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Not too long ago, county basketball players rarely played organized ball in the off-season. But now they'reinto the...
By DEREK J. LaRIVIERE, Times Staff Writer
Published September 28, 2007
Court rust used to be an unavoidable part of basketball for years for players in Hernando County.
With no competitive outlet for area youths to maintain their skills, even teams like the Nature Coast girls, a dominant local program, struggled through transition periods at the beginning of the season. That was until a few years ago.
"There's nothing more frustrating than working on fundamentals at this age," Nature Coast coach Travis Lamle said. "There just wasn't enough of them working on their game all year."
Now the Nature Coast girls squad participates in the Florida Fastbreak League. The league, established by Goldie Ayers and Mike Carbone in 2003, is affiliated with AAU. Its purpose is to give local teams a chance to keep playing and competing.
"The one major thing you notice as a parent around here is that kids don't have another place to go when basketball season is over at school," Ayers said. "Mike Carbone and I wanted to change that."
Ayers would know about the lack of year-round basketball. His daughter, Crystal Ayers, was a three-time Sunshine Athletic Conference Player of the Year for Ridgewood. She currently plays for Jacksonville University.
"For any kind of AAU ball, we had to travel down to Clearwater, and that isn't right," Ayers said. "It's tough for young players in Pasco County and almost impossible for kids in Hernando County."
Players like WNBA lottery pick and Hernando alumnus Bernice Mosby and West Virginia point guard and Central alumnus Alex Ruoff traveled out of the area to play for year-round teams.
But with the Florida Fastbreak League, travel is less of an issue for prep players in the North Suncoast. Florida Fastbreak includes 65 teams in six divisions from 5- and 6-year-old kids to varsity high school athletes.
Ayers received AAU approval in March 2004 and began the first Pasco or Hernando AAU league that spring. This past year, he contacted every area school he could in hopes of getting them involved in the league. The response was overwhelming.
"When Goldie invited us into the league, I jumped at the chance," said Central boys coach Eric Hayes. "It's helped us 20 times over; it's like night and day."
After winning only two games all last season, the Central boys have looked strong in their games for Florida Fastbreak. Behind leading scorer Darryn Frazier, the Bears forced overtime against teams like River Ridge and Hudson. Those squads swept Central last year.
Central's programs take part in the varsity girls and boys divisions. Other teams in both high school divisions include River Ridge, Gulf, Hudson and Nature Coast. Ridgewood also has a lot of players in the league.
For Nature Coast senior P.J. Orgass, the experience has been good on many levels. The Sharks have a new coach in David Pisarcik, and working with him in game situations has kept the senior-laden group on task.
"We are back on the court working together," Orgass said. "That along with getting used to (Pisarcik's) style will only make us better once the season starts."
Wins and losses don't matter as much as the situational experience that the individuals get. Playing at the newly built New Port Richey Recreational Center, they have the opportunity to compete in front of crowds that rival the gyms they will see in the prep regular season.