Four Smyrna High School students are headed to Colorado Springs later this month to try out for the Youth Olympics and USA Basketball.
The athletes will compete for a chance to represent the United States as a 3x3 basketball team. The students are varsity basketball players Latrelle Lee, Dominique Walker and Charlie Taylor, and student Chris Carroll. All four players are members of local AAU team Diamond State Stars.
These four players will compete in the 2014 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship Tournament held May 30 through June 1 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. If the Smyrna team wins, they will be named the 2014 USA Youth Olympic Games Team and go on to compete in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China in August.
Diamond State Stars Team Coordinator Charles Taylor said the tryout is the result of the four players participating in a 3x3 basketball tournament last summer before school started. He randomly asked members of the Diamond State Stars if they wanted to participate, and Lee, Walker, Carroll and Taylor agreed. Originally registering for a 17-and-under tournament in Washington, D.C., the four ended up in an 18-and-under tournament.
Taylor said the group went 6-2 in the tournament and was eliminated in a tiebreaker. While at the tournament, he was approached about the team trying out for the Youth Olympics, but Taylor said the guy never followed up with him. One month later he received an email from USA Basketball, which is the national governing body for men’s and women’s basketball in the United States; representatives from USA Basketball saw film of the Delaware 3x3 players and invited the group to compete in the National Championship.
“I didn’t respond to the email because I thought it was a joke,” Taylor said. “The next day she called me and asked if we were interested; I said we were.”
Fast-forward several months and the players are a mere weeks away from the tryout.
Lee, a junior, said he’s excited to go and believes the team will qualify for the Olympics.
Carroll, also a junior, said he’s excited but nervous at the same time.
“I’m happy we have this chance. It’s an opportunity other people don’t have,” Carroll said.
Fellow junior Dominique Walker thinks it’ll be a good experience and a chance to see a lot of different talent. He also thinks the team will do well in the tryout.
Charlie Taylor III is the youngest of the group at 16-years-old; he’s a sophomore at the high school.
“I want us to be able to put Delaware on the map and put it out there that there’s basketball talent here,” he said.
He said the team is talented and has the skills to play well.
Team coach Shawntese Lee thinks the fact that the boys have been playing together for so long will be to their benefit at the tryout because they have chemistry. She expects the team to go far in the tournament. Taylor’s other sons Deondre and Darrean also help coach the team.
As for Taylor, he said the game of 3-on-3 basketball is different from what the players are used to playing. There’s only 10 minutes per game and the first team to 21 points wins. The players coach themselves. There are no timeouts and the referees only get involved if there’s a technical foul.
“To be honest, I fully expect them to qualify,” Taylor said. “I’m very confident they’ll make the most out of it.”