Day Two at U.S. Open Basketball Championships Has Plenty to Cheer About
The first full day of preliminary round games at the 2019 U.S. Open Basketball Championships in Westfield and Noblesville, Indiana, wrapped up late Thursday evening.
Featuring more than 1,200 athletes and 120 teams from 30 states and Canada, the third annual USA Basketball U.S. Open Basketball Championships consists of eight groups of play: 10th grade boys, 10th grade girls, ninth grade boys, ninth grade girls, 13-and-under boys, 13-and-under girls, 12-and-under boys and 12-and-under girls.
A USA Basketball youth initiative that is intended to help bring structure, authenticity opportunity, standards and quality to the youth basketball environment in a fun, competitive and safe setting, the 2019 U.S. Open Basketball Championships are played using modified FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules, such as a shot clock, and according to the USA Basketball Youth Development Guidelines.
The tournament features teams of differing competition levels. Some of the participating teams traveled long distances, others had much shorter trips. Fun and a quality competition is what each team came for.
Coaching For The Love of the Game
Unlike other non-USA Basketball youth competitions, all coaches and bench personnel involved in the U.S. Open Basketball Championships must possess a valid USA Basketball Coach License which includes background screening, SafeSport education, coach education and training tools.
The reasons why someone becomes a coach varies as much as the color of the team uniforms, but a for sure component of being a coach is the desire to give back.
“The reward is seeing the growth and the development of the kids,” said Marco Cole, head coach of the Old School Wings boys 9th grade team from Little Rock, Ark. “Being like those kids at one point, and being able to have a professional basketball career and seeing everything that I had to endure, when I look back it was all about the coaches, it was all about the support systems that helped me prevail and get to where I got to.
“I saw the gaps that I could help fill for these kids, it wasn’t a job for me it was more so a privilege and just a reward, so it makes it easy to get out there and do it,” added Cole, who played collegiately at Louisiana Tech University.
For Keith Simmons, head coach of the Yuma Arizona 10th grade team, becoming a coach was more about creating opportunities like he had growing up.
“I played as a youth and there’s not much in our town for basketball, so I said ‘I want to make sure they have opportunities I didn’t have,” said Simmons. “So I just got involved and started seeing what kids wanted to play and these guys decided to come out and we said we’re going to go do what we can with these guys.
“I’ve been coaching about three years now. I played in high school but I didn’t end up playing in college as I was more concerned with academics at that point. But basketball I always loved and I know basketball is a vehicle they can utilize to get their education. So I wanted to make sure they can have fun, learn life skills, discipline, teamwork, all the things they’re going to need as they become adults.”
Maija Jackson-Collier is head coach of Triple Double Basketball Academy (Orlando, Fla.) 9th grade boys team and is one of a handful of women coaching a boys team at the 2019 U.S. Open Basketball Championships.
What attracted her to getting involved as a coach?
“I played basketball. And I had a son that was playing ball at the time, he’s now graduated and plays ball in college,” said Jackson-Collier, who played collegiately at NAIA Hannibal–LaGrange University in Missouri. “I’ve been doing it for about nine years and I love it. I love the game. I played from the time I was five and now I’m in an over 30 league.
“I like being around the guys. I love the atmosphere. I like the comradery with them. I’ve got a great group of parents and they really support me with their guys and have given me the green light to do what I need to do with them and teach them the game of basketball.”
Jackson-Collier, who two years ago was selected the 9th grade boys head coach at Apopka High School (Apopka, Fla.), acknowledges her biggest challenge in coaching is being a woman.
“Because I’m a woman and I have young, impressionable boys, 13 to 15, sometimes people may think I don’t know basketball and it’s hard to teach a young men the game of basketball. But I feel like my boys have learned a lot. Every boy that I’ve had has learned a lot from me because I’m so passionate, I’ve learned the game, I love the game and I actually teach them.”
And what words of advice would she give others who want to coach?
“If it is something that you love and are passionate about, do it! You never know who will be watching. I never knew they were watching me during AAU boys basketball and they ended up bringing me on at the high school level. So, if you’re passionate about it and it’s in you, you should do it.”
U.S. Open Basketball Championships Gets High Reviews
Now in just its third year, the U.S. Open Basketball Championships have become a must play opportunity for many youth teams.
“Oh man, this is big time right here,” said Old School Wings boys 9th grade team head coach Cole. “At the beginning of the season when we were putting our schedule together, we researched USA Basketball. We saw how things were broadcast on CBS at the end, and the interviews, and all the notoriety the players got and we wanted to put our guys in that position. It’s very important that we develope them on the court, off the court, that they excel in the classroom and then we do everything we can to help them get to the next level and USA Basketball is exemplary of that.”
“It’s awesome,” added Yuma coach Simmons. “We were able to come last year and that’s the whole reason we came back. I’ve been to a lot of different tournaments and this is probably the best I’ve been to.
“We drove, 28 hours. Twenty-eight hours! But that’s a part of the whole experience. These guys get to bond, they get to be in the van, and yeah, obviously a few hours in you start to get a little bit tired and cramped, but that the whole part of it, you know, the memories that they’re going to have for a lifetime.
“This benefits me because I get to see the other talent that’s out there and some of what the other coaches are doing. It benefits my team because coming from a small town, they practice and they get pretty good and do better than most people in our town, and they think that they’re hot stuff. Then they come and see these guys and they’re like ‘oh my goodness.’ So it’s kind of a shock for them. I want them to understand that hard work will get you as far as you want to go. No matter how big, no matter how small, it’s the work ethic."
For Jackson-Collier the Championships have been everything expected.
“We’ve had some tough competition since we got to the tournament. It’s very, very similar to the style of play we play all season, but we have had close games in both of our games so far. I’m excited about the competition.
“This is my first time at the tournament as a head coach. Two years ago our Triple-Double Basketball Academy 10th grade team was here and they won it all, so we thought we would bring our 8thgrade boys that are going into 9th grade back for the experience. I love it. I like the atmosphere. Everything has been wonderful and I’m really excited about being here.”
The final day of preliminary round games takes place Friday and the championships elimination rounds will be held Saturday. Championship games for the 12U boys and girls, 13U boys and girls, 9th grade boys and girls and 10th boys and girls will be held on Sunday, July 21. The 10th grade title games will be streamed live on CBS Sports Network, and the 9th grade boys and girls title games and the 13U boys and girls championship games will be streamed live at USAB.com/live, as well as on the USA Basketball Facebook and YouTube channels.