New York City: High-Stakes Hoopsters

High-Stakes Hoopsters

For many ghetto kids, gaining self-esteem as a basketball player has been one way to escape the snare of drugs. But New York City police say that may no longer be a local option. The reason: drug lords are recruiting promising neighborhood players, offering them such inducements as cash and $80 sneakers to play in sandlot tournaments on which the dealers place big bets.

The extent of the playground takeover was dramatized recently when Gregory Vaughn, 33, a high school coach and former Queens College star, was asked to referee a neighborhood game. Vaughn, who had helped many youngsters develop their...

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