Stop the Violence alumni game aims to bring people together

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Sunday, April 3, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Two torn Achilles tendons gave Wilkinsburg’s Taz Williams the hint. Williams, who co-organizes the Stop the Violence Alumni Shootout, decided to retire from playing in the 2022 event.

Not that it’s an admission that the 39-year-old still can’t play. It’s a sign the interest revolving around participating has skyrocketed. Many former WPIAL and City League greats have made a pilgrimage of returning to compete every year.

“I still play well, but I retired from playing in the event,” said Williams, who lives in Dallas. “I want to focus on organizing. I don’t want to be selfish. We have a lot of people who want to play.”

The 2022 Stop the Violence Alumni shootout will be the third iteration of the event, which took a one-year pause because of the covid-19 pandemic before returning last year. This year’s event will be April 16 at the Monroeville Pro Sports Center. There will be music by DOFF Da DJ. Tickets will be sold at the door with no online sales. Sales will be cash only.

There will be six games starting at 3 p.m. featuring matchups between Taylor Allderdice and Penn Hills, Wilkinsburg and Peabody, Imani Christian and Westinghouse, Oliver and Sto-Rox, New Castle and Aliquippa and Beaver Falls and Schenley.

“It’s grown a lot,” organizer Drew Schifino said. “After each tournament, a lot of schools want to continue to do this and get into it. We want to add more teams. A lot of people came to it and a lot of people talked about it on social media.”

In addition, the shootout will feature an All-Star game between the best players from the City League vs. the WPIAL for the Class of 2025.

Lincoln Park’s Maleek Thomas, Bishop Canevin’s Amari Evans and R.J. Sledge, Chartiers Valley’s Jayden Davis, Imani Christian’s Alier Maluk and The Neighborhood Academy’s Shamar Simpson have committed to play in the high school game.

“Making this a Stop the Violence event was about bringing people together,” Williams said. “No matter what your race or gender is, sports helps unite people.”

The idea for the event grew from an alumni game between Penn Hills and Wilkinsburg in 2018. In 2019, the event was played as a tournament. However, increased demand to enter a team into the tournament forced Williams and Schifino to alter things into a shootout to help get more people involved.

Despite lingering issues with covid-19 in 2021, last year’s event drew a crowd of 600 throughout the day.

“We try to make the matchups based on rosters,” Williams said. “We want to make this serious. There is a waiting list for teams who want to play. We want teams that will take this seriously.”

Schifino, a Penn Hills graduate who played collegiately at West Virginia, has been impressed with the evolution of the shootout. Initially, it was focused on putting together a strong basketball tournament.

Making it a Stop the Violence event gave it more meaning.

“A lot of guys with names play in these games, and we’re vocal about stopping the violence and advocating to the Black communities to stop the violence,” said Schifino, who will again play on the Penn Hills team. “Having events like this is positive. We want to bring something positive to the community. Every time something bad happens in the community, they report violence. We are trying to bring a positive message for communities.”

Schifino will play for the Penn Hills team. He anticipates a lot of former WPIAL and City League greats will be returning to play in the event against this season.

For everyone returning, this shootout has become an opportunity to get the family back together.

“Oh, absolutely,” Williams said. “I relocated to Dallas and this is an opportunity for me to come back to Pittsburgh.”

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