Haron Hargrave's Heart Has Always Been in Queens

By: Aaron Tomich | @AaronTomich78

It was the summer of 2008 when public address announcer, called by the name Uncle G-Stacks, shouted the names of players during games in the Hoops in the Sun tournament. The echoes reverberated throughout Orchard Beach in the New York borough of the Bronx.  Fans watched as one baller in particular scored 57 points, and a legend status was born. 

“I had 12 three-pointers and the announcer, every time I touched the ball, he was saying ‘H20! H20!’ like my jump-shot was pure like water.”

That legendary nickname was for Haron Hargrave, a Jamaica, Queens, New York local who had come home after his college days at Sacramento State and a professional career Europe.

From the Orchard Beach courts in the Bronx, to the neighborhoods around Rutgers and elsewhere in the Big Apple, ‘H20’ was known as a sharp-shooter and a powerful player. The nickname and on-the-court success brought honors to Hargrave, including hall of fame inductions into the Hoops in the Sun tournament and New York’s Dyckman Basketball Tournament.

“He gave me that name, H20, and it stuck and I made it into my brand,” said Hargrave, as he began to remember years past. “So shout out to Uncle G-Stacks for deeming me that.”

The brand became H20 Basketball – one that would eventually reach beyond that of the Jamaica, Queens neighborhood and would impact an entire community.

It all started for Hargrave at Campus Magnet High School in Queens, New York. A powerhouse basketball school in the late 1980s and ‘90s, Hargrave’s family had all attended, making the choice easy to attend himself. 

Despite battling injuries as a sophomore and junior, Hargrave was a standout at Campus Magnet, averaging 18 points and 8 assists. But he, along with one other senior on a young team, was nervous about his future.

“(My dream) was always to go (Division 1),” said Hargrave, who constantly asked “so how am I going to go D1 with a team like this?”

With AAU play not quite the suitable option, Hargrave knew he had to find a way himself, along with help, the carve his own path to NCAA Division 1 basketball. A friend named Thomas ‘Tippy’ McTernan was that help, and the road, which included junior college basketball, eventually led to Sacramento State – a Division 1 school.

Playing style differed in California, compared to what Hargrave was use to in New York, but that didn’t scare him. Although there was already a pre-season All-American point guard at Sacramento State, Hargrave was determined to be the man to get the job done.

“I wasn't even thinking – I just knew that I would make any program adapt to me and that’s pretty much what happened,” said Hargrave.   

Tough Big Sky Conference schedules and non-conference games like UCLA and Louisville were ways for Hargrave to showcase his talent.  Hargrave saw great success at Sacramento State, including breaking (and still holding) the record for most steals in a single game (9 vs. Illinois State).

Hargrave chose to venture overseas to play basketball in Europe. He quickly had success, as his first “friendly” game for a team in Romania, Hargrave scored 34 points.  Though he experienced success and fame in the European sphere, international play just wasn’t for him.

“The style of play was so much more different and physical,” said Hargrave. “(International leagues and players) get away with a lot of nonsense and B.S. stuff, and some places were very corrupt too.”

Hargrave enjoyed his time overseas to an extent, but was content with coming home. His excitement for The Basketball Tournament occupied his mind constantly, where daily rigorous workout sessions and constant summer league ball pushed him towards playing competitively again.

This summer, Hargrave hopes to get his shot with Queens Struggle.

“I’m really feeling good with playing basketball again,” said Hargrave. “But TBT and getting ready for this got me back into doing some stuff I haven’t even done since college.”

Returning to Queens was always tough for Hargrave, both logistically and emotionally. Throughout his college and professional career, he spent most of his summers in California. But only when you look back a decade can you begin to understand what made a return to Queens so hard.

In 2008, Hargrave’s best friend, Mark Arrington, was murdered in Queens. 

“(Arrington) was my backcourt mate in high school and it was just crazy,” said Hargrave. “I had that news and it was very bad, so I wanted to come back and do something positive.”

That “something positive” turned into a 10-year organized event named after his beloved hometown – Queens Week. 

Hosted at the famous Roy Wilkins Park, Queens Week was an event that was in place to promote peace within a community ravaged by “senseless acts of violence.” Festivities included community gatherings with arts, crafts, music and most importantly, basketball.

“The violence was actually happening in my borough, my neighborhood, in my backyard, so I wanted to do it (in Queens),” said Hargrave. “This was my way of giving back.”

Even though Hargrave was only in his early twenties, he felt his youth was what could rally the community together.  With his talent and name known throughout the borough of Queens, he knew the time to act was right then and there. 

Hargrave did only what he knew he could – play basketball and use it as his platform. His next venture was Ballin’ 4 Peace, a day filled with celebration of the sport and a celebrity basketball game to yet again rally the entire city of New York.

“My thing was brining people together in a peaceful manner,” said Hargrave. 

Hargrave received lots of support for the now four-year-old event, including celebrity appearances, city council proclamations and day camps and clinics from the New York Knicks. 

“The people came out for the love,” said Hargrave. “It feels good for people to come through.  Say if it’s even just one day. People come through and have peace for that one moment.”

Hargrave said that the impact he’s seen comes from the people of the community. Many tell him in person that events such as Queens Week and Ballin’ 4 Peace are much needed, and many say it is a blessing. 

“I get inspired that I’m inspiring others to do more,” said Hargrave. “I want to continue to feel more purposeful in their lives.”

Haron ‘H20’ Hargrave’s impact is great. One can see it through H20 Basketball, or during Queens Week and Ballin’ 4 Peace. But many see it through the man himself. 

As if it was foreshadowing, the announcers on the courts that day at Orchard Beach gave Hargrave an image and brand that grew to not only be known for basketball, but for his presence and care for an entire community.