly stay consistent.”

KP has a less-than-stellar reputation in the city and surrounding community, but Khalid believes the courts aren’t as bad as some people may believe. 

“The people that don’t come to the park, they think it’s dangerous and it’s too dangerous to be playing there,” Khalid said. “They’ll be like, ‘Wow, Khalid, you’re really going to KP? It’s so ghetto and dangerous, people fight and shoot guns.’ It’s really not like that. It’s usually the people that come from out of state like New York, Philly, the kids that come to Maine and try to bully the Maine kids at KP.”

For Khalid, the community and consistent players at Kennedy Park are some of the reasons he comes frequently to play pickup three-on-three games that usually run to 10 p.m. thanks to recently-installed lights. 

“Obviously, people are going to stand down and be like, ‘No, you’re not going to move us off the court acting like you’re big and bad,’” Khalid said. “People think it’s Maine kids but it’s usually the out of state kids that put that bad rep there. I think KP is not a bad place. I think it’s safe, the police station is right there. People that come to the courts, they’re good people. If they see someone getting picked on they’ll stop it. Personally, myself, if I see something happening, even if I am playing, I’ll stop the game and go break it up.”

Maiwen agrees and looks at Kennedy Park as a sort of escape from work and school. 

“I think a lot of people think it’s a dangerous place,” Maiwen said. “Things happen all over the place. A lot of players here, when we’re playing basketball, it’s our way to get away from the world. When we’re playing out here we aren’t thinking about anything else. We don’t even have our phones out. We’re just playing.” 

Maiwen and Khalid played together for one season in 2017-18 when the Red Eddies won the Class A state basketball title. Khalid had just transferred from Lewiston High School to EL that year, but the chemistry between the two was already building at Kennedy Park. 

“I didn’t have that chemistry, I just knew how to play against him,” Khalid said. “I did summer basketball with him, the chemistry started to come together, then he started coming to Kennedy Park and we made chemistry really well. It was there the whole season and it worked out in the end with a championship.”

Khalid from a young age had potential to do big things with basketball, and it was the elders at Kennedy Park saw that and helped him. 

“They told me I had potential to be really good and it was a matter of what I wanted to do with it,” Khalid said. “They said they had potential but they messed it up for themselves so now they’re just street ballers. They’re just telling me stuff like stay in school, advice like stay out of the streets, focus on your game. I didn’t only learn to get better at basketball, I’ve learned other stuff. It’s more than just basketball.”

‘THE GULLY’

Similar to the leadership Khalid was shown at Kennedy Park, EL standout and now-professional basketball player Troy Barnies absorbed similar knowledge growing up playing at “The Gully” in Auburn, located off of Union Street. 

“The sad part about the situation down there is there are two sides of people,” Barnies said. “There is a bad side and a good side of people that play at The Gully. At some point when you’re down there so much you’re forced to pick a side. I chose the good side so I didn’t end up hanging out with the people that were doing drugs on the side of the court near the trees. When you are down there and hang out so much you develop a Gully family, sort of, and I think that’s why I have respect when I go visit because I didn’t choose that side. I continued to go down there and play and have fun with it. I never chose that side that was always available.”

Both courts get contentious, as do many basketball courts and gyms across the country. At Kennedy Park, Khalid says that it gets physical but rarely escalates into anything outside of the game. 

“It’s basketball, it gets rough sometimes,” Khalid said. “Especially when you’re playing street ball with no refs. It’s going to get physical, but not fights. It’s going to get rougher than it would in a real game but that’s normal. It might get heated to a point where people are about to fight but at the end of the day they don’t end up fighting because they realize it’s just basketball.”

For Barnies, the physicality of the play at The Gully was crucial in his development from high school to the pros. 

“One thing I’ve learned and taken from those days is being able to hold your own,” Barnies said. “When we were getting older we would have grown men arguing and talking trash. It made me develop a personality where you kind of defend yourself back and forth and you can handle things like that. It forced me to be able to talk trash back a little bit instead of crawling up in the fetal position when people are talking.”

Barnies most-recently played for Atomeromu SE in Hungary and is in talks with teams for the upcoming basketball season. Barnies grew up around the corner from The Gully, and at around middle school, he started taking it more and more seriously. 

In high school, Barnies would have practice at EL, then coach Mike Adams would keep him after for at times an extra half hour working on drills and workouts. 

Some players stay after practice to get shots up, but Barnies was at The Gully everyday working on what he learned at practice. At around 5 p.m., adults would start to trickle in after getting off work and Barnies remembers a time where there would be 20-30 people at The Gully consistently, playing and waiting to play. 

“The good old days, I miss that,” Barnies said. “It really helped me because I was young and really started to fall in love with the game. Having the competitive side, playing against older men and college kids, it helped me to see that side of the basketball rather than just being in high school gyms practicing. It helped me see the other side.”

Now, Barnies doesn’t see too many people roaming the courts where he once grew up. 

“When we got older, say senior year… we would all coordinate as many people as possible to go down and play,” Barnies said. “…I’ve noticed over the years that not as many people would go down anymore. Every year I come back from Europe I go down and play every once in a while. It’s just not the same anymore.”

However, The Gully still gets run. 

Noah Moreshead of Auburn says that, on a nightly basis, there can be anywhere from five-to-25 players playing at the courts. 

“I like the diversity of The Gully. You’re never gonna see the same type of people there,” Moreshead said. “You’ll see some kids having fun some adults playing hoops, teenagers playing hoops, all different types of people just hooping or playing on the playground. I like how many hoops they have so it’s not like you can’t play if someone already is.” 

Moreshead added that, like KP, The Gully has newly-installed lights that has let kids play into the dark. 

The Gully, as KP is for Maiwen, has become an outlet for Moreshead. 

“Basketball is the reason I still go,” Moreshead said. “Having that as an outlet to go play whenever I need to is so beneficial for me because I love playing so much and it keeps my head clear.”

Khalid is picking a college to attend and is hoping to play basketball this winter. But for now, Kennedy Park is the place where he practices the majority of the time. It’s his second home, and Khalid wants people to know that it’s better than the reputation makes it out to be. 

“To the people that think it’s ghetto and it’s all fights and no peace, I want to say that it’s really not it,” Khalid said. “They’re judging the book by the cover. They probably don’t even know about the cookouts the park has for the kids a bunch of times. They don’t know about the little things, they just hear what they hear in the news. I just want people to know that it is a safe place and there are nice people…. All people are welcome.”

Former Edward Little basketball star Wol Maiwen, foreground right, drives to the basket in Kennedy Park Tuesday night in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A team waits on the bleachers for their chance to play the winner of the current game going on at the Union Street Gully in Auburn Thursday night August 8, 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A team waits on the bleachers for their chance to play the winner of the current game going on at the Union Street Gully in Auburn Thursday night August 8, 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal


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