Building basketball, one player at a time

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The Flagler County Middle School Basketball Program began four years ago. This season, 175 players on 16 teams took part in the developmental league.

Four years ago, there weren’t many options for youngsters who wanted to hone their hoops skills before getting to high school. Now, there is the Flagler County Middle School Basketball Program — also known as Mustang Basketball. In its fourth year, the league caters to 175 players and features 16 teams.

The league has been going through the playoff process and held its championships May 21.

The Fury, coached by Roberto Perez, won the girls division this year, defeating the Lady Mustangs 26-24 in the championship game.

The Fury finished the regular season with a 9-3 record ­— first place in the girls division.

On the boys side, the Tar Heels beat the Bulldogs 38-35. The Tar Heels finished the regular season in first place in the Northern Division with a 9-4 record. The Bulldogs went 12-1 during the regular season.

Ladeijah Williams, of the Fury, and Quindon Stokes, of the Tar Heels, were named the most valuable players in their respective championship games.

The league features 16 teams, three of which are girls teams, and also has two Amateur Athletic Union teams — one for boys and one for girls.

But league didn’t grow to 175 participants overnight.

Providing an outlet
Fitzgerald Belgrave, program director, was working as the in-school suspension teacher at Indian Trails Middle School four years ago. He first developed the program as in incentive to detour negative behavior because he noticed a lot of the kids he came across were interested in basketball. The program began with 24 players in the first year, then grew to 110 players in 2009, 125 in 2010, and then this year’s total of 175.

“I, at times, feel very strongly that we’ve helped keep the number of burglaries and other acts of juvenile delinquency in the county from growing even more over the past four years,” Belgrave said.

Another incentive for the league is to develop the younger players as they prepare for high school basketball; it also gives the coaches at Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas high schools the ability to see the young talent in the county.

“As far as youth development for Flagler basketball is concerned, I think as with anything, it’s a process,” Belgrave added. “We’ve tried to the best of our abilities to focus on fundamentals, and I feel that with a lot of our players who have taken what we as coaches try to teach them seriously, they have shown tremendous growth.”

Contact Andrew O’Brien at [email protected].


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