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17U, 16U Rebels prepared for nationals
Head coach Ernie Walthour (left), assistant coach Darrell West (right) and the 2008 17U Coastal Crew Rebels. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier
The Coastal Crew Rebels head for nationals next week and the other teams better be ready. The Rebels have added talent to their powerhouse squads and hope to have a solid showing for the 17U and 16U teams at the  tournament July 25-Aug. 1.
As a new member to the 17U Rebels squad Former Liberty County Panther and new Bradwell Tiger basketball player, Chris Riley, recently joined after playing for the South Georgia Kings. He said it gives him the opportunity to start showing recruiters what he is capable of.
"The Rebels and the South Georgia Kings have both been around a long time but I have a chance to go to nationals with the Rebels," Riley said. "I've never been to nationals with the Kings. This is a good opportunity to get looked at because my name is not out there just yet. I have to go with what is given to me."
Switching to the Rebels was just one of several changes that Riley said he is going through in his life, but he said being a team player is still his main goal.
"I'm loyal to the whole team," he said. "If I see somebody else who is hot then I'll give them the ball and if I'm feeling that I can make the shot then I'll take the shot."
Another first year Rebel is Long County's Justin Boyd, who said it feels good to go to nationals and playing the game and winning comes before being seen.
"As long as I get to play, I'm good," said the shooting guard. "I'm playing for my team first and foremost and to win. After that whoever sees me, sees me." Boyd who said he would like to play at North Carolina joins his Blue Tide teammate Jimmy Bacon on the squad.
Joey Bell has been a Rebel for four years and he said he hopes the Rebels can play together and make it to the finals and possibly hoist the winner's trophy. The seasoned Rebel who plays for First Presbyterian Christian Academy during the regular season said the road to nationals is a tough one.
"We know we have to go down there and play hard or else we might get beat," Bell said. "I hope to keep everybody under control and keep them playing together as a team."
For the 17U and 16U coaches the most important thing is getting these kids ready for the next level of play and school.
"The most important thing to me is that they get exposure," 17U head coach Ernie Walthour said. "Right here in Liberty County they are not getting the exposure some of these talented players deserve. We are doing are best with getting them out there and we'll get coaches call us and ask about players like Chris Riley or Jimmy Bacon and they ask us about their SAT scores and that's why we do what we do. We get them out there to play the game but we also keep them in step with their grades to play for us."
Asked about the friendly rivalry between the South Georgia Kings and the Rebels, Walthour said it was all a good thing and all in fun.
"It's been very fun for me," Walthour said. "We started the Rebels back in 1993 and Jessie Fleming and I are good friends and he is doing a great job with the Kings. We both have the same goal in mind, which is to take these kids to the next level. Regardless whether they are a Rebel or a King it's about getting them to that next level."
For the 16U squad, head coach Mike Brown said the competition just gets harder year after year.
"It's getting very competitive," he said. "We played some of the teams when we went last year with the 15U and we were able to beat some of the teams so we look forward to this opportunity to go there and play."
In order to prepare for nationals the 16U and 17U played against each other. Sitting courtside with a pen and note pad was the coach from Jacksonville University, who was on his way back to Jacksonville and decided to see what the Rebels looked like.
"Hopefully the players can play without getting the jitters and play they way they are supposed to and to their potential and have a good showing, " Brown said about having a college coach on the bleachers. "Unfortunately they know he is here watching. Sometimes it's better when they don't know so they can just play and do what they need to do."

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