The plans for an Auburn-based travel basketball organization began on paper napkins at the table of a local restaurant among a small group of parents trying to give their kids more sports opportunities. One of those parents was Mayor Ron Anders.
“What we found was there was an appetite for what we were doing,” Anders said. “Some people would look at that as nothing more than a travel basketball organization, but I looked at it as almost a ministry.”
The organization started with few wins and little money, but there was a tremendous amount of support from the community and open hoops in high school gyms.
Today, it serves both boys and girls and is the largest youth basketball organization in Alabama. Teams compete in games and tournaments in the spring and summer once recreation and high school games have ended, said AJ Harris, coach of the Raptor’s 6th grade boys team.
“There were those kids, especially those kids who were talented and really had that desire to play basketball, that didn’t really have another outlet to kind of enhance their skills,” Harris said.
The younger teams participate in the Youth Basketball of America circuit, traveling mostly to in-state games and tournaments. The high school aged teams participate in the Adidas Gauntlet league where they travel to games and tournaments throughout the Southeast.
Costs for these tournaments and other expenses associated with a travel basketball league can become quite costly. The organization charges its players a fee for the season, but costs often exceed that fee, Harris said.
“Especially with the Adidas teams, with this being our second year on this circuit, we learned that our fees [don’t] really cover everything we need to do,” Harris said. “So, how can we supplement and not charge these kids thousands of dollars to play on these teams?”
That’s why the Raptors will host Run for the Raptors, a 5K and 1-mile fun run, Saturday. They are partnering with a local running organization to put on the race at Dean Road Elementary.
Community members can register on the Raptor’s website for $25 or at the event for $35. Aubie and other Auburn notables will be present along with giveaways.
“We’re just a basketball organization looking to give some kids the opportunity to play basketball,” Harris said.
The Raptors will also host a tournament with teams from around the Southeast April 5 through 7, as well as other fundraising events throughout their season.
“I think of it kind of like a ministry,” Harris said. “I think of it as an opportunity to impact some of these young guys and hopefully prepare them to play school ball.”
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