A storm is leaving for Las Vegas.
The Mid-Missouri Basketball Club Storm of Columbia is departing today to compete in the Vision Sports 2004 National Youth Championships in Las Vegas. The tournament ends Saturday.
The boys’ team, which has 11 players, is in a field of 48 teams in the 17-and-under division. The girls’ team, comprised of 13 players, is among 28 teams.
Coach Mark Holly has been the MMBC Storm coach for seven years, and many of the boys have played for Holly since they were in fourth grade.
The girls’ squad lacks that experience. A few players have been on the team since sixth grade, but many are in their first season.
Holly said the tournament would be useful in giving the girls more experience on a national level.
“My boys are used to it,” Holly said. “They were 10th at AAU Nationals two years ago. I’m trying to get my girls more used to it, too.”
The MMBC Storm has players from Columbia, Moberly and Arkansas. The teams participate in tournament play only.
“There are no leagues,” Holly said. “We go to the top tournaments and play the toughest competition we can play.”
The boys have won three of four tournaments and were runners-up in the other. The girls have been third three times in five tournaments. Team manager Frank Hoelzeman said the tournament will be great exposure for the players; about 200 college coaches and scouts will be at the tournament.
“We wanted to get our girls and guys seen,” Hoelzeman said. “That is one of our goals and possibly to get them scholarships.”
Patrick Phillips, 17, a guard for the Hickman Kewpies, has been a member of the MMBC Storm for three years. Playing in these tournaments in the offseason and summer allows Phillips the opportunity to keep his game fresh for the fall.
“The competition we play against is really tough,” Phillips said. “So, you get to see players that you normally wouldn’t see and compete against them.”
Amanda Hanson, 16, is participating on her first MMBC Storm team this summer. She will play for the Rock Bridge Bruins in the fall and is using tournaments to improve.
“It is fun and we’ve played a lot of tournaments in Columbia and the surrounding areas,” Hanson said. “I just have fun with it.”
Hanson joined the Storm to unite with Rock Bridge teammates and because of Holly’s coaching skills.
“A lot of the Rock Bridge girls were on (the team),” Hanson said. “I really like the coach. The way he teaches us and gives us individual attention if we need it. He just makes time for us.”
The girls use speed in the open court to win.
“We try to keep a fast pace, so it helps us get fast breaks,” Hanson said. “I like to sprint, so it keeps me going.”
The trip for the MMBC Storm mixes business with pleasure for the players.
“I’m excited to get away from home, play basketball and have a good time,” Phillips said.
Said Hanson: “I could not sleep (Sunday) night. I’m excited to play, meet other teams, and compete with them.”