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Youth basketball opens doors for the most dedicated and skilled players, a fact that should be celebrated not scorned. Those who play and coach at the highest level shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed just because there are sleazeballs, low-lifes and knuckleheads among them.

Such miscreants are found in every field, including business, government, religion and the arts.

Yet there’s a tendency to dump on youth sports for the sins of a few, overlooking the virtues of many. “Prayer” serves to remind us that behind the highlights are human beings, dealing with pain, loss and failure, trying to achieve their dreams while doing the right thing.

I used to advocate major reform for youth basketball. Scale it back and scale it down. More emphasis on hitting the books and less on hitting the boards. Decrease the gap between students who are athletes and athletes who aren’t students.

Now I support tweaks, not wrecking balls. Yes, make every effort to help youngsters stay level-headed and keep sports in perspective. And recognize that the task requires teamwork from concerned adults at home, at school and in the community.

But eliminating elite-level programs and high-profile showcases won’t eliminate all the shady characters giving youth basketball a bad name.

It would just eliminate a great experience and terrific opportunity for many well-deserving kids.