The South Georgia Kings 14U’s Derrick Brooks has coached the same group of young men since the fifth grade. During that time the list of awards and accomplishments has grown.
On Saturday they added another accomplishment, tak-
ing the first place trophy at the Clash of the Champions Tournament at the St. James Sports Center in the Holmestown community.
They beat three opponents, including another local team, the Coastal Crew Rebels.
"It’s very competitive," he said about the rivalry between the Rebels and Kings. "There are a few kids that we used to coach that are still with the Rebels, but all of those kids love each other and have good camaraderie with each other. Some of the kids from the Rebels program play at FPCA and they actually have good games against Lewis Frasier."
The South Georgia Kings players play in the spring and summer at many of the Youth Basketball of America and the Amateur Athletic Union tournaments.
"They placed first in several tournaments down in Florida," Brooks said. "Second place in last year’s River Fest Shootout in Columbus. They placed third in the North Florida Shootout in Gainesville last year. They placed first in the annual River Street Classic in Savannah in 2007 and 2008. They placed second in a tournament held last season in Orlando. The same team finished seventh in the nation at the YBOA Nationals in 2007."
Brooks said while athleticism and sportsmanship are highlighted, academics come first.
"We have some kids that are coming into our program and they are being targeted to make it to the highest level," he said. "They play basketball furiously, but even more so they maintain a high standard academically. We don’t allow kids to participate in the program if they have a failing grade on their report card. So academics are the basis for what we are doing for these kids in the program as well as the mentoring aspect of it."
Most of the Kings also play basketball at Midway Middle and Lewis Frasier, some come from Long and Wayne counties.
Their first major tournament of this season will be in March, when the boys head to the AAU Super Regional, a national qualifier.
"If we finish in the top four, we automatically receive a bid for nationals," he said. "We do have high expectations for this group of kids. We are just excited about the new season. We have an excellent group of kids."
Brooks said the hardest part of coaching has less to do with the games and more to do with getting the season planned financially. He said each time they go to a tournament it requires the rental of at least two vans, gas and lodging fees.
The South Georgia Kings are a non-profit organization and Brooks said donations would help them through the season.
"Donations are tax deductible," Brooks said. "The YMCA is gracious enough to let us practice at their facility on the weekends and we truly appreciate that."
The tournaments, Brooks said, help to get the local kids the exposure they deserve in order to get them scouted for top universities and colleges.
"The competitions we normally face when we are out on the road are the same kids they will be competing for scholarships against," he said. "Our goal is to give them the exposure that they need."