A pair of local basketball teams won state championships in the National Travel Ball Association (NATBA) State Tournament held recently in Myrtle Beach.
The Ascend Ballers, made up primarily of players from Conway, won the state championship in both the ninth and 10th-grade divisions.
Members of the 10th-grade team are Zach Dixon, Jaylen Moody, D’Wuan Grainger, Raiqwon O’Neal, Jonathan Wright, Jordan Furlough, Alex Holmes, Jimmy Nichols, Montre’ McLeod, Kendrel Generette, Juwan Moody and Shaquille Johnson. The coach is Wayne Bellamy.
Members of the ninth-grade team are Keon Banks, James Bellamy, Niseym Bellamy, Jahmeir Grate, Braxton Graves, Terrell Hemingway, Steven Hill, Jaden Hines, Jacquez Jones, Xavier Kinlaw, De’Aunte Sherman and Timothy Steele. The coach is Jahmal Anderson.
The Ascend Ballers also offers teams in three other age groups. The organization was started several years ago by Greg Moody to give local youngsters a chance to travel and compete and possibly earn college scholarships after high school.
“We’ve had most of these guys since they were in the fifth grade,” Bellamy said. “Our goal is to try and get these kids some looks from colleges. We don’t just teach them to win, we teach them life skills.
“Grades are important and we keep tabs on them and how they’re doing in school. We want to know how they’re doing at home, and how they’re doing in school. It isn’t permanent, but if you’re getting in trouble, you aren’t going to be allowed to travel with us.”
The state championship is one of only three big recent tournament wins for Bellamy’s team. The squad also won the Carolina Cup in Lexington as well as the Converse Elite Invitational in Atlanta, Ga., which featured competing teams from as far away as Chicago, Ill., and Indiana.
Nichols won MVP honors in Atlanta, and received All-Star recognition along with Jaylen Moody, Juwan Moody and Raiqwon O’Neal. The quartet of all-stars received a Golden Ticket that allows them to return to Atlanta in August and participate in All-Star Weekend.
“I think it’s important to travel to different places and see the different styles of basketball they play,” Bellamy said. “We don’t want to just stay here in Myrtle Beach and play. When school gets out, we want to go play basketball in a lot of different places. When school gets out, we’ll be doing a little bit more traveling.”
The entry fees for many of the big tournaments are quite expensive and the teams are looking for sponsors and donors to help offset some of the costs.
Contact Bellamy at (843) 455-1330.
“Our goal is to win a national championship,” Bellamy said.