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Moncks Corner entrepreneur gets grant from Black business coalition

Ernest Gass had grown up around basketball his whole life.

He’d been a standout player at Lakewood High School, just outside of Sumter, and gone on to play college hoops at Charleston Southern University.

Gass had always wanted to start a small business around something he was passionate about and basketball seemed like the most logical choice.

Ballersworld, an event and apparel company centered around basketball, was born. Gass, who is the CEO, received a $25,000 grant last month from the Coalition to Back Black Business to help growth it.

‘Battle on the Deck’ is a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that took place on the flightdeck of the USS Yorktown in Charleston Harbor. (Provided).

“This grant means a ton for a small business like mine,” said Gass, who was a walk-on at Charleston Southern beginning in 2006. “Money like this means I can start the second phase of Ballersworld and hopefully bring the event to other cities across the country.”

Gass’ idea is to bring basketball to the masses, while giving them a unique experience.

“The idea was to host events that were outside the norm,” Gass said. “I didn’t want to put on a typically basketball tournament event, I wanted us to stand out and be different.”

Mission accomplished.

In 2016, Gass hosted the “Battle on the Deck,” a 3-on-3 tournament that took place on the flight deck of the USS Yorktown in Charleston Harbor.

  1. By Andrew Miller

Gass said he got the idea after watching the Carrier Classic in the early autumn of 2012, when the women’s teams from Ohio State and Notre Dame battle on the former World War II aircraft carrier.

“It seemed like such a cool idea,” said Gass, who lives in Moncks Corner. “I thought we could take that idea and make that experience available to more people. Have kind of a street tournament.”

The Battle on the Deck has grown from 30 teams to around 100 before the pandemic hit.

  1. By Andrew Miller

“Things were just starting to take off, we were looking to expand and then the pandemic just stopped us in our tracks,” Gass said.

With the grant, Gass said he will be able to host tournaments in California and New York in 2023. His tournament in Alameda, Calif., will take place on flight deck of the USS Hornet, another World War II-era carrier.

“That tournament is the next step for the company, to expand our brand and get the word out,” Gass said.

The grant has also helped launch Ballersworld Global Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, whose mission is to support initiatives that emphasize unity, integrity, and promote a healthy lifestyle with a focus on youth in underserved communities.

“This grant money has opened a lot of doors,” he said.

Now in its second year, the Coalition to Back Black Business initiative was established in 2020 by the U.S. Chamber Foundation, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Business League, U.S. Black Chambers Inc., and Walker’s Legacy.

Its goal is to provide financial assistance and mentorship opportunities to help strengthen the Black business community.

Since its launch, the coalition has awarded grants to 1,091 Black-owned small businesses in 40 states to help cover essential needs as they navigated the pandemic, from covering rent and payroll expenses to expanding their online presence and marketing efforts.

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