MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — A couple of Richmond County based travel basketball teams made a big showing at the 2019 National Travel Basketball Association’s national championship last week.
The Richmond Jammers, an AAU team coached by 17-year veteran Taneika Reader, saw its sixth, seventh and eighth-grade teams travel to the Myrtle Beach Sports Center and compete for the Silver Championship national title. The seventh grade team brought home the national crown, while the sixth-grade Jammers finished runner-up.
“It means a lot for our teams to play so well,” Reader, who works at Ellerbe Middle School, said. “Our primary goal is to get our kids to the next level and help the Richmond Senior High School program.
“We’re trying to develop them at a younger age,” she added. “Everything we’ve taught them, they can use at the next level. This tournament puts them on a stage to be possibly recruited and showcase their skill set.”
What started out as one team 17 years ago has blossomed into nine teams now for the Jammers. Reader, along with a handful of other coaches, including Luther Reader and Fred Williams, run six boys’ teams (fifth through ninth grade, and 11th grade) and three girls’ teams (fifth grade, seventh and eighth grade and a junior varsity team).
The teams are based on age and birthdays, allowing some players to fluctuate between teams at their coaches’ discretion.
In the championship games, the seventh grade team defeated the Georgia Jayhawks to win the national championship, while the sixth grade team came up just short to the Moore County Cavs, which are based in Southern Pines.
The eighth graders lost in the second round of the championship bracket, but Reader noted her players “gave me all they had.”
Members of the championship seventh-grade Jammers include: Alonso Easterling, JV Drake, Jashton Harrington, Zay Hubbard, Toby McInnis, Karim McLaughlin, Elijah McLean, David McNair, Paul McNeil, Cincere Wall and Tristian Wall.
“I could say something about everyone on this team because they were all solid contributors,” Reader said. “Paul plays center and does everything — he’s an all-around player and makes the clock tick. He had standout scoring and rebounding, and in the last game he had 25 points.
“We were really unstoppable along with JV at point guard,” she added. “His speed and knowledge of the game keeps the team together. Cincere contributed all over the court, Zay was an offensive spark. The whole team gels together and every player contributed something.”
Sixth-grade runner-up team.
Helping the sixth grade Jammers to a second-place finish were: Amir Bostick, Raeshard Bryant, Keyonta Davis, Rena Drake, Jayden Hamilton, Jashton Harrington, Davion Ingram, Jamyia Lindsey, Bobby Little, Jason Lee, Maddox Leviner, Zakeius Martin, K’Mauri Morgan, Amer Morrison and Tristian Wall.
“We had a strong performance, and our center Jashton contributed with a lot of rebounding and good defense,” Reader noted. “My daughter, Jamyia, plays with the girls’ team, but with the boys as well. It’s not full time but it was a good opportunity, and her getting to the basket helped us out.
“Jayden shot the three really well with a lot of energy,” she continued. “Tristian played down an age group, and also shot the three ball well.”
The tournament put a cap on the Jammers’ season, which began in March and ran through early July. With another successful season under wraps, Reader hopes to continue to help developing players in the offseason and through middle school and high school ball.
“Bootsie Pettigrew (Richmond’s boys’ coach) is a big supporter of our program,” Reader closed. “He wants to keep the kids playing throughout the summer, and we’ll continue to work hand-in-hand to give our kids a jump.”