The 16U St. James Coastal Crew Rebels are headed to the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., to compete in the 2009 AAU National Tournament. According to head coach Ernie Walthour, the team stands a good chance of placing among the top squads, especially with the addition of JaQwan Raymond, a 6’ 2" junior shooting guard from Statesboro High, and the return of key players Alex Reid and Jordan Johnson.
"Jordan Johnson brings a lot of leadership to the team," Walthour said. "He’s been at the National level before and a lot of coaches have been recognizing his talents. Alex is another great leader and great shooter and he rarely makes mistakes on the floor. To have someone like that on the floor is almost like having a coach on the floor. He’s been real good for this program. His dad played for the University of Perdue and he comes from a basketball family."
Walthour said Raymond brings a lot of defensive skills to the team.
"And he can score a lot, too," Walthour said of the Statesboro standout who is playing his first tournament as a Rebel. "He is an all-around team player. We really wanted to get him to Orlando with us and give him a shot to be recognized."
"There are a lot of scouts there and it’s going to help me get some exposure," Raymond said. "I hope to get some cards from coaches and some calls."
The starting Blue Devil said he has a 3.8 gpa and would like to attend Georgia Tech or Memphis.
Raymond’s been playing basketball since he was 6 years old. His main shot is sinking the trey. He once hit it from the free-throw line across the court.
"I’m just here to help them win the championship again," he said.
Johnson is in his fourth year as a Rebels player and he said he is prepared for Orlando.
"Nationals are an entirely different level of playing," Johnson said. "We have Raymond joining us and he is a good addition to the squad, he can shoot, he can play defense and he can rebound. We will work hard for it and do the best we can."
Johnson said the key to a cohesive squad starts in practice.
"We do drills and we communicate with each other and once we get that vibe we start to feel who can make the shots and how to feed off each other," Johnson said. "We complement each other and everybody has a role on the team."
Johnson played for the Bradwell Tigers the past two seasons but has transferred to First Presbyterian Christian Academy for next year. He said he is looking to bring the squad a third straight state title and is glad to be back under coach David Jones.
"It feels good to be with Jones again," he said. "My first year at Bradwell, he was my mentor and he was showing me a lot of good things. As for the other players at FPCA, I played with them last year in AAU and we go to the gym and workout and we expect great things."
Rebels’ standout Reid also transferred, moving from South Effingham County High School to Calvary Day. The forward said he knows his role on the team.
"I’m a shooter," Reid said. "I’m not going to be able to defend their best player or get the most rebounds. I’m a shooter. I expect to win. We won five games last time and lost two and I expect to win more, at least more than half."
Last year, he scored 26 points at nationals. His strength is his ability to sink the long shots.
Walthour is also taking his 17U Rebel squad to Orlando to participate in the super showcase and national meet. You can follow the Rebels’ progress online at www.coastalcrewrebels.com.