09/18/05 — City officials honor Blazers for win in state basketball championship

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City officials honor Blazers for win in state basketball championship

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 18, 2005 2:02 AM

The Wayne County Blazers basketball team does not have expensive sneakers and equipment. Team members have no gym in which to practice. On out-of-county road trips, they don't stop to dine at fancy restaurants.

But the Blazers didn't let those drawbacks prevent them from winning the state 11-and-Under USSSA championship.

And last week, they were officially honored by Goldsboro Mayor Al King and the rest of Council for their accomplishment.

Each player and coach received a certificate signifying their excellence on the court and the shining example they have set for other young people in the county. Unlike some who face hardships and slip through the cracks, under the leadership of their mentors, coaches and families, these 13 young men have excelled both as athletes and people, King said.

King said he believes that with the right support, the Blazers can attain even greater things and reach their full potential. He said he envisions a cooperative community in which the boys can find a gym to hold daily practice and a city that will help both the team and youths like them in battling adversity on and off the court.

"We know you need our support," King told the beaming team members. "And you're going to get it."

After winning the 2005 USSSA tournament and finishing in the nation's top 20, the Blazers were unable to participate in the national tournament because they lacked the necessary money. Many of the state's larger cities, including Raleigh, have the resources to recruit young athletes to compete.

Greg Williams, vice president of Wayne County Academic and Athletic Enhancement Inc., pointed out that basketball is only part of the organization's mission. Despite their successes on the court, academics are equally important, he said, and coaches, parents and volunteers serve as tutors for the children.

As a result, he said, youths on the organization's teams excel off the court as well as on. The team includes students in the Wayne Coun-
ty Schools' academically gifted program, students in the Duke University Talent Identification Program, students nominated for
the Congressional Future Leaders' Conference in Raleigh, members of the Mayor's Youth Council and students invited to participate in the North Carolina School of Science and Math weekend-of-interest program.

"Without academics, this is all for naught," said Williams, adding that the program's goal is "success without excuses."

King told the team he is confident that the Goldsboro community will better support young men like the Blazers in the years to come.

"Next year, the problems you face will hopefully be gone," he said.