The seventh-grade South Georgia Kings basketball team scrimmaged Saturday morning at Jack Carter Park in Hinesville.
In July, the South Georgia Kings squad defeated a team from Puerto Rico to earn the national-championship trophy at the 2012 Youth Basketball of America National Tournament in Kissimmee, Fla.
Gary Gilliard’s nonprofit organization, Seven Ministries of Liberty County, organized the event to honor the accomplishment and raise funds for the Kings’ next AAU season.
“When they won this title…I said anything that we can do to support them, we will,” Gilliard said. “We need to recognize them because anytime you have young African-American men… that are doing positive things in the community, you need to recognize it.”
State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier, Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver and NAACP President Dwight Newbould were on hand to recognize the team.
Councilman Keith Jenkins also attended and held a martial arts exhibition, along with Dr. Sinclair Thorne of First Calvary Baptist Church, during halftime.
Thomas said the team also will be formally recognized at an upcoming city council meeting and added the team represented the 60,000 people of Liberty County with integrity.
McIver said the county will try to erect a sign along one or more highways honoring the team.
“Congratulations to the South Georgia Kings,” McIver said. “And we want to congratulate the coaches for leading these young men in a positive way because it is a great accomplishment for them to compete at a national level and to win a championship at that level. When I heard about this I was real thrilled. One of the things Gary (Gilliard) emailed to me was that we need to have signs on DOT rights-of-way highlighting the accomplishments of these young men and before I leave office Gary and I are going to work on that.”
Williams opened the ceremony with a prayer and Bradwell Institute Lady Tiger basketball coach Faye Baker tossed the ceremonial tip-off ball.
“From a basketball standpoint this is definitely a great accomplishment and it is something that can never be taken from you guys,” Baker said. “You have made history here in our county and for that we are very proud.”