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The student news site of Wando High School

Tribal Tribune

The student news site of Wando High School

Tribal Tribune

The student news site of Wando High School

Tribal Tribune

Players dribble into the real world

Amateur Athletics Union gives teens a space to play
Gabbi Mortellaro
Senior Chris Antonelli dunks the basketball during a practice. “It feels great when I score because I know I’m helping my team which is really what it’s all about,” Antonelli said.

Walking away with 18 points and the game winner, senior Chris Antonelli helped lead his team to victory during the new basketball season. Playing on a Amateur Athletics Union team, or AAU, Antonelli is playing with guys from across the lowcountry and different high schools.

“AAU basketball is really about getting ready for your school year season so it’s a season in the summer where you don’t have to play with guys from your high school, which is cool,” Antonelli said. ”When I played I ended up with guys from Philip Simmons, Military Magnet, North Charleston, guys from Beckham, guys from OCA, just all sorts of high schools. But it’s about getting ready for the school season where you’re more likely to get seen by college scouts.”

Antonelli finds that these games can be played with and against random guys, whichhe finds to be more special.

“For Wando, we’ll see that we’re playing James island in a week. So for a week we’ll practice against what kind of plays they run. We’ll practice against if their best player is a guard, we’ll know everything about him. We’ll know where he wants to dribble, where he wants to shoot, all that kind of stuff,” Antonelli said. “But with AAU, you just go in completely blind. You could play like the number one team in the nation or you could play [a] team of guys who don’t play basketball at all. There’s less pressure on the games because there’s more of them and it’s just not as serious. So it’s just good vibes all around.”

According to John Harris, the coach for Antonelli’s team, the league was made to help get young men ready for the real world. Harris also believes that you can learn important lessons from the game that is applicable to life.

“My coach[ing] approach is really to be a mentor to these young men and teach them a lot about life through this game, because the game is a beautiful thing, but you can learn so much about life. I try as a coach to see what’s going on with them to be able to help them outside of basketball. Kids need a different voice, just someone to just listen to them outside of maybe a parent or teacher or even regular coaches at school maybe they just want a different ear. So we want to be there for them,” Harris said.

Harris has noticed the growth with his players both in basketball and in their translation to adulthood. Harris especially respects Antonelli, for he has seen him grow over the past few years that he has been coaching him.

“I think highly of Chris… I mean, he’s a phenomenal young man. It’s awesome and to see his growth and maturation over the years, his confidence has grown. He’s grown physically and he’s just incredible. Really is a top notch kid,” Harris said.

Kevin Massey is another AAU coach who has worked with Antonelli over the years. Massey says that he enjoys watching his players succeed within the sport of basketball.

“If they’re trying to figure out if they love it and the older generation of high school players and trying to help them reach their ultimate goal, which is playing at a high level in their high school years. We want to see positive influences on the next generation through using basketball as the connector. But ultimately, whether they play college basketball or just being productive human beings in life is what we wanna see. And we wanna be great mentors first through the game of ball coaching the game of basketball,” Massey said

Normal practice for AAU starts in the middle of the court with the coaches asking how things are going with the player in their life, then they pray as a unit and get started.

“We’ll start getting going with warm ups and stretching. We’ll do a couple full court drills; they’ll also make a certain amount of lay ups or a certain amount of shots in a certain time period. So typically practice 10th and 11th grade teams togethers, then they’ll split up and work on their own sets. Towards the end they will go against each other five on five and work on their execution,” Massey said.

Massey likes to take the player type of coach approach when coaching. He likes to do a lot of research and also keep up with the kids throughout the years.

“If they are a part of our organization, I try to speak to those things that I saw and try to help them develop in those areas where I see what their weaknesses [are]. So a player coach is one that actually listens to the players and then tries to help them understand what their high school coaches, middle school coaches are saying to them to maybe be a different voice.”

“If they don’t, they may not be getting it in the details or that they typically would get in the high school season because they really don’t have the time to go through that and we try to take the time to help them understand,” Massey said.

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