Since 1993, Ernie Walthour and a host of volunteers and friends have worked to grow the St. James Coastal Crew Rebels from a fledgling basketball team into a powerhouse.
On Saturday, Walthour held a day-long celebration at the St. James Sports Center to honor current and former players and coaches, as well as the sponsors, who have contributed to the program’s success.
The day started with a free fundamentals camp to teach young players the basic skills of dribbling and shooting. Immediately after camp, the festivities were under way featuring an action-packed scrimmage between the Rebels’ Elite team and Fort Stewart’s Youth ChalleNGe Academy squad.
Walthour talked about the success of the program, which has sent nearly 30 players off to college.
He spoke about touring the Southeast to compete in AAU tournament and the milestone the program hit this year when the Rebels competed in New York for the first time.
Then he made a special announcement.
“I would like to let you all know right now that the Rebels will be traveling to Las Vegas next year to compete,” he said.
Walthour thanked all the coaches who have devoted hours without pay.
David Linderman, Reginald Castille, Daryl McCray, Dana King, Joyce Sanders, Mike Brown and Rosby Frasier were among the coaches
present at the celebration who Walthour addressed, generating applause and praise from the players.
“Mr. Ernie Walthour has worked diligently to get this program established and so many have had the opportunity to come through this program…and so many of them have led the pathways to colleges and into the workforce,” Frasier said.
Walthour thanked Linda Schum, Larry Manion, Jay Osteen and Sheriff Steve Sikes for being long-time sponsors and donors to the Rebels organization. Schum addressed the audience and spoke about the importance of mentoring the kids to help guide them in the right direction.
The night’s keynote speaker, Rep. Al Williams, spoke highly about the Rebels’ program.
“I want to let you know there are very few programs that even meet or approach the quality of this program,” he said. “It is one of the most outstanding programs in Georgia because we have one of the outstanding leaders in Georgia in Mr. Ernie Walthour.”
Williams offered advice to the players on how to staying away from drugs, staying disciplined and finishing their educations.
“I want to give you all some good news and some bad news, so let’s start with the bad new first,” he said. “Everybody in here is not the next Kobe Bryant or LeBron James; that’s the bad news. The good news is, everybody in here can make a great contribution. There is no substitute for getting a good education. Always aspire to always be the best at what you are doing now. You can be anything you want to be or you can be nothing. My grandmother used to always say, ‘Twenty years to make a good name, 20 minutes to mess it up forever.’”
Guests then were treated to dinner while the YCA team played the Rebels Elite squad in a scrimmage.