Smyrna's "Diamond State Stars" will play in AAU's National Championship in late July.

Starting a new athletic team whether it’s at the collegiate level or a youth league can prove to be a work in progress with minimal expectations in the first few years. That is unless you can pull the coaches and players from another successful team.

The “Diamond State Stars” are a 14 and under AAU basketball team started this year by Smyrna Middle School boys basketball coach Charlie Taylor.

Taylor has been the coach of the middle school team for two years and while involved in travel ball in the past with younger kids, he decided to start a team for teens this year. Along with Taylor are seven of his players from the middle school team that went undefeated in the past two regular seasons. The team also has a few other players from Smyrna, Dover, and Middletown.

The Diamond State Stars may be a first-year team but you wouldn’t know it by their play on the court — they’ve won six of seven tournaments. Moreover, they won the Super Regional Tournament to qualify for the AAU National Championship in late July.

Building a team

Having already coached a majority of the players, Taylor said having the nucleus carry over from the middle school program has helped.

“All the things we run are pretty much the same as the middle school team. They’re not relearning and are continuing to develop,” Taylor said.

With a familiarity with each other, the boys on the team all want to play together regardless of what five players are on the court. They are good at playing team ball, and they all pass the ball first and shoot second. Taylor said from a coaching standpoint, it’s now the job of the coaches — he’s assisted by Mark Harris and son Darrean — to teach the players how to rebound and communicate together.

Player Isaiah Mowbray feels the team’s chemistry has contributed to their early success: “We get along well and play a great defense.”

Taylor said the school district has been a big help as well by allowing them to use the gym at John Bassett Moore Intermediate School to practice.

“Without their support this wouldn’t be possible,” Taylor said.

Working for a national championship

By winning the Super Regional, Taylor said the team had the choice of competing in AAU’s Division I, II or II national championship. The team chose to play in Division II as they would be more aligned talent wise with the teams in this division.

Even though over 100 teams will play in this division, Taylor is confident in his team.

“These guys have worked extremely hard,” Taylor said. “The key to the national tournament will be to stay calm when diversity hits. My job is to keep them focused and calm.”

Prior to the tournament, the Stars will play in the One Day Shootout in Pennsylvania. Taylor said all the games will be played in one day and will be a good challenge for the team before nationals.

Between now and the national tournament, Taylor said the team will work on their man-to-man defense.

The players are confident heading into the tournament as well. Mowbray and teammate Mark Harris both feel the team has a good chance of winning in the tournament.

“I feel good about it,” Harris said. “We have to work together and keep our composure.”

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