They came…they played…they prevailed.
The Los Angeles Warriors AAU travel basketball team, in its debut at the Big Foot Hoops Las Vegas Classic Basketball Tournament, handled their business but came up short during the 11u championship game at Lied Boys & Girls Club in South Nevada.
Led by Program Director, Valerie Agee, Head Coach of the Crenshaw High School Girls basketball team, and Baldwin Hills Recreation Center coach, Steffen Smith, the Warriors were one of 64 teams competing in both the 10u and 11u divisions for the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Championships. During their five-day, eight-game run, the Warriors – Dennis Woods, Dominique Bentho, Chaz Austin, John McCovey, Sam Middlesworth, Logan Ball, Amiri Obaid, Ari Wilson, Malik Wilson, Nazsir Cammon, Jabari Spears, and team mascot, Jamie Smith – won three 10u pool play games. The squad beat former NBA player Jermaine O’Neal’s Drive Nation Select 2025 (45–39), a contentious Friday night victory against the Oakland Soldiers Grey (41-12), and NBBA Turner (34-22) before advancing to the Platinum bracket championship and losing to Bay Area’s Team Superstar (31-52).
The Warriors 11u hopes were off to a rocky start during pool play after suffering a crushing 47-3 defeat to Texas’s ATX Metro Elite, a 55-38 loss to Hawaii Select, and a forfeited game against China’s NBA Yao Club. But the tide turned in Bronze Bracket play with a nail-biting Saturday win against the New Haven Connecticut Heat (50-47). And it only got better Sunday with a win against Orange County’s 5onFiveRed (56-27), and Long Beach Gold (65-43) that earned them a spot in the final Bronze Championship game against Arizona’s Blue Chip Elite. The Warriors gave it their all but couldn’t get the job done losing (70–34), and placing 2nd overall in the 11u Bronze division. Though they were battered and bruised, the boys were grateful for the experience and look forward with great anticipation to next year while preparing for the Nike 3 on 3 Tournament at Staples Center. There was a silver lining. A representative from a Chinese basketball program was so impressed with the Warriors sportsmanship and fundamentals they were approached with a potential offer to participate in an upcoming sponsored exhibition basketball game in Beijing, China.
“The kids proved to themselves this weekend that it’s not about the age of the opponent, it’s about working together as a team to accomplish a common goal, said Coach Agee. Adds Coach Smith, “We didn’t leave with the trophy but gained more character than we had when we got there.”
The Big Foot Hoops Las Vegas Classic is one of three major events that run simultaneously during the last week of July. The other two are the Fab48 and Adidas Summer Championship. According to the Las Vegas Press Enterprise, these tournaments draw many of the nation’s most recognizable college coaches who come to watch players from many of the most well-known AAU programs and top high school players. The desert was definitely filled with NBA superstars following an exciting Summer Pro League tournament that featured newly minted Los Angeles Laker Lonzo Ball who remained in town to watch his younger brother, LaMelo’s Big Baller Squad, coached by father LaVar Ball. Spotted in town during weekend festivities were Shaquille O’Neal, Gilbert Arenas, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Thon Maker, Jamal Murray, and Andrew Wiggins.
Gatorade, Eastbay, Slam Magazine and Perform are all sponsors of the Las Vegas Classic Summer Basketball Tournament.