The East Augusta Warriors is one of those teams that most basketball coaches can only dream of coaching.
For Gregory Utley, that dream has become real. The Warriors, a Youth Basketball of America team, is comprised of team members from across the Augusta area. Utley admits that putting together a good youth community basketball team can be a quite a challenge. But he also knows that the Warriors aren't just any community team, and his team has the record to prove it.
On July 30, the team won the 2011 YBOA Boys National Championship for the 16-and-under age group held in Orlando, Fla. At the tournament, team member Darius Williams won the Hustle award, Ronald Jones and William Bentley won All- Tournament awards, and Kyle Doyle was named Most Valuable Player.
The recent national championship is not the first major victory for the team. The team won the Georgia state championship in 2009, and then won back-to-back South Carolina state championships in 2010 and 2011. The team's record for the past season has been 37 wins and zero losses. According to Utley, the team has only had two losses total in the past three years.
"Not only does playing with the team help them as a person, it helps them later in life when they play for their schools," he said. "We start teaching them things that they are going to have to learn in high school."
Juwuan Tolbert, a 15-year-old sophomore at Josey High School, says that his time with the Warriors has helped condition him as a player. "It's made me mentally tougher," Tolbert said. "It's taught me more about the game. This year has made me more aggressive physically."
Doyle, a junior at Josey, said that being on the team has brought him many valuable friendships. "We're kind of like brothers," Doyle said. "We really respect each other and we've come a long way."