AYBA tournament provides countless benefits
Sixty teams. Five venues. Countless volunteers. That's nothing Rutherford County and Forest City Parks and Recreation's Larry Ross.
The AYBA North Carolina State Championships were in full-effect Saturday at East Rutherford High, East Rutherford Middle, Cool Springs, Callison and the Spindale House.
Ross splits his time between coaching the Forest City Heat's 6th grade boys, 11th grade boys, middle school girls basketball, coordinating venues and volunteers and fielding phone calls to fill out brackets outside of the gyms.
"We've hosted this tournament for years. Our team has been so good and everyone that comes to town loves the small-town atmosphere and the facilities we have to play in," Ross said. "The state feels comfortable having this tournament here."
As much as Ross does to coordinate the tournament, he knows he isn't alone.
"We wouldn't be able to do what we do without Rutherford County Schools and the Town of Forest City allowing us to use the facilities," Ross acknowledged.
The tournament brings a ton of kids and parents from all over the state, which of course, helps the county and the Forest City Heat basketball program that has grown from two to 12 teams since its inception in 1996.
"This is big for us because it brings in revenue to run our programs," Ross said. "It helps us buy uniforms when we start new teams and also to play in other tournaments. Without something like this we wouldn't be able to travel like we do."
And travel they do. Next weekend the 11th grade Heat will travel to Atlanta for the annual Nike tournament.
This AYBA may not be a huge money maker for the program, but every little bit helps.
"You don't know what kind of crowd you'll get in. You could make $5,000-6,000 but once you pay out everything like the referees it's not a whole lot, but it's still something to help keep the programs going," Ross said.
The Heat program ranges from 10-12 teams each season and focuses on teaching kids the game at an early age.
"We even have high school coaches coaching our fourth grade team," Ross said. "They're learning the fundamentals early."
The impact is something Ross is quick to implore.
"I'll put my house on it, my sixth grade boys have more knowledge of the game than a lot of our high school kids," Ross said with a smile. "They handle the ball, shoot the ball and understand where the next pass needs to go."
In the end, as the kids progress and age, the impact is felt on the school level.
"They lean a lot about basketball and it only benefits our high school teams so much because they know how to play once they get there," Ross said.
The championships conclude this evening with games at all five venues.