A group of women get together for some pickup basketball in Brooklyn. Photo: Curtis Rowser III

On the heels of a record-setting women’s college basketball season, followed by the most-viewed WNBA draft of all time, women’s basketball altogether is garnering more mainstream media attention than ever before. There are many reasons for this: increased visibility and coverage, the influence of social media in connecting athletes with fans and the rise of new stars like , and , to name a few. All of this points to a broader aim towards gender equity in basketball, and not just at the professional and collegiate levels; it’s also inspiring the next generation of lady hoopers. Young girls are increasingly picking up basketballs and hitting the courts, driven by the elevated prominence of women who are role models in the sport. 

“With the game growing the way it’s growing, and as many eyes on the college game and the WNBA, I see more [young] girls seeing representations of themselves,” says Mark Hill, who recently left his position after spending the past eight years with Success Academy Charter Schools. There he served as the program manager for basketball, where he played a pivotal role in developing the basketball programming for their elementary, middle school and high school students. “What [young girls] are seeing is the confidence and availability to be able to say, ‘I play ball,’” he says.

The ripple effect of this cultural shift is evident in local youth leagues and various school and community programs, where participation rates are growing and enthusiasm for the game is becoming more palpable for girls. And in ż, where basketball culture is such a big part of its identity, this shift is magnified.

Yet despite positive trends regarding participation and interest, there are still shortcomings regarding the quality and number of resources made available to girls, relative to boys. And even when the resources are available, oftentimes, the awareness of them isn’t. “There’s a disparity in how many programs we have for young ladies; I don’t think there’s enough,” says Hill, who’s been working on building a new charter school basketball network, since recently leaving Success Academy.

Young girls are increasingly picking up basketballs and hitting the courts, driven by the elevated prominence of female role models in the sport. Credit: Curtis Rowser III

Despite there being about 274 charter schools among the five boroughs, per nyccharterschools.org, the most resourceful—and therefore the most competitive—high school basketball programs across ż are typically public schools in the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) or private schools in the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA). While many charter schools offer some sort of basketball programming, it’s not often sustainable for kids who are seriously pursuing playing at the collegiate level, let alone those with dreams of playing professionally one day. Generally speaking, public and private schools simply put more energy into their basketball programs. As a result, many kids and their parents ultimately opt to leave their charter school behind to better position themselves for basketball success.

During his time with Success Academy, Hill worked with a handful of girls who’ve since transferred to basketball powerhouses like Christ the King in Queens, South Shore in Brooklyn and others. Hill embraces his role in the ever-changing ecosystem of youth sports. “[The girls who transferred] all showed that playing at Success Academy helped develop their game to where they can lead and have a pathway for basketball at public school,” he says. 

Hill says he would like to see an overall improvement in inner-city efforts to advance the game for girls. 

“In more suburban areas like Long Island, there are a lot more programs geared towards girls. In the inner city, there are a lot of programs, but not a lot of promotion for those programs,” he says. “There needs to be more support, more advertising, more promotion.”

While there’s much to be desired in how schools–and communities in general–support the growth of women’s basketball, there’s never been a better time for girls to get into it. 

“Nowadays, there’s a lot more going on for high school girls,” says Ashanti Plummer, a 30-year-old Harlem native, now living in Brooklyn. Plummer graduated from ż Museum School in Manhattan in 2012, before going on to play Division I basketball at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and ultimately for a brief stint as a professional in Australia. Plummer is deeply steeped in the girls’ ż basketball landscape. She’s a coach, she’s a trainer, she helps orchestrate basketball camps and she volunteers in the basketball space whenever she can. “There are absolutely more opportunities and more people investing their money,” she says, regarding the growth of girls’ basketball since she graduated high school 12 years ago.

Ashanti Plummer, 30, is a former professional basketball player who finds ways to stay involved in the girls’ and women’s basketball community. Credit: Curtis Rowser III

There are many nonprofit organizations and teams around ż that are making it easier for girls (and women) who are interested in basketball to get involved.

provides award-winning, free programming throughout the city for girls between the ages of 4 and 12; is an all-girl youth basketball organization that has teams for girls as young as the fifth grade and has helped over 200 girls play college basketball (over 90% of them earned full scholarships); the YMCA has a variety of basketball camps for girls to participate in; the list goes on. 

Yet by age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1974 that aims to “advance the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity.”

Fortunately, the evolving landscape of women’s basketball is helping to break down these barriers and reshape perceptions. The wide spectrum of successful NCAAW and WNBA hoopers are now being celebrated for their multifaceted talents and interests off the court too, whether it’s Caitlin Clark in a State Farm commercial, Angel Reese being seen at the Met Gala, announcing her new signature Nike sneaker or publishing a memoir. “If you’ve never seen anyone who looks like you accomplish something like playing in the WNBA, then maybe you don’t know that it’s possible,” says Plummer. “But you can play basketball and still be the full woman you are, no matter what that looks like.” 

But this all starts with optimizing access to information, opportunities, and resources that can support and nurture young female basketball players. While there’s more access to girls’ basketball now than ever before, equitable access is still a ways away. But slow steps are better than no steps; the sport’s ascension and the burgeoning popularity of the WNBA and college basketball are promising and have proven to have some optimistic implications for the girls around our neighborhoods.

Read more of our feature stories here.

Curtis Rowser III is a Brooklyn-based writer and digital media creator. He recently earned a master’s degree in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University and is currently completing his master’s...

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