Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

AAU Experience Helps Royals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Apr 30, 2014, 15:32

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE The Royals' 2013-14 basketball season did not go the way the team envisioned it to be and it was the second game of the season which foreshadowed their entire campaign. Prince George had fallen behind by 14 points at the end of the first quarter against H.D. Woodson after a sloppy start, but slowly began to pick up the pace of play.

The Royals chipped away at the Warriors' lead before jumping out to a one-point advantage with just 47.6 seconds remaining. The game, and the Royals' first win of the season was there for the taking, until it wasn't. H.D. Woodson would strike back immediately as they utilized a ball-screen for an open lay-up to take their own one-point lead with 36 seconds left.

Prince George had one last gasp and intended to send their home crowd into delirium. They inbounded the ball, dribbled up the court as the noise grew louder with each step. Royals' head coach Travis Carr watched as the seconds ticked off the clock before calling out the play, resulting in Savonte Chappell receiving a pass at the elbow.

Chappell rose and fired, but the ball clanked off front iron and rolled across the back of the orange cylinder before falling to the hardwood as the buzzer sounded on a loss. It was a microcosm of Prince George's season. It was a talented team which hadn't yet learned how to win before finding itself late in the year.

And that momentum has continued to FCF Ballers, an AAU basketball team several Royals' players are suiting up for during the Spring and Summer months. The momentum gained from the late-season surge has resulted in two consecutive tournament victories for the ballers and junior Nate Williams said it's a result of just continuing to move forward.

"It feels good because we can take that and move forward," Williams said of the tournament victories. "We can take going through the summer and the next high school basketball season in the Fall. We can build it and make everything better."

Added B.J. Knight on the Royals' season,"We ended the season, of course not where we wanted to, but it was a lot better than the regular season. Then, coming into AAU with the same time, we were just looking to build on that."

The reason why it can be greater is the level of competition they are facing on a weekly basis on the AAU circuit.

In one tournament, the Ballers were apart of a 16-team bracket with teams from all over the country and had to face a squad from North Carolina in back-to-back games to capture the title. The test they faced were enormous.

The North Carolina team had almost every player taller than the Ballers' center Devin Rose, putting the team at a distinct disadvantage. Yet, the Ballers' persevered and were able to capture a win using their speed and athleticism.

It's that confidence they gained during the game which can carry over into the following season as they continue to play against as tough or tougher competition they will face during the high school slate.

"Most kids you see in AAU, you will probably see them again at some point during the high school season," Williams explained. "It gives you a feel for how they play and how you can defend them."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

And while the experience gained against some opponents they may face during the regular season will surely help, it's more about a developing mindset while with the Ballers.

For much of the season, Prince George seemed to not know how to win. The Royals were certainly a talented team, arguably the most talented in the old Central Region, but they were also young and had little experience with achieving and maintaining success.

It's why all the excitement for the season and readiness the players felt as they laced up their shoes for the first game dissipated after the losses continued to mount and the Royals had found different ways to lose games. But then it clicked in the playoffs as they knocked off No. 1 seeded Meadowbrook and earned a spot in Regionals and has continued to AAU.

They are surrounded by players who have won before and experiences success at higher levels and soaking in the experience for their own benefit.

"Playing AAU together is boosting our confidence because now we can see we can win," Knight said of his teammates. "Coach (Travis) Carr would tell us we didn't really know how to win ... Now we know how to stay in the game, stay focused, stay positive even when we are down and it will really help us in the future."

There is more learning to be done before the Royals' season tips off in December, but if the first two tournaments are any indication, the future is bright for Prince George basketball.

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