The program is offered free-of-charge to at-risk young men ages 18-25. With the support of Suns charities Suns Nite Hoops is offered to young men regardless of their race, ethnic background, or city of residence.
In a typical season, 95% of participants are minorities and 70% live within Phoenix city limits. Many participants come from challenging backgrounds. Suns charities and the Suns Nite Hoops program have opened up a path out of the dead end lifestyle where they have had to live around drugs, poverty (over 60% of the participant's household's fall below the national poverty level) and what seems like a world with no opportunities. Several turned to crime as a way of life and were referred to Suns Nite Hoops after they entered the criminal justice system, while others entered the program to avoid a dangerous and dead-end lifestyle. Over 60% of participants are currently on probation.
It is a commonly held belief in the criminal justice arena that under-educated, unemployed/under-employed youth between the ages of 18-25 are at a much higher risk to use drugs and commit criminal offenses than the rest of the population. In fact in 1995, when Suns charities were backing the development of the Suns Nite Hoops Program, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report indicated that 75% of persons arrested nationally were in this age group. In 1999, that number had risen to 77%.
The Phoenix Suns Charities and Suns Nite Hoops target this group because there are virtually no resources for them. The Suns Nite Hoops program catches these young men at a crucial window of opportunity. They are old enough to start realizing that they want something better out of their lives. They want to become productive members of society, and through the components of the Nite Hoops program, are offered insight into realizing their own potential. The training techniques used in the pre-game workshops allow the participants to define and utilize their strengths through realistic goal setting. With the support of Suns Nite Hoops, these individuals are given the skills to change the path of their own lives. Regardless of their background and past experiences, these men will realize that they too can be successful in all aspects of life.