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Youth Challenge team stays busy
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Ernie Walthour keeps his YCA team busy on and off the court. Team members are, front row, from left: Lecobian Hutchinson, Kevin Torruella, George Parilla, Paul Worrilll-Glover, Keith Bowers and Demetrice Miller; back row: assistant coach Antinique Mathis, Tray Deadwilar, Dominique Quarlas, Dupree Strangefellow, Julian James, Quartrise Cook, Robert Tugman and head manager Ric’key Garrett. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon
Ernie Walthour is well-known throughout the community as the director of the St. James Sports Center and the founder of the Coastal Crew Rebels. However, Walthour also works as a coach and mentor with another group of young men, members of the Georgia National Guard’s Youth Challenge Academy. He wants to make sure the youth reach their full potential on the court and in the classroom.
Each year, Walthour challenges his YCA team by running them through the AAU circuit and having them play other local teams, including his Rebels squads, the Liberty County Blazers and others.
Walthour also pushes the YCA students to stay on track as they earn their GEDs.
“One thing about this group that I am proud to say is that all of them are on track to get their GED. In fact, these three already got their GEDs and I’m very excited about that,” Walthour said of YCA members Dupree Strangefellow, Tray Deadwilar and Julian James.
According to the coach, in the past three years, about 36 youth have earned their GEDs. Some also have earned opportunities to play basketball at the next level thanks to their progression on Walthour’s YCA squad.
Walthour said Strangefellow, who stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall, is a possible college prospect from this year’s team.
“We’ve been talking to East Georgia College and Brewton-Parker about getting him on board with basketball,” Walthour said.
Strangefellow said he started playing basketball at the age of 13, trading in his football jersey for a hardwood shirt.
“I feel very confident,” he said about advancing to the college level. “And I want to thank the coach for giving me the opportunity to play for the team. I hope this turns into an opportunity for me to play at the college level.”
He said he prefers to play the guard position, but is willing to play the four spot if the coach insists.
James said he is thankful to Walthour and the folks at the YCA for giving him the opportunity to earn his GED. The athlete said he plans to “keep pursuing my basketball career. Hopefully, I can play for a college team. The YCA and Ernie and the Rebels have helped me in doing so.”
James started playing in his early teens and said he has always taken the sport seriously. He said he enjoys dunking the ball and likes to play the small or power forward position.
“I just want to play college ball so I can earn my degree right now,” he said.
Deadwilar said he is grateful to Walthour and the YCA because the program and basketball “helped keep me out of trouble,” he said.
The athlete, who plays at the two guard spot, said he is a strong defensive player and is looking forward to playing in college.
“I want to thank the command at Youth Challenge for the opportunities they have giving these young men,” Walthour said. “They are earning their GED and getting a second chance.”
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