04/22/04 — Award-winning basketball team holds fund-raiser

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Award-winning basketball team holds fund-raiser

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 22, 2004 2:04 PM

An award-winning amateur basketball team will hold an autograph signing and car wash this weekend to sponsor out-of-town trips.

Goldsboro Mayor Al King congratulated the Eastern N.C. Goldsboro Pistons on Wednesday on one of its teams winning first place in a Shoot-Out at Hillsborough. "We're going to support them and get that talent recognized," said King.

The Eastern N.C. Goldsboro Pistons Club will be washing cars at SunCom on Berkeley Boulevard from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday while Goldsboro High School graduate David Thornton, an NFL player for the Indianapolis Colts, signs his autograph for visitors. A car wash will cost $10, and a hot-dog and soda lunch will be free for a donation.

They're not just any basketball club, says one of the assistant coaches, Michael Crumble, who is also the program services director at the Boys & Girls Club of Wayne County. The other assistant coaches are Greg Williams, Calvin Ford and Dwight Smith. The club's three teams practice at the Royall Avenue Boys & Girls Club sometimes, but it's not sponsored by the organization. Different organizations and companies sponsor teams in the Amateur Athletics Union.

But Crumble says this club is the best in eastern North Carolina, and it's going to get bigger. "They know we have a quality team," he said, "but when they find out it's our first year, they're amazed."

The club is a tax-exempt organization with a board of directors that oversees three teams that play in a league called the Amateur Athletics Union. The players are chosen in try-outs. The club pays 200 per team to the AAU for each tournament. Crumble says it can run $600 at a time if all three teams play.

"Then, they have to provide their own transportation, food and lodging," said Crumble. "That's why we've been playing close to home mostly."

The teams traveled to Hillsborough last weekend, and one of them, the age 13 and under team, won first place. Crumble says it was their first over-night trip. They played well, he said.

The club has three teams from three age groups with 12 players each from all over Wayne County and some from out of the county. The group's head coach, Kendrick Williams, drives from Raleigh to practice, and he brings a player with him.

"They are the best basketball players in eastern North Carolina," said Crumble. "They're an eclectic bunch of kids from different educational and financial backgrounds. It's a diverse group."

Yelta Hucks and Michelle Williams call themselves "team moms." Mrs. Hucks' son, Andre, and Mrs. Williams' son, Jonathan, play.

"When I first got involved in October, I was just coming to bring my son," said Mrs. Hucks. "Then, I saw how serious they were. Some of them would be there waiting an hour before practice."

Other teams in the league have sponsors who provide new shoes, everything they need. Mrs. Hucks said it's tempting to the team members when people from the other teams come trying to lure them away from their club.

Mrs. Williams said the players come from Southern Wayne, Eastern Wayne, all over the county. Some of the players come from Smithfield and Kinston. A team member from Raleigh rides in with the head coach.

"With mine, I have no problem when I want him to wash dishes," she said of her son. "All I have to do is say no AAU, and he says, 'No problem!'"

The organization isn't just about basketball, said Crumble. The group checks the team members' report cards. Those with bad grades don't play.

"We teach life skills," he said. "We coach, train, teach, mentor young men, and we plan to add young woman teams in the future for all age groups."

In two weeks, the club's teams travel to Winston Salem and Mt. Airy for Division 2 Pool Play to qualify for national championship in Nashville, Tenn. The members have paid the fees to get there, but Crumble says they need some help with transportation, food and lodging.