COLUMBIA — Echoes of squeaks and screams fill the building, and a fleet of orange jerseys rule the court at the MU Student Recreation Center.
David "DJ" Johnson, head basketball coach at Hickman High School and developer of the Orangemen basketball organization, watched from the stands as the two orange-clad teams competed in the Show-Me State Games basketball event Friday afternoon.
The teams, formally known as Orangemen, compete in statewide and national competitions outside of high school sports. The organization originated 10 years ago and now has 11 teams with players from various age groups and schools.
"It's incredible because I've been watching them since they were young, about the age of 5," Johnson said about his organization's ninth- and 10th-grade team, which has played together since kindergarten. "I've been able to see them grow as individuals and as a group, and there's no other feeling like that. It's good for them, too, because it shows them what it takes to run an organization and how to stay dedicated."
The ultimate goal of the organization is to prepare the players for junior high school and high school.
"The team also teaches the kids companionship and how to be a good student, along with other skills to make them well-rounded student athletes," Johnson said.
Johnson said the support from family and volunteers was a driving force of the organization's operation.
"Parents and siblings all get into it together, and none of this would be able to happen without the volunteer coaches," he said.
The ninth- and 10th-grade level team won its first game 70-52. They are scheduled to play their next game at 8 a.m. Saturday morning at Hearnes Center.