Last year, Coastal Crew Rebels coach Ernie Walthour took his 15U squad to the national tournament, where his boys won five games playing at the Division II level against older-division teams.
With all the players coming back this season, Walthour said his 10th-grade squad will move up to Division I to play tougher competition and will take a long-distance trip in May to New York to play in the largest Division I tournament.
This year’s Tip-Off Classic, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at the St. James Sports Center, will offer a sneak peek at the Rebels’ skills.
“We have a very athletic team, and we should have a good summer,” Walthour said. “Moving up a division allows us the opportunity to compete against a higher level and some of the best teams in the country at the national tournament in July. This team won five games in Division II last year playing up a category when they were the 15U Rebels. So we feel like we are ready for Division I now.”
The players are ready for the season and excited about the opportunity to go to New York in May. During their visit, they will stay next to Yankee Stadium and have the opportunity to visit the iconic baseball field and local attractions like the Statue of Liberty. It’s the first time the Rebels will go to New York.
“I’m looking forward to going to New York,” returning starter Trevon Scott said. “It will be my first time there, and I want us to go up there and play well and become more known.”
Scott, who attends McIntosh Academy High School, said he’s been working out and running drills and thinks he can contribute in big plays this season.
Zaquavian Smith, another returning starter and a shooting guard from Statesboro High, said he is looking forward to the tough competition this season, adding he is very athletic, plays well on defense and is hoping to be noticed,
“It should be more competition because we are stepping up a level but we are ready,” he said. “I’m looking for a good Division I college to play for.”
Fellow returning starter Herbert Roberts plays for the FPCA Highlanders during the school year and said the team has to play well together to conquer the top-notch competition they are likely to face.
“We have to go out there with a killer instinct and do what we do,” he said.
The AAU tournaments are highly attended by college coaches and recruiting scouts. Walthour has had more than 20 Rebels’ earn college scholarships in the past few years and said helping the kids academically is just as important as playing for the win.
“You have a lot of talent here from different schools and when you put them together you have an All-Star team,” he said. “These guys were already being looked at by a lot of coaches last year …and people know about Scott, Smith and Roberts. Playing at a higher level this year will let a lot of Division I coaches see these kids play. And they have the grades to back it up.”
Walthour also announced that the Rebels’ will field five teams this year, including their new seventh-grade squad.
The Rebels teams will make the rounds of the Amateur Athletic Union’s summer league circuit including the Bob Gibbons Invitational, the Easter Memorial Classic and the National Tournament.
The 10th-grade boys will hit the road March 30 for the Ice Breaker Tournament in Augusta. Walthour said the Augusta tournament directors work closely with Nike.
“There will be a lot of different teams coming from all over, and our schedule is going to be real challenging and that is what we want,” he said. “Every tournament we hit, we will have to bring our ‘A’ game.”