Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ohio Hoopsters Focus on Development

Now that most middle school seasons are in the books, and the high school state tournament quickly approaches, thoughts are quickly turning to the upcoming travel basketball season. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, basketball programs from around the country will be hosting tryouts. As is the case every year about this time, kids and parents get excited, and a bit anxious, as they attempt to find the right AAU program. Like most urban communities, central Ohio is blessed with a myriad of travel basketball programs.

For the first time this spring and summer, the newly formed Ohio Hoopsters will jump into the crowded travel basketball market. According to Lamont Tillman and Tony Lavender (Pictured), co-founders of the fledging program, the Ohio Hoopsters will be sponsored by Adidas, and will field AAU-type teams in grades 2-11 this spring. Currently, the program is holding workouts/tryouts at New Covenant Church located in the northeast section of the city. Although they are still evaluating talent, Lavender and Tillman expect to have made their final selections by the end of the month.

I recently had a chance to checkout one of their workouts, and I must admit, I was more than impressed with the organization and they way the coaches interacted with the players. In terms of the format, roughly 65 kids were divided into four groups and were put through about one hour of fundamental skill work. After that, the kids were divided into teams and later participated in several 5 minute scrimmages. I overheard the coaches giving the kids sound instruction, while pushing them to work hard and to get things right. From what I understand, this workout was one of several such workouts for various age groups.

As I have always said, an organization is only as good as the people who make up the organization. The Hoopsters have that covered with Lavender and Tillman, both of whom are very knowledgeable and have been around AAU for a number of years. As most basketball people know, Lavender has coached in central Ohio since 1986, when his own son Drew, was a nationally ranked player. The elder Lavender has coached some of the best teams and players in the state for many years as part of the All Ohio Program, and he certainly understands the inner workings of travel basketball. From my observations over the years, Lavender’s “no nonsense" approach has worked well, and he has always gotten the most effort out of his players, even when he was not coaching the most talented players. Tillman brings a lot of credibility and a solid reputation to the program, as he has worked with young people as part of New Covenant's Youth Ministry for many years, as his father is the Pastor of of the Church.

Both Tillman and Lavender are fully aware of the challenges they face as a new program, and their approach to those challenges appear realistic and achievable. “We want to develop kids first,” said Lavender. When asked about how his program will differ from other programs, Lavender stated, “We are all about integrity. A lot of people don’t want to go to some of these other programs. We will play kids who deserve to be played.”

Tillman added, “We are here for the right reasons, and we understand we are a new program and we have to start young, but by the time our kids are freshmen and juniors, we will be able to play on a national level.” In addition, unlike a lot of AAU programs, each team in the program will practice at least two times per week, which will go a long way in their kid’s overall development.

From what I saw the other night, the Ohio Hoopsters are well on their way to establishing themselves as one of the top programs in central Ohio. To learn more about the Hoopsters you can contact Tony Lavender at: 614-348-3566. To see the pictures I took at the workout, visit the Buckeye Prep Facebook Fan Page.


  1. What grades will be in attendence at the Elite Showcase? Any current 11th graders? Is it too late for individual involvement?

  2. to anonymous we got it march 3 at 6:30 to 8:30 pm

  3. Why do you, Lamont Tillman & Tony Lavender, represent 'Ohio Hoopsters' as an "AAU" Team, when- in fact, the Ohio Hoopsters is not even one step close to being an officially registered Ohio AAU Team? This is false representation of the entire premise of the program, is it not? The Ohio AAU Governor did confirm the above information.