by Paul Langfellow
It had all the earmarks of a typical Saturday of youth basketball this past weekend at St.Michael Albertville and Rogers High Schools. But a closer look and you’d realize that the Rising Stars Showcase was anything but typical. This was a unique MYAS opportunity for both boys and girls all stars from around the Twin Cities and across the state.
“The tournament is the culmination of players who participated in the Grade State Basketball Tournament,” explained Akua Kennedy, MYAS Director of Community Engagement and in-house league director. “The players were nominated by their coaches and each team has seven ball players. The tournament is set up in divisions—east, west, north and south.”
Players from different associations had the chance to play with each other on one of the regionally divided up teams. The selection process involved coaches choosing players from different teams as well as from their own team. “This is the second year we’ve done it this way,” said Kennedy, “they were able to pick from kids they saw on the court throughout the season.”
Fun is good
Kennedy noted that the Rising Stars Tournament is all about having fun, “today is a friendly game, each team plays three games and it’s an opportunity to be able to play with some other kids.”
The rules of the tournament are simple and slightly different from regular season tournaments. Playing time is equally split, with Kennedy stressing that each player gets their fair share of time on the court. “There’s no awards, no one can foul out, it’s all about having fun, and that’s our message.”
And while no trophies were handed out, players received a Rising Stars t-shirt, water bottle, bracelet, and backpack tag.
The Rising Stars Tournament also features programs for player development including camps at different locations for young ball players wanting to perfect their skills. The winter season featured a league for 9-12th graders. Kennedy explained that players in that league were the kids who got cut from their high school teams. “They came to Rising Stars and developed their skills. Our motto for them is, work on your craft and make sure you make that high school team next year.”
Some of the noted differences between this tournament versus regular season tournaments were the goals of the tournament. “It’s a different atmosphere compared to the state tournaments. Here it’s all about fun. The parents are happy, the kids are having fun and it’s just a great day,” said Kennedy.
Keith Pelatowski who coached the 4th grade boys B South Team, noted that the Rising Stars Tournament was a great way to celebrate the basketball season. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids from our team to play with kids from other teams,” he said. “I think that coming together and showing that it’s one basketball team, even if you competed against them before, is really awesome.”
The fundamentals that players learned during the season played a key role in their end of season playing abilities. “The big thing we focused on today especially in fourth grade was passing the ball, before dribbling, and then playing really good defense, because every player on this court is very skilled,” explained Pelatowski.
While fun was definitely the primary focus of the Rising Stars tournament, competition was still present. “This is an opportunity to get together with other very skilled kids, but still keep it about the fun of the game and less about winning. Yes, It’s competitive, but fun,” said Pelatowski.
Whose got next?
Part of the fun was seeing so many different uniforms on the court during the tournament. Thanks to reversible light and dark jerseys, players were able to sport their regular season uniforms so there was no confusion even with so many kids from different teams playing on the same team.
Another key to the success of the Rising Stars Tournament was the confidence building that occurs while playing with and against some of the state’s best players. As Coach Pelatowski observed, a higher level of play is a great way to motivate the kids.
“I think it’s been five months of playing traveling basketball, almost 14 tournaments, this is the 15th tournament for some of the kids on the team. Rising Stars gives them the opportunity to step back and say ‘hey, I’m playing against some really skilled kids, and I’m pretty good.’ So that’s a confidence builder. I think it’s really important. It’s a barometer of how well they developed their skills during the year.”
For Tom Mazacek, coach of the 7A North Girls Team from Foley it was all about the experience of watching his team play. “My daughter is in it, it’s fun for the girls and we really enjoy coaching.”
And while some of the challenges presented during the tournament were unique for his team, Mazacek explained that the overall message was to try your best. “All of these girls are used to being the star of their respective teams and trying to mesh with a bunch of stars can be pretty tough,” he explained.
Mazacek was also impressed with the high level of talent on display throughout the showcase. “You’re competing against the best of the best, but it’s fun. And really that’s what this tournament is all about!”