Elite Basketball Teams Reach Elite Victory Totals

By Scott Kindberg

skindberg@post-journal.com

The email arrived around mid-morning Monday.

It was from Ken Ricker of Jamestown.

Not surprisingly, it concerned his true passion – basketball – and, more specifically, the successes of the Jamestown Elite, an American Athletic Union-based program that includes student-athletes from 36 different school districts from throughout Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania.

”We had two tournaments this weekend (in Buffalo and Randolph) that we participated in as an AAU program,” Ricker wrote. ”We played in Randolph and the 11th-grade girls played in Buffalo as well. Our girls achieved a championship in the 5th/6th grade girls division, 1st and 2nd place in the 7th/8th division, 1st and 2nd place in the 9th/10th division and 1st place in the varsity division.

”The 11th-graders also dominated in Buffalo for the team’s 40th AAU championship over six years, and it was the programs’ (boys and girls) 100th. With the other wins later (on Sunday), including (the 11th-graders’) 41st, we are already at 105 and counting.”

Not a bad resume, huh?

”The most rewarding thing really has nothing to do with AAU,” Ricker said in a telephone interview Monday night, ”but it’s seeing their success in high school and (later) a bunch in college. I want to be able to sit in the stands and say, ‘She’s got it,’ or ‘He’s got it.”’

In other words, Ricker maintains, the tournaments played from late March to late July – the typical AAU ”season” – will ultimately pay dividends later on for the players, both individually and for their respective school teams.

”More basketball is better,” Ricker said.

The Jamestown Elite program began a half-dozen years ago when Ricker was ”a Jamestown coach trying to give opportunities for our players.” Eventually, however, it grew to include youngsters from throughout Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties and even suburban Buffalo and Pennsylvania.

The number of players in all age groups now stands at more than 150 and the number of coaches totals about a dozen, including Kevin Hind, Marty Stockwell, Maceo Wofford, Tiffany Holthouse, Stacy Childress, Brian Benchley and Carly Dalton.

”We try to keep it fun,” Ricker said.

Eight Jamestown Elite teams will travel to Slippery Rock University for a tournament that runs Saturday and Sunday. The squad with the most impressive credentials belongs to the 11th-grade girls, who began playing together in 2008 when they were in fifth grade, and now are the proud owners of 41 tournament titles.

The original six members included Anne Campion, Peyton Butts, Dazjah Coleman, Chrisanna Green and Hannah Pollino of Jamestown, and McKenna Maycock of Randolph. Over time, the composition of the team has changed, but its success never has. In fact, when the juniors won titles in Buffalo and Randolph last weekend, they did so with a roster that included Green, Butts and Coleman; Jenna Einink and Ashton Albanesius of Chautauqua Lake; Olivia Schmidt of Holland; and Anna Chiacchia of Hamburg.

”Each team goes to eight (tournaments) a year,” Ricker said. ”To win 40, you have to win just about all of them.”

And that group has done it against some pretty stiff competition.

”The biggest one they won was the USA Nationals at Penn State three summers ago when they were entering eighth grade. They also won one in Lexington, Ky., which is a big showcase event, so they’ve been playing teams from all over.”

This year’s schedule, besides this weekend’s trip to Slippery Rock (twice), includes treks to Buffalo (twice), Erie, Lexington, Ky., Indianapolis, Binghamton, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

Ricker is especially appreciative of the coaches, particularly Stockwell, the assistant varsity boys coach at Jamestown High School and Hind, the varsity boys coach at Randolph.

”Marty gives more than anyone I’ve met,” Ricker said. ”Between the time he gives and the time the girls put in that’s why they’re winning championships every week. Kevin runs a Princeton-style offense just like his varsity does. It’s guys like that who make it special for these kids.”

Ricker is also appreciative of the anonymous donations the Jamestown Elite have received to make it possible for the kids to participate in the four-month AAU ”season.”

”We want (the donors) to know the kids are working hard, they’re having championship success and they’re learning to do things the right way, on and off the court,” Ricker said