Filling the net and filling void in the Downtown b’ball scene

Coach Macky Bergman guards a young player, helping him work on his ball-handling skills.

BY BEN TOCKER  |  As a skilled young basketball player growing up in Lower Manhattan in the 1990s, Macky Bergman was disappointed with the noticeable lack of an outlet for competitive play in his neighborhood.

Despite this obstacle, Bergman’s love of the sport eventually blossomed at Bronx High School of Science, where he captained the basketball team, and eventually the University of Rochester, where his Yellowjackets reached the Division III Final Four in his sophomore year.

In 2010, he launched Steady Buckets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching fundamental basketball skills while providing a Downtown Manhattan venue for serious competition.

His program started when David Kaplan, executive director of the Chinatown YMCA, placed Bergman in charge of resurrecting a spring basketball tournament for middle schoolers. Kaplan introduced Bergman to Kaplan’s close friend Barry Weiss, a senior partner of law firm Weiss & Rosenbloom. Kaplan seamlessly meshed Bergman’s coaching skills with Weiss’s fundraising ability, and the three native Villagers formed a tournament for 100 local middle school kids that spring.

Weiss, a father of a 12-year-old in the tourney, became an instant fan of “Coach Macky.”

“His basketball knowledge was top-notch and his ability to reach the kids was superlative,” Weiss said. “The kids were magnetically drawn to him.”

Weiss threw the resources of his firm and his connections squarely behind the program and became its executive director.

Bergman had a goal of making the program as accessible as possible, and now provides kids with an opportunity to play basketball seven days a week. He assembled a board of directors whose tasks range from fundraising to social media and P.R. Recently, 100 people attended the First Annual Steady Buckets Ballers Benefit, which raised almost $80,000.

Coach Macky hopes to have a permanent gym for the program, which currently operates on the Sara D. Roosevelt Park courts as well as inside Cascades High School across Forsyth St. from the park.

“With the generous support of our friends, my dream of a full-time home gym open to all kids who are dedicated to improving their basketball skills seven days a week may soon become a reality in 2012 or 2013,” Bergman said.

In two years, Steady Buckets has grown to include more than 150 participants involved in competitive team play, as well as skill development classes and workouts. Players range from age 5 to 17, and Coach Macky’s reputation for skill development has drawn kids from as far as Washington Heights and Brooklyn.

“We want to provide a high level of teaching for the player who wants to play a higher level of basketball in high school or college,” said Bergman.

On the court, Coach Macky leads workouts, which are set up so that the older and more advanced players practice simultaneously with the younger players. The older groups are leaders on the court, and thus high-level players go through the same exact practice routines as younger players, because, as Bergman puts it: “Fundamentals are for everyone. We are all part of the same program, the younger players as well as the older, the experienced along with the novice.”

As for future goals, Weiss stated he’d like basketball to be “the hook” to engage young men and women in the program and then provide excellent educational opportunities for them as well to prepare them for life outside of basketball.

“With Coach Macky’s connections in the coaching world, I would like to see some of our more gifted student-athletes get scholarships to highly regarded academic prep schools in the future,” Weiss said.

Inspired by a great love for what he refers to as “the city’s game,” Weiss said his ultimate goal would be to raise enough scholarship funds to open Steady Buckets for any kid who wishes to join.

With tireless effort from everyone involved, coupled with an extremely talented and charismatic coach, Steady Buckets is poised to continue its quick ascent into a prominent role in the New York youth athletics scene. For more information, visit Steadybuckets.com .

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