Warren Central bucks AAU trend|[06/01/07]

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 1, 2007

Most Amateur Athletic Union teams are all-star squads made up of the best players from different high school teams who play together only in the summer.

Then there’s Warren County, which is Warren Central’s varsity girls basketball team playing against all-star teams in summer tournaments.

&#8220I believe you get better by playing good people,” Warren Central coach Donny Fuller said. &#8220We tell our kids all the time in the summer our No. 1 goal is not to win or lose; it’s actually to get better.”

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The Lady Vikes will get plenty of chances to get better today through Sunday when they host the 16-under AAU state tournament. The winner of this weekend’s nine-team, double elimination tournament advances to the national tournament in Orlando later this summer.

One of the teams Warren County could face this weekend is the Mississippi Fire, a team comprised mostly of players from the Jackson metro area, though the squad does have one player from Meridian and one from Starkville.

So far this summer, the Fire has already played in AAU tournaments in Mobile, Jackson, Little Rock and Utica. By comparison, Warren County has only played in one tournament, and that was against other high school teams, not AAU squads.

Though Warren County might be at a disadvantage against all-star teams, Fire coach Johnathan Sanders said Fuller’s philosophy of playing tough competition in the offseason can pay off during the high school season.

&#8220It’s an opportunity for his team to bond together and get stronger,” Sanders said.

This summer is especially important for the Lady Vikes, Fuller said, because seven of the 15 players on the roster did not play varsity last season. The only returning starters from last year’s state tournament-qualifying team are guard Karnina Bunch and forward Sha’Kayla Caples, which means Fuller will be trying different combinations of players on the court this summer to find the right mix.

&#8220Last year going into the summer, we knew who our starting five were,” Fuller said. &#8220This year it’s a little bit different. We’re looking to find our starting five.”

This weekend’s tournament will feature five games today, six on Saturday, and four to six games on Sunday. Warren County’s opening game was scheduled for 4 p.m. today against Boys and Girls Club of Corinth, but WC coach Donny Fuller said the Corinth team will not play.

After this weekend, the Lady Vikes will play a series of games against other high school teams in the Central Mississippi Basketball League before wrapping up their summer schedule in Meridian at the State Games of Mississippi.

&#8220I think that’s been one of the keys to our success is the fact that we do play so much as a team in the summer,” Fuller said. &#8220You can bond as a team quickly when you pile all 15 of them up in a van and go play a couple times a week.”