Dana King Jr. knew he would want to coach kids someday.
“I’ve always wanted to get into it, but I was busy in college … I had talked to Ernie (Walthour) before I came back to town, and he was going to give me a team … but unfortunately, he passed away,” said King, who played basketball at Bradwell Institute, in the summer AAU league for the Coastal Crew Rebels and at East Georgia State College.
Walthour, who founded the Rebels organization in 1992, was killed July 1, 2013, the apparent victim of an armed robbery that remains unsolved. King was among several former players and mourners who packed the St. James Sports Center for Walthour’s funeral service. Now, King is giving back and carrying on his mentor’s legacy by coaching the 12U Rebels boys’ basketball team.
King met with current Rebels’ President Shane Smith and was given the coaching job running the 12U team.
“This is my first year coaching basketball. I need to call David Jones, Neil Bailey, my father and everybody who has coached me in the past, and I need to apologize,” King said, laughing. “It is rough and not as easy as I thought. I thought I would be a great coach and it would be easy and that I knew exactly what I’m doing, but it takes a lot of patience. This is a learning experience but I am having fun with it.”
The 12U Rebels will report to seventh grade in the fall. King said he plans to stay with the same players and see them through their middle- and high-school years, if possible.
To date, King said, the team has played in four tournaments. The Rebels placed third in their first tournament, second in the second tournament and third in a tournament in Albany. The players also just participated in the South Georgia basketball league in Savannah, a six-week program where the boys finished fourth overall.
On Monday, the 12U Rebels will be in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and will play in the AAU National Tournament from July 7-11 in Atlanta. Their next home tournament currently is slated for July 31 through Aug. 2.
King said he started the season with high expectations but also noted that much work needed to be done.
“A lot of the kids today need to get back to the fundamentals,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time learning how to jump stop, learning how to pivot and learning how to cut and make proper passes. Everybody knows how to shoot and everybody wants to shoot, … but we are trying to get back to the basics and have everybody learn their roles.”
King said his team will be competitive at the national tournament but has not stressed or pushed them too hard.
“As long as the kids play hard and show me that (they) can compete and play hard, then I’ll be happy,” he said. “This is our first year; we’ve been together for about three months. The chemistry takes a while to build, and we are working on that now.”
The team is seeking sponsors to help offset the travel costs for the season. The players are at the Farmers Market almost every Thursday and have set up a GoFundMe account online.
King said he plans to honor his mentor’s memory by organizing the first Ernie Walthour Memorial Tournament. King said the date is tentative.
Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/rn5bpg.
12U team roster
Jabari O’ Neal, Aziyah Wescott, Neal Brown, Tre’Shawn Davis, Ja’heim Hudson, Trevon Coleman, Kingston Tuiaana-Morris, Dezmond Brown, Kareem Williams Jr., A’dontae Rhodes, Le’Vrancee Branch, Ronald Edwards, Jordan Walton, Brandon Hellgren, Xavier Anderson, Shawn Hall, Kavon Spivey, head coach Dana King Jr., and assistant coaches William Lilly and Kareem Williams Sr.