LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Hornets AAU basketball team has been flying under the radar since it’s inception five years ago.
The organization serves children in fourth through ninth grade and provides them a chance to develop their basketball skills and offers them an alternative to getting involved in illegal activities.
“We had a desire to get the kids off the street and give them something to do more so than playing football and baseball,” said coach Jeremy Baker. “We have a lot of basketball talent in this community but it’s not being highlighted so that talent gets overlooked, so that’s why we started the organization.”
Scotland Hornets began five years ago under the direction of Aundrea Reaves. The players Reaves started the organization with are now contributing members of the Scotland High School varsity boy’s basketball team.
“Most of the kids that are rising juniors now — Bruce Wall, Mandrell Johnson, Kris McLean and Garrett McRae — all started with me, they were my first traveling team,” Reaves said.
Baker got involved three years ago as a part-time coach before taking over as head coach for the fifth-grade team.
There are around 60 kids currently playing for the Hornets across their five co-ed teams, which are separated by grade level — fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade.
After successful seasons with the fifth and eighth grade teams, Scotland Hornets is transitioning to a year-round AAU travel team, but wants to emphasize they aren’t trying to encourage kids to specialize in just one sport.
“We don’t want to take away from what anyone else is doing, we just want to continue to develop the kids,” Baker said. “If your kid involved in anything other than basketball, they are still welcome to join our training sessions on the days they don’t have practice.”
At this point in the season, per AAU rules, kids wouldn’t be able to compete with the Hornets but they are welcome to come practice with the team and will be able to join the showcase team next season.
Baker and Reaves said there is a need in the county for female basketball players, which was the case at Scotland High School this past season. The girl’s varsity basketball team only had 11 players, but due to injuries some nights the team only had one or two people to sub in for the starting five.
“We would love to have enough for a girl’s team but we don’t have too many girls interested in playing basketball. We have girls that want to play, but their skill level is so far behind because we don’t have anything for them,” said Baker. “When they get to middle school they go to places like Hamlet where they develop the talent and get discouraged because they lose so bad.”
The biggest hurdle the Scotland Hornets face in getting more players into the program is the registration fee, which is used to pay for gym rental, travel expenses, uniforms and tournament entry fees.
“The problem we’re having is most parents don’t want to pay the $250,” said Baker. “That’s why we offer a program that will help the parents raise the money.”
The team does car washes and clears tables at Pizza Inn to raise money for player fees, Reaves says it teaches the kids the value of working and that nothing is free.
“If we do it that way we think kids appreciate it more than someone just giving it to them,” Reaves. “We aren’t going to turn anyone down, we aren’t money hungry.”
Scotland Hornets isn’t just about basketball, according to Reaves and Baker it provides their players with an outlet, if only for a few hours, to forget about the things in life that are troubling them.
“I have one kid in particular that life has changed,” Baker said. “Growing up he has witnessed his dad going in and out of jail. He comes here to play, have fun, and get his mind off what’s going on at home. This is their time to get away from their home environment — if they need it.”
Those interested in checked out Scotland Hornets will have an opportunity next weekend as they host “Battle In The Burg III.”
The AAU tournament will be held at Scotland High School on June 14-15. Games will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and tickets are $10.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]