Four Georgia Go Hard teams are traveling to Kissimmee, Fla., to play in the Youth Basketball of America National Championships this week.
ALBANY — Ravii Givens and his legion of young basketball prodigies only know one speed.
Since March, Givens’ brainchild — the Georgia Go Hard basketball program — and its participants have been in fifth gear on hardwood courts all over the Albany area.
“I’ve been worn out,” said Givens, who runs the Georgia Go Hard program, which is part of the Youth Basketball of America organization, and is coach of one of the teams.
All of the hard work is about the pay off, though. Givens, a former Westover star who went on to play at Stetson University, and his staff of coaches will take four teams to the YBOA National Championships, which began Monday in Kissimmee, Fla., near Orlando.
The Go Hard Georgia program is comprised of teams from first through seventh grade with kids from all over Southwest Georgia and even further. A fifth grade boys team, ranked No. 25 in Georgia’s Division I and coached by Torie Clemons and Fred Albritten, began the national tournament Monday and plays through Saturday in Kissimmee.
Next week, July 8-14, sixth grade boys and girls and a seventh grade boys team, will take their shot at nationals. The sixth grade boys are ranked No. 11 in Georgia Division I and coached by Terrell Lawson. The sixth grade girls, ranked No. 9 in Georgia Division I, are coached by Keith Graves and Tia Mallard, and Givens coaches the seventh grade boys, which are the No. 1 team in Georgia Division II.
Georgia Go Hard players start in the spring and don’t finish play until August and continue with fundamental drills on weekends after the season is over.
“We’re nonstop,” Givens said. “It’s a year-round program.”
The work might never stop on the court, but the benefits are more than worth it for Givens and the program’s players.
“A lot of these kids have never been out of Albany,” said Givens, who is in his second year of the program. “By being in the program they’re getting exposed to different things. It also makes them work even harder in the classroom.”
Players must keep their grades up in order to participate in the state and national tournaments, so the program’s youth are held accountable for their schoolwork.
“The kids really enjoy it,” Givens said. “They know if they don’t perform in the classroom they won’t be able to enjoy the different activities on the weekend.”
The teams are also loaded with future Southwest Georgia basketball stars. The leading scorers for each national tournament team are: fifth grade boys (Keyshawn Frazier, Juwan Wiley); sixth grade boys (Kristopher Gardner, Camron Weston, Devontae Broussard); sixth grade girls (Jy’kiera Long, LaKrista Walker); and seventh grade boys (Jameria Grier, Jalen Wimberly, Christopher Jenkins).
Givens said he plans to take the program to new heights next season playing under both the YBOA and AAU organizations. The Georgia Go Hard program is a nonprofit 501c3 organization that accepts public donations (P.O. Box 122, Albany, GA 31702).
GO HARD CAMP: Givens will also hold a Go Hard Training Basketball Camp July 20-21 at Darton College for boys and girls in second to tenth grade. Former University of Tennessee great Bridgette Gordon, a two-time national champion under legendary head coach Pat Summit and WNBA player, will assist with the camp fundamentals. The basketball camp will run 7:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. on July 20 and 9:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. on July 21. The cost is $75. For more information, contact Givens at 229.291.2736 or 229.291.0507.