On a hot summer day in 2000, three men played basketball and cracked jokes on the Niantic Park courts in Oak Bluffs. Twelve years later, Arthur J. Andrews 3rd, Ian Thomas Minor and James Jennings would go on to start an education nonprofit called Connective Inc, and establish Battle in the Bluffs, a weekend of basketball clinics for kids, and all-star competition for college age contenders.

This year’s Battle in the Bluffs took place last weekend, and consisted of free youth camps and clinics for two age groups, 6-13 and 14-18. The weekend culminated on Saturday with an all-star game for elite college-aged athletes.

Mentees from Connective Inc., Vineyard basketball players, and participants from the Right Way Foundation helped organize the event. The Right Way Foundation is based in California and assists former foster care youth in their transition to life after the foster care system.

Mr. Andrews., Mr. Minor and Mr. Jennings have all committed their lives to education. Mr. Andrews is a basketball skills coach, Mr. Minor is a coach at Molloy College and former teacher at School of the Future in New York city, where he met Mr. Jennings. Mr. Jennings teaches English at MVRHS and is the basketball coach for the freshmen team. He was also the glue that brought the three men together years ago.

Due to bad weather the game was moved from Niantic Park to the regional high school gym. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“I was 20 years old, and working in finance,” Mr. Andrews remembered. “It was my first summer in New York city. It was tough, and James was teaching at the time and grabbed me. He brought me to the Vineyard. The first thing we did was go to Niantic.”

On the courts in Oak Bluffs, Mr. Andrews met Mr. Minor, a lifelong Islander and MVRHS alum.

“Friendship is what sparked this whole thing,” said Mr. Andrews.

The Battle in the Bluffs weekend began last Friday morning with the college-age players teaching skills to the younger campers and refereeing games. That night the older players blew off steam in an invite only elite pick up game. The best of the best were then chosen, and on Saturday evening at 7 p.m., the all-stars suited up in custom white and purple Vineyard-themed uniforms. The game was scheduled to take place on the outdoor courts at Niantic, as the rest of the weekend’s activities had, but an impending storm sent the all-star game indoors to the MVRHS gym. Mr. Jennings said he preferred the new location.

“It’s true, we don’t get foot traffic here because people aren’t just walking by and stopping to watch. But the energy is so good here because everyone is here intentionally. They want to be here.”

Ian Thomas Minor, Kenny Jeannot, James Jennings and Arthur Andrews 3rd. — Mark Alan Lovewell

During the game, jokes flowed just as they did years ago on the Niantic Park courts.

“In a minute the game will get started and you’ll hear me on the mic talking crazy,” said Mr. Minor. “I only call people by their nicknames out here, and not everyone is in to it.”

On this night, the crowd was indeed in to it, watching Rasta Pasta, White Iverson and C Breezy on the floor. Via an iPad and speaker system, Mr. Minor kept the mood light. He punctuated missed layups with the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song, and added exclamation points to wild plays with a sound bite of someone yelling “you’re boolin.”

Later in the evening, New York-based comedian Dara Jem shared the microphone with Mr. Minor. Ms. Jem won the crowd over with lines like, “your braids are nice, but that move was not” and “that was a cinnamon bun level finger roll.”

David Van Allen Jr., a longtime veteran of Niantic Park basketball games, was on the scene. “This here is fantastic,” he said. “Having it at the high school, all these banners. I’m lifelong friends with the guys that won these banners. I played with them all summer. And in the winter I’d watch them win state championships at the Garden in Boston.”

All-star winners. — Mark Alan Lovewell

But over the years, Mr. Van Allen Jr. noticed changes in the Vineyard basketball community.

“I played in the summer leagues, but they don’t do them the way they used to. We did clinics in the morning and played at night, all summer long. Before they had the bleachers at Niantic and no lights, people would pull their cars up to the courts and turn on their headlights. They don’t have the leagues anymore.”

He continued: “When I was a kid I knew I’d be coming to Oak Bluffs June 16 when school got out, and that I’d have to leave when school started again. But for the summer, I was on the Vineyard. People’s grandmas passed or houses were sold. It used to be that people came for the whole summer and hooped the whole time. Now people can only afford to come for a week or two.”

While the Battle in The Bluffs can’t replace the three-month long summer basketball community of the past, it can usher in a new age. Mr. Andrews sees a community forming. A community where academics, athletics and a bright future are equally important.

“With Connective Inc and Battle in the Bluffs, we have great athletes, but we’ve also got music producers, future politicians, clothing designers, scientists,” he said. “The kids are not stats, or just ballers. We see them as people.”