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Demopolis AAU team takes to the court

The Demopolis AAU 17-and-under boys’ basketball team is on the court for its second season, giving teens from around the region a chance to showcase their talents and to provide them with more exposure.

“More exposure” means not only allowing them to be seen by college scouts and taking on other teams, but also allowing them to see new places and meet new people.

The AAU — the Amateur Athletic Union — is one of the largest non-profit volunteer sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, it is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.

The Demopolis Falcons team is coached by Tommy Burroughs, who is assisted by Ronnie Abrams.

“This means a great deal,” said Demopolis mayor Mike Grayson. “It’s all about the kids, and when you have people like Coach Burroughs and Coach Abrams willing to donate, that’s what makes a community and what really builds champions. And, you don’t have to win a lot of games to be a champion.

“I’m just impressed and awed by what these guys do, and the kids, too — willing to do this as opposed to taking the easy way.”

Burroughs, who leads the Junior ROTC at R.C. Hatch High School in Uniontown, began the team last year in an effort to provide more exposure to teens living in rural areas who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to play on AAU teams in larger cities.

“Basketball has been a part of my life growing up as a kid,” he said. “What I wanted to do is touch into the rural community, the smaller areas where kids don’t get the opportunity to be exposed. I thought the best way for that would be through sports.

“I tapped into a lot of local high schools in these small communities and talked to their coaches and selected three players from each school, and started the program that way, and it’s been going ever since.”

Burroughs said the roster is not set in stone, that there are a lot of factors that go into deciding who will play in the next tournament that go beyond points and rebounds.

“There are no permanent positions on this team,” he said. “Playing time and game trips are earned by how they perform in practice, grades, attitude, character and their at-home demeanor.”

Burroughs said that it is not too late for anyone wanting to join the team. The Falcons practice at the DHS gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m., and students wanting to play can come to the gym at that time or contact Coach Burroughs at (334) 830-8878.

The season began at the first of March, with the team playing in Birmingham’s March Madness Tournament, where Demopolis won two games and lost two games. Last weekend, the team played in another Birmingham tournament and split four games there as well.

“We are traveling to Montgomery this Saturday to play three games at Carver High School,” Burroughs said. “We’ll play games at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The kids probably won’t like that because it won’t be an overnight trip!”

Burroughs said the schedule will go through August, and the team will try to set up some out-of-state tournaments after school gets out in May, including possible trips to Mississippi, Florida and Tennessee.

“We try to select the tournaments that would be financially feasible for us and the kids,” he said.

The opportunities for AAU participants are many. A chance to play out of town at new venues is one exciting aspect of the AAU experience, and for those who are considering playing for a collegiate team, the chance for college scouts to see you play would certainly enhance the means of getting a college education through an athletic scholarship.

“That’s why we try to go to different locations,” Burroughs said. “We tell the kids, ‘You never know who’s watching.’ Your character, your attitude, how you conduct yourself can go a long way. Scouts can get our roster, and if they see someone that they like, they will contact that player’s high school coach — not me, but his coach — and they will start to track him through his high school career, and that can open up avenues for education for that kid.”

Burroughs said he would like to expand the team to include more boys’ age divisions and start a girls’ program.

For teens from this region wanting to continue to play basketball and have a chance to see more of his surroundings and visit new areas, AAU basketball is the way to go. Regardless of whether or not a player wants to play college basketball, the opportunities and exposure to more of the world around him are invaluable.