BY DAVID PEDERSEN
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Did you wonder where all the talented high school boys and girls basketball players seen at the state tournaments come from?
Delano, for example, competed in the state boys basketball tournament this season, benefiting from the work of the Delano Basketball Association.
Julie Longstreet is well connected to the sport in Delano. She is publicity director for the youth program that nurtured her son Damon, a starter on the Tiger varsity boys team that made it to state for the first time in 20 years. Her husband Jamie is an assistant varsity basketball coach.
The youth season recently ended, but not before earning some high tournament placements and adding to the fundamental skill base. This year, the program had more teams signed up than it had in five years.
The program is for boys and girls in grades first through eighth. Typically, the first to fourth graders play in late fall prior to the high school season. Recently, there has been a league established to allow third and fourth graders to get an introduction to games against different towns during the winter.
“Both of the varsity coaches are highly committed to the development of the youth programs and are very involved with decisions made for each,” said Longstreet. “The addition of the basketball sport court at the elementary school was an easy sell (to Amy Gould and Terry Techam) because they understand the importance of getting a basketball in a child’s hand as early as they are interested.”
October is usually when tryouts happen for the fourth through eighth grade traveling teams. From November to March these teams travel to different metro locations to compete against a variety of schools with varying abilities.
“Basketball tournaments are set up well,” adds Longstreet. “If a team is having a good season there are always options to play against better competition. The coaches try to match the level of their team with the level of tournaments entered to challenge their players.”
Delano Basketball Association hosts a tournament at the end of January. This season more than 100 teams come out to Delano to play in a one day tournament.
“Our association also likes it as we don’t ask our athletes to do any type of fundraising to help offset the costs of traveling,” said Longstreet. “Instead, most of the funds raised for the association come from people outside of the Delano school district through their participation in the tournament.”
Some grade levels “and some individual gym rats” will choose to extend their season and play a little more in April and May. Some teams will be made up entirely of Delano youth and others will try out for area traveling teams.
In the summer varsity coaches conduct summer clinics.
“We have lots of options for the youth and are hoping that the excitement created by the boys state tournament run will encourage even more participation,” adds Longstreet. “Our association hopes that it doesn’t take 20 more years for another trip to state.”
Highlights for the boys program include the fourth grade team winning seven tournaments and finishing second in two others in its inaugural season. Delano placed third in the top division of the MSF state tournament.
The fifth grade boys A team captured four first place tournament finishes to go with one second and three thirds.
After going 12-2 in the Waconia league, the sixth grade boys B team won the Buffalo tournament and took third in Big Lake.
Techam coached his son Derek’s sixth grade A team, finishing 48-12 and winning seven tournaments. The team played in the MYAS state tournament at the 9A level and placed fifth.
The traveling eighth grade boys claimed some second and third place tourney honors this season.
The first year of traveling basketball for the Delano fifth grade girls produced a first place finish at the local tournament.
The sixth grade girls A team played at a much higher level of competition and went 17-10, winning two tournaments along with a second and three third place finishes.
Delano’s eighth grade girls captured first place in three of the five traveling tournaments entered and won second in another. The team captured fifth at the 16-team state tournament.