Basketball team raising money for Junior Olympics

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Suffolk Blazers AAU basketball team hones its skills at Mack Benn Elementary School.

The 19-and-under squad, coached by Willie Covington, has its sights set high – participating in the National Junior Olympics from Aug. 1-6 in Knoxville, Tenn.

And while the competition there will be stiff, the biggest obstacle the team is facing so far in vying for a national title is raising the approximately $3,500 it will take get them to the tournament.

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Most of the players, according to Covington, are seniors in high school and college-bound. The AAU program is designed to also serve as a mentoring program for the young men and help them realize their dreams.

Four current members of the Nansemond River High School Warriors basketball team – Keith Artis, William Bullock, Dexter Bailey and Fred Spratley – are sporting the Suffolk Blazers’ colors this summer.

On Tuesday, the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office made a $200 donation to the Blazers to help them get to Knoxville. The money was raised through the office’s annual basketball tournament.

&uot;We feel like it’s a good organization and we want to help the blazers out,&uot; said Sgt. Ricky Scott of the sheriff’s department, who headed up the fund-raising tournament. &uot;It’s a good thing they are doing with the AAU and want to give them our support.&uot;

The $3,500 will be needed for registration fees, travel, lodging, and food for the 12 members of the Blazers squad.

The team has been existence for five years and this will be their second trip to the National Junior Olympics.

Covington said the trip means a lot to the young men and he hopes the community will step forward to help.

&uot;For a lot of them it gives them the opportunity to compete at a higher level,&uot; he said. &uot;We are using the AAU program as a mentoring program for young men so we can give some guidance to them and they can go on to college and hopefully come back to the community as better citizens. It also gives us the opportunity to put Suffolk on the national spotlight and draw some attention to the city.

Anyone interested in sending a donation to the Suffolk Blazers can mail it to Covington at 4036 Dock Landing Road, Chesapeake, Va. 23321. For more information, call Covington at 465-7752.