A new travel basketball program in Richmond Hill for girls is giving players the opportunity to improve their skills and provide a stronger foundation for the local middle and high school teams.
“There are a lot of options for boys in the area when it comes to AAU ball, but there hasn’t really been the same opportunity before for girls,” said Jason Baker, the program director and head coach of the Lady Legacy.
Some three dozen girls are part of the program, ranging in age from elementary school up to high school.
“One of our main focuses is on building up the high school team by giving the girls the tools they need to be successful,” Baker said. “I’ve talked a lot with the school coaches to make sure we’re on the same page as far as what we’re teaching and what the girls need to know at each level.”
Lady Legacy’s developmental team consists of elementary school players and a few girls in middle school who haven’t played much basketball before.
“At that level, we’re just focusing on individual skills and introducing them to the game,” Baker said.
The middle and high school teams are for more experienced players and will participate in tournaments over the course of the next few months.
Baker, who grew up in North Carolina and played basketball at Montreat College there, said coaching has been his passion for several years.
“It’s something I’d like to do full time after I retire from the military,” he said. “But our program is about more than just basketball. We do community service, we talk to the girls about the importance of getting good grades.”
In fact, the program’s website says its coaching philosophy is to “educate and empower” female athletes and that the organization will “strive to instill in them confidence, commitment and integrity.”
Lady Legacy almost didn’t get started, however, as Baker was considering getting involved with a travel team in Hinesville along with three of his daughters who play — two in middle school and one in high school.
“My wife was talking to some other parents and they expressed an interest in having a local travel team,” he said. “There’s been a lot of hard work that went in to starting from scratch, but the families have been really supportive.”
The high school team, for example, which includes rising freshmen and has 14 players, includes all but two girls who were eligible to play, and that is only because of other commitments and not lack of interest.
“We have two practices a week and one session per week for strength and agility,” so it’s a big time commitment,” Baker said. “Then there is the cost associated with travel sports, although we’re trying to keep that down by doing fundraisers.”
Aside from Baker, the program also includes Destiny Lett and Travis McNeil, who coach the high school team; Sean Thornton, the middle school coach; Cameron King, who coaches the developmental team; and David Lett, who oversees the strength and conditioning program.
“It’s a great bunch of people to work with,” Baker said. “We’re all about helping the girls get better so each player can reach her full potential.”