In July, the boys middle school basketball team at Aspire Charter Academy in Gary, Ind., earned the national runner up title in the West Coast National “Jam on it” Tournament in Las Vegas.
Of more than 20 teams from around the world, the Aspire team took second place in the Elite Division.
The inaugural trip was about more than just basketball, though.
“It was a unique experience for our students,” said team coach Deon Tolliver, who organized the trip and traveled with the team. “Our students don’t always come from the greatest areas, so I wanted to give them hope and inspiration that hard work and a college degree can take them places. For most, it was their first plane ride.”
The team, made up of all eighth-grade students and one seventh-grade boy, ended their season with a 62-2 record. The team won a total of six tournaments this year.
“We’ve been working hard for two years,” said Tolliver, the K-8 physical education teacher at Aspire. “I knew they would do well at this tournament.”
The team had the chance to meet other players from Alaska, Australia, and other states, Tolliver said.
“It was great to see them [the team] building relationships with other players,” he said. “The boys also got to see a few celebrities and rappers on the trip.”
As runner-ups to the championship, the team got to sign a basketball. A video of the event was taken.
“Even though we placed as the runner-up, the students’ sportsmanship and Moral Focus virtues shined brightly in Las Vegas,” said Sophie Hughes, dean of upper elementary at Aspire. “We are really proud of them.”