Ka’Juan Polley lived in Hempstead — but his home was on the basketball court.
The 15-year-old’s family and friends gathered at Hempstead’s Lincoln Park on Saturday for a basketball tournament to honor Ka’Juan’s life, which was cut short a year ago when an unlicensed motorist hit him as he rode his bicycle.
The tournament was sponsored by 3’s for Kay — a nonprofit formed by Ka’Juan’s mother, Jennifer Smith, last November to honor her son’s ambition to help his community.
Neighborhood kids “don’t have anything to do in the summer,” said Smith, 41, who has organized past community events with 3’s for Kay, named for her son’s ability to sink three-point shots.
“The kids were hurting as much as we were hurting, and we just wanted to help them,” she said.
Ka’Juan was small but quick and often said he had the biggest heart on the court, Smith said. His bookshelf was stuffed with basketball trophies, and he had dreamed of one day playing for the Duke University Blue Devils.
Basketball “was his thing,” she said.
Before his death last July, Ka’Juan, who attended Friends Academy in Locust Valley, had spent most of his time on the Lincoln Park courts.
“Anytime I was looking for him, I knew to ride right up here,” Smith said.
On Saturday, 10 five-member teams — including KP23 Elite, a local team named for Ka’Juan — faced off against each other from early in the morning into the evening.
The players spent a sweltering Saturday dashing up and down Lincoln Park’s courts, releasing jump shots and setting picks in effort to reach the championship game.
Dashawn Meadors, 15, of Hempstead, said playing the game was a way to honor his friend’s life.
“This shows so many loved him,” Meadors said. “He’s bringing people together.”
The event also featured a bounce house, face painting, music and performances by local dance groups. Volunteers sold 3’s for Kay T-shirts, with proceeds going to the nonprofit. Smith said she hoped to one day open a 3’s for Kay community center with a high-tech computer room, tutoring center and basketball court.
Regina Hardy, 40, a friend of Ka’Juan’s family, said Smith and 3’s for Kay have done “tremendous” things for local youth.
“It’s sad when tragedy brings people together,” she said, “but what 3’s for Kay has done for these kids has been transformative.”