When Ernie Walthour started the Coastal Crew Rebels in 1992, his vision was to get the players some exposure and help them get to college. When he brought the Rebels to the St. James Sports Center in 1996 and became the center’s director, Walthour’s vision
rapidly transitioned into reality.
"We are still moving kids in the right direction getting them ready for high school and college," said Walthour, this year’s 16U team coach. "We have a lot of players returning from last year (on the 16U squad). We are excited about the kids that are currently being recruited to different colleges that played on the Rebels team."
Walthour said because the St. James Coastal Crew Rebels stress education first, he has seen an increase in the number of students who earn scholarships.
"Former Rebels are doing well and they are always calling me and checking in and talking to us about coming out and talking to the younger Rebels about the entire process of getting into college and what they can expect once they get there," he said. "Mike White is doing well at Bethune-Cookman in Dayton Beach. John Brown plays for the Citadel. Khiry Clark is playing at Aiken-Tech in South Carolina. They come in and talk about the NCAA clearinghouse, the importance of the SAT scores. It’s very helpful when you have players already in the system that the younger kids can directly ask questions to. It helps them get the information about what college life is all about."
Walthour said he is excited about the current Rebel players’ college prospects.
"Joey Bell is starting to get a lot of attention right now," he said. "The coaches from Auburn–Montgomery came to see him and even brought a full scholarship with them. I don’t know if he has or will be accepting that, but there are now offers starting to come in for him and we are happy about that. Ricky Rivera just signed with Savannah State and he is going to be involved in basketball as well as the football program. Terrence Alston just received offers from Valdosta State and LaGrange College so he will be making a decision on that soon. Chakiris Moss is going to commit to Savannah State so we are very excited about what we see happening with our kids."
Walthour said the AAU tournaments and the trips the Rebels take during the summer to different schools are giving recruiters a chance to see coastal Georgia’s talented players.
"We are getting all types of call about Rebels players," Walthour said. "Our name is starting to get out there and we are being recognized. Anytime you have players like Jimmy Bacon, Joey Bell, Tony Coston, people have to look at you as an elite team."
With the calls coming in, Walthour said he is ready to get the 2009 AAU season started.
"Just as high school basketball winds down, AAU gets revved up. So we are announcing our schedule for the 2009 season as well as the coaching staff for each team," he said. "The 16U schedule is set and we plan to have a meeting with the rest of the coaches this week to finalize the other Rebel squad schedules."
The highlight of this season’s 16U schedule is the Boo Williams Nike Invitational in Hampton, Va., April 10-12.
"We are very excited to be invited to one of the biggest tournaments in the nation," Walthour said.
Last year, Walthour’s squad went up against the No. 1 AAU team in the country, team Breakdown.
"When you play the No. 1 team in AAU like we played them last summer in front of 250 college coaches, it draws attention and we did well in that game. Jimmy Bacon was a standout and he is drawing a lot of attention now from Clemson, Orlando as well as Georgia Tech."
Walthour said he and his staff plan to continue to stress education, and go back to more fundamentals on the court, especially with the younger players.
St. James C. C. Rebels Tryout schedules:
13-14U team tryout is from 3-6 p.m. March 7-8
16U team tryout is from 5-8 p.m. March 9
17U team tryout is from 5-8 p.m. March 10
15U tryout is from 5-7:30 p.m. March 11
16U Rebels’ tournament schedule
2009 AAU Super Regional, March 20-22, Macon
2009 Boo Williams Nike Invitational, April 10-12, Hampton, Va.
2009 Wallace Prather Jr., Classic, May 11-13, Atlanta
2009 AAU Disney Spring Classic May 15-17, Orlando, Fla.
2009 AAU National Tournament, July 24-30, Orlando, Fla.