Bright lights illuminate the gymnasium at Bradley Tech High School in Walker’s Point as a sparse crowd looks on from the bleachers. Burly security guards occupy spots at each corner of the court. A rap song, “Watch Me,” by Silento, blares from courtside speakers, and a few players move in rhythm as they bounce around the court. Some of these young men, who are mostly African Americans between the ages of 17 and 25, are quick and skilled, and others are a bit out of practice. It’s Saturday night, and the clock is counting down to Sunday.

Welcome to the Midnight League. On these Wednesday and Saturday nights – which punctuate three 10-week seasons during the spring, summer and fall – about eight teams square off , with four games played each day. As the buzzer sounds to end the night’s first game, Nate Hubbard, his jersey drenched in sweat, jogs off the court. He’s a member of the Hillside-In the Cut team, named after the Hillside neighborhood. Life in this gym on the near South Side has a different rhythm than the neighborhoods where many of the players live, places scarred by violence. “I see it every day,” says Hubbard, who is 21.