Originally created 08/11/05

AAU team's mission: Showcase its players



For head coach Dameon Key, the Augusta Skillz is all about basketball.

The team finished third in its pool at the AAU 17 and Under Super Showcase, and second in its pool at the Division I National Championship Tournament, both held at Disney's Wild World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., July 23-31. The latter means that the Skillz advance to the national bracket.

But the mission of the team is more about each player's future.

The tournaments got the players in front of college coaches, and that's what it's really all about, Key said.

"We try to take the kids out of town where they can get some exposure and hopefully get a scholarship," he said.

"The National Collegiate Athletic Association has a couple of live periods during the year - one in April and two in July. It's important to have our kids out there ... so that they have a chance to get a scholarship."

Key tries to have a plan for each player who joins his team by identifying career goals and working with the parents and high school coaches.

"We try to aid them in making a good decision as to what college or university (they choose)," said Key. "This is the most important part about our organization."

Key began the Augusta Skillz in 1999 to help area teens reach their potential, using basketball as way to get them there.

"I always wanted to get involved with the AAU side of it," he said. "I attended basketball and football games, and would see kids that were extremely talented. The next year I'd see them working at Wal-Mart or something."

He researched how colleges recruit for basketball, and realized local players had no where to be seen.

He decided to take the players to the coaches.

They've been to the Kingwood Classic in Houston, Rumble in the Bronx in New York, the Peach Jam, and they've played in Atlanta, New Orleans, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Miami.

"They can use their God-given talent for a free education, and we want to help them do it," Key said .

It's working.

Several former players are playing for colleges such as Wofford, Aiken Tech, and Fairmont State.

So far this year, Key has had calls from Lander, Presbyterian, Charleston Southern, and South Carolina State. He's expecting more within the next couple of weeks.

And he's also had two players sign to play with Augusta's Paine College in the fall.

Tryouts for the team are held in March, after high school basketball season ends, and players do not have to be from Richmond County.

Open practices are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at Riverview Park from 6-8 p.m., until high school basketball starts back up.

Any players interested are invited to run through drills and play games with the team.

For more information on the practices, call Coach Key at 855-7350 or Curtis Wheeler at (803) 221-3805.



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