The girls of summer
Four area basketball players take their skills to a winning AAU team
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
Just because high school and junior high gyms across the state are quiet in the summer months, doesn't mean that basketball season is over. For four local players, summer is just the beginning of a new season.
Hartselle's Alex Holmes, Taylor White and Katie Young and Priceville's Jordan Crow are members of Alabama Ballers, a 12-and-under Amateur Athletic Union travel team that has already put together quite a list of accomplishments.
Alabama Ballers is currently ranked No. 4 nationally in AAU's Division II rankings, and went undefeated in the recent Garden City Roundball Classic in Augusta, Ga. The team defeated the Georgia AAU Division II state champions twice to earn first place at the tournament, winning the championship game by a score of 50-34. White and Young were named All-Tournament players at the event.
The team, who will travel to the AAU Division II National Championship in Nashville, Tenn., July 15-22, is coached by Sharon Rivers and is made of 12 members from around the northern Alabama area.
Coach Rivers' team was ranked third in the 2004 after the AAU State Games and traveled to Nashville for the 2004 national tournament. To fill out the roster, coach Rivers invited three players from rival team Bama's Best – including White and Crow – to join the Ballers in Nashville.
Alabama Ballers came in fourth place out of 78 teams at the national Division II championship, and the three Bama's Best players elected to stay with their new team.
"Those three came to me and we decided that we'd add them for (the 2004) Nationals," coach Rivers said. "They really gelled with the team and enjoyed the experience so much that we decided to keep them together."
The 2005 edition of Alabama Ballers has been just as successful as the 2004 team, with the team earning first place at the 2005 Mid America Sports Center Tournament in Kentucky, the 2005 Alabama Magic Classic and the 2005 Barn Burner Tournament in Tennessee. Alabama Ballers took second at the 2005 Alabama AAU State Competition.
White, Young, Holmes and Crow have certainly been a part of that success.
"(White and Crow) are really good outside shooters," coach Rivers said. "Taylor is one of my point guards and we utilize her a lot with bringing the ball up the court. I can substitute either of those girls into the offense and we won't miss a beat."
Holmes and Young are joining Alabama Ballers for the first time, but have already made an impact on their coach.
"Katie is an absolute madwoman down low," coach Rivers said. "She does wonderful at boxing out and getting rebounds and really knows how to get the other team's players into foul trouble. And when she gets fouled, she's always good at knocking down her free throws.
"Alex is a great back-up guard. She doesn't shoot from the outside too much, but she is great at taking players off the dribble and shooting the short pull-up jumper."
Summer travel teams don't have as much flexibility as school varsity teams when it comes to setting up a practice schedule. Half of the team lives near Hartselle and half lives in the Huntsville area.
To minimize travel time for practice, coach Rivers has the team practice once a week in Hartselle and once a week in Huntsville.
Holmes doesn't mind the travel involved in being a member of one of the AAU's better teams.
"It's really neat because you meet a lot of new people and friends and get to see a lot of places when you travel," she said. "All of our coaches are really nice and they've been very supportive. They know a lot about basketball."
White, Young and Holmes will play on coach Diane Shelton's Hartselle Lady Tiger eighth-grade team in the 2005 season.