Looking to defend their championship title against Youth Challenge Academy rival post Fort Gordon, the kids from Fort Stewart’s Youth Challenge Academy’s basketball team are headed to Augusta on Saturday.
While retaining the title crown is first and foremost for the teens this weekend, many of the players say staying on course for a college or military career is what they are playing for.
Fort Stewart YCA basketball team captain Akeem Warren said the YCA program helped him get back on track.
"And helping me get a diploma and look at college or military forces options," he said. "It also helps me keep my head on straight. I had to realize that I had to grow up and it was time to take charge of my life. My parents weren’t going to take care of me for the rest of my life. I got a chance to get back to school and now I have a chance to get ahead. Now I’ll be graduating before my original class, so it’s a great thing."
The 16-year-old guard has played basketball for six years and said he would love to play for Georgia State University or the University of Georgia if given the chance.
He said YCA has a great group of players this year and the team has been working hard the past two weeks to bring home the championship trophy again this year.
Co-captain Johnnie Cummings said the YCA program was his second chance for a fresh start after he suffered a loss.
"Months before I came out here I actually lost a friend in a car accident that I was supposed to be in. I figured this was my second chance, so I took it," the 18-year-old shooting guard said.
Cummings said he has played basketball for roughly eight years and knows the upcoming game is a big one.
"We are going out there and we are going to bring this back home like last year," he said. "Without Youth Challenge, we couldn’t be here right now. It’s giving us an opportunity to get some college looks and play ball."
Cummings, who already started taking his GED tests, said he dreams of playing for Georgia Tech.
YCA coach Ernie Walthour said the YCA basketball program has had a lot of success stories in the recent years and said this season’s team is looking sharp.
"This team is loaded with a lot of good talent, which is evident despite the fact they’ve only practiced together for a couple of weeks," he said. "I really enjoy working with them."