August 7, 2013 12:12:52 PM
It's official. The Team Elite Mississippi Amateur Athletic Union basketball club's new home is Aberdeen.
The Aberdeen City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to give Team Elite Mississippi club founder Erise Wilson full access to the city's basketball facilities. In addition, Wilson said the city council approved his use of two classrooms at the city's gymnasium he intends to use for tutoring for the players involved in his travel ball program.
"Never in my life have I had this much support. I am not alone anymore," Wilson said. "They are fresh energy to me and I am fresh energy to them. It is going to work, and it is going to move forward."
Wilson praised Aberdeen Mayor Cecil Belle, the city council, and the citizens of Aberdeen for their time, support, and willingness to open its doors to the program he founded in January 2010 in Columbus. Wilson said a lack of financial resources and a lack of access to practice facilities in the city of
Columbus prevented his team from traveling to Florida earlier this summer for the AAU Nationals. Still, his program has attracted plenty of attention in the past year. Former New Hope High School standout Jason Tate used his AAU experience to catch the eye of East Mississippi Community College men's basketball coach Mark White. Tate earned a scholarship and will be a freshman at EMCC later this year. Tate, Columbus High senior Demorius Walker and New Hope High seniors Tae Latham and Whyatt Foster also were recently recognized for their accomplishments and will be included in The Best Basketball Players of AAU, 2013 edition.
"Coach Wilson takes so much interest in kids who are trying to reach a goal," Wilson said. "If you will put in the work I will do everything in my power to get you exposure to help you get to the next level. I have seen him work with my son Jason and so many other kids to work with their talents. He has all of the goods to be someone in a head-coach type position to help these kids. There are a lot of kids in this neighborhood without him wouldn't have any other outlet. He can instill in someone the ability to see their own self-worth and see what is possible for them.
"He is very good at what he does. He will go the extra mile and way overboard to help gets the kids exposure. He couldn't get all of the support he needed in Columbus, but I think (the move to Aberdeen) will be a great step to expanding the program, and Aberdeen is going to get great benefits from this program. We have so many kids with so much talent who don't play high school basketball, and this program is designed to find those kids who have the talent to go to the next level and to get them out there and to get them exposure. I think Aberdeen is really going to prosper from this program."
Wilson said he was surprised things moved so quickly Tuesday. On Monday, he met with Belle and talked with Tohona Larthridge, the director of Aberdeen's Parks and Recreation Department. He said once he defined AAU, outlined his plans for his program, and explained the benefits for the students and the financial impact it could have for the city of Aberdeen, everyone was enthusiastically behind him.
"I am real happy," Wilson said. "Now I can contact the NCAA and change the address for the program and I can call the NCAA and let them know about the address change for AAU. When college coaches contact me, they will know we are in Aberdeen now, not Columbus.
Wilson plans to have a meeting next week at Aberdeen High to discuss his program and to encourage participation. He hopes the move to Aberdeen will allow the program to be in a prime location, or a "hub," for several of the biggest cities in the area, like Tupelo, Starkville, Columbus, West Point, and Amory. He hopes to have tryouts organized for his program later this year, possibly as soon as October. He also hopes to bring AAU tournaments to Aberdeen.
For now, though, Wilson is excited about a move he feels will allow his program to take the next step.
"I want to build a strong relationship with the people of Aberdeen," Wilson said. "When they voted on allowing the program to move to the city, I got a warm feeling inside. The kids didn't understand why in the past couple of years we hadn't been able to access basketball facilities. They didn't understand why we were treated this way. I don't have to fight for the kids anymore. They don't have to pay for gym access anymore. There is no telling how much better these kids are going to get without all of that stress in their lives right now. It is going to be a happy environment."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.