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Boys & Girls Club's basketball team teaches more than drills

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In the fall of 2015, Boys & Girls Club staff started a travelling basketball team comprised of about 12 seventh grade boys.

Roosevelt Unit Director Buddy King manages the team, and Southside Assistant Unit Director Jason Schlangen as well as volunteer Hugh Moua serve as the team's coaches.

The Boys & Girls Club team opens up a new opportunity for many youth. Only three or four of the kids have played on organized or traveling teams before.

"This program provides an opportunity for Club members to experience sports on a different level," said King. "These kids may not otherwise be able to participate, due to financial, transportation or other barriers."

The coaches reinforce the importance of academics and good character as participation requirements for the basketball team. The kids are also learning the basic fundamentals of basketball, learning how to shoot, dribble, work together as a team, and understand how the league works.

The kids are held to the GPA standards required by the Minnesota State High School League. About 75 percent of the squad is at an A-B average. For kids who started with a lower GPA, the focus is on progress. If kids fail to meet their academic requirements, they are benched but still get to travel with the team.

Coaches aim for discipline, too. The kids have to commit to show up on time to practices, and be respectful of other players, coaches and referees.

"We're not just developing good athletes at the Boys & Girls Club," said Southside Unit Director Christine Kustelski. "We are developing gentlemen with good character and a sense of purpose."