From NBC Sports
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – On the University of Maryland campus, legendary Cole Field House has long since become Cole Student Activities Center. Cole is dark and empty at 10 p.m. on a muggy summer night, but a knot of frenzied activity in the eastern lee of the building fills the air with a happy hubbub of voices, shouts and laughter.
There are basketball players here — lots of them. For them, playing hoops is fun, but it’s also a way to build brotherhood; a way to grow closer with others who share their Muslim faith, and get to know some who don’t.
They are high-school students, representatives of the Washington, D.C., region of the Muslim Inter-Scholastic Tournament, informally known as MIST. Many of them are planning to play in a basketball tournament, but they are also poets, actors, artists, filmmakers and web designers. They are waiting on Union Drive for buses that will take them to Toronto to compete in MIST’s national tournament.
Adam Kareem is an island of authority in the middle of this teenage storm. Dressed in black jeans and a pale yellow button-down shirt, the director of DC MIST sports a beard that would make James Harden sit up and take notice. He carries a thick cardboard tube filled with participant projects over his shoulder that acts as a sort of lightning rod, attracting a flurry of questions that he easily channels into directed energy. His charges are truly scholars and athletes, he explains.
“[MIST] started off as a purely inter-scholastic competition, but the organizers saw that basketball was huge with the male population,” he says. “So they added basketball, but put in the stipulation that in order to register for basketball, you also had to register for one of the other competitions. If you don’t, you can’t compete. It very naturally develops a more rounded approach and lets competitors develop other talents.”