Coastal Crew Rebels In AAU Championship

Too be good at sport just doesn't cut it anymore. That's why athletes go the extra mile to be great at a sport. The Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, Basketball program in Hinesville is helping local talent gain more experience and exposure. The Coastal Crew Rebels are taking their skills on the road to the AAU Basketball National Championship.

Deon Villasencio is use to lighting up a gym with the stroke of his wrist. Even though his senior season at Bradwell was cut short, the recent graduate didn't stop playing, thanks to the AAU Coastal Crew Rebels.

"It's helping me stay in shape, play a lot of good people getting ready for college," said the Villasencio.

"To be a complete basketball player you have to play all the time. You can't just play for the school and not play over the summer," said Head Coach Ernie Walthour.

He brings together some of Liberty County's best ball players to play AAU. The program teaches good sportsmanship and team work, helping players like Villasencio. He's headed to Valdosta State in the fall and says the AAU Championship helped him get noticed.

"I went already last year, a lot of coaches will be out there," said the Rebels' leader.

The 17 and under group is headed to Orlando to compete against some 200 hundred teams all vying for one trophy.

"The key thing is we want the kids to go down and play well." Coach Walthour stress to his players, "The most important thing, when you have just about every college coach in the country down there, we want them to be exposed to the college coaches."

That's why Long County High's Lazaruss Baggs is trying to put his best foot forward.

"All I can do is go out there and do my best, if a college wants me, I'm there."

As the leader of the squad, Villasencio reminds his teammate of the stiff competition.

"A lot of people at school play good but I try to tell them there are people out there who are five times better than that, so you gotta be ready and be prepared."

The AAU Basketball Championship will be held July 23-27 in Orlando, Florida.

Reported by: Tiffany Greene, tiffanygreene@wtoc.com