CRESTVIEW — After enjoying a successful first year, the Crestview Heat, an amateur boys basketball team, wants to add more teams.
The Heat, part of the Amateur Athletic Union, has two fifth- and eighth-grade boys teams. Due to the year-round basketball season, the number of players on both teams changes because children might have obligations with other school sports or activities, officials said.
So far, the organization’s players have stood out from the competition.
"We have made a lot of accomplishments in our first year," Crystal Scott, the team’s program director, said. "We have some really talented players."
Both teams placed second in their age division during the AAU Memorial Day Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
"To have teams from all over the United States (compete in the tournament) and for us to place that well was huge," Scott said.
Fifth-graders placed in 13 of 14 tournaments; eighth-graders placed in eight of 12 tournaments, team director Tony Johns said.
Organizers plan to have additional boys and girls basketball teams following increased interest in the organization, Scott said.
To give organizers an idea of how many teams to add, the Heat will have "Meet the Coach" night on Aug. 12 at Twin Hills Park. The informational meeting will include team tryouts.
In addition to the organization’s expansion plans is its aim to expose visiting teams to the Hub City.
Both teams regularly travel and compete in Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola and surrounding areas, but the Heat seeks the city's support in hosting a future tournament.
Teams traveling to Crestview for tournaments would boost the economy while staying at local hotels and eating at local restaurants, Scott said.
But before that happens, the Heat could use additional sponsorships to participate in tournaments, which can cost up to $600 per team — a steep amount for players from limited-income households, Scott said.
Players regularly practice at Twin Hills Park’s public gymnasium.
"It's a great experience," Jacob Gabamy, 10, said. "We have a wonderful team and a great coach."
Jacob said the team has not only helped him improve his basketball skills, but it also has helped improve his conduct.
"If I have an attitude, they will make me run suicides on the court," he said.
In a suicide exercise, players repeatedly run to and from different intervals marked on both sides of the basketball court.
The team also stresses the importance of education, Jacob said.
"If you want to play basketball and want to play in the (tournaments), then you need to keep your head in the books and have good grades," he said.
Players are required to show their report cards to coaches, and those who don’t make the grade must sit out a certain amount of time or perform difficult practice drills. The team also refers players to tutors.
Ty Williams, 14, the eighth-graders’ team captain, said playing for the Heat will help him on Crestview High School's junior varsity team.
"A lot of the stuff that coach (Johns) has taught me has gotten me to that level," Ty said.
Want to go?
WHAT: Meet the Coach night for the AAU Crestview Heat basketball team
WHEN: 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12
WHERE: The indoor gymnasium at Twin Hills Park, on the corner of North Hathaway Street and Playground Drive, Crestview.
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Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.