AAU Fuels Blazer Hoops
Posted: March 11, 2013
RICHMOND — After the Spotswood High School girls’ basketball team won the Division 3 state title Saturday morning, there was discussion of pressure — or, rather, a lack of it.
SHS’s players play a grueling AAU schedule with the East Rockingham Sports Club that includes games against some of the best Division I-bound talent in the country.
Living through that — and winning a number of state AAU titles along the way — made Saturday’s state-title matchup with Brunswick in the Siegel Center, with roughly three-fourths of its 7,617 seats filled, a bit easier to handle.
“It’s good to play AAU, especially when you play in big tournaments,” said senior point guard Bailey Williams, who led Spotswood with 21 points in its 66-51 championship victory over the Bulldogs. “They’re a bunch of [college] coaches there watching you, so you’re kind of used to the pressure on you. It’s kind of a different pressure. That pressure is, ‘Oh, I want to be able to impress the coaches; I want to be able to go to that school.’ This pressure is more like, ‘I know my parents and my peers are looking for me and making sure I do well, and I’m gonna do this for them.’”
Spotswood coach Chris Dodson said the ERSC was founded around 2005 — the year the Trailblazers won their first state girls’ basketball title — to be a feeder program for SHS. Dodson said ERSC consolidated four previously existing AAU teams into one. Nearly a decade later, it’s a farm system that keeps Spotswood among the state’s best girls’ teams every season.
With the opening of East Rockingham High School in 2010, the program now also feeds East Rock. ERSC serves the eastern portion of Rockingham County — and the East Rockingham girls won their second straight Division 1 state title Friday.
“One year we won [the AAU state title], we were 92-8. That’s 100 games in between your basketball season that you’re getting to know each other,” Dodson said. “[You’re] living on the road with your parents and you’re in hotels and doing walk-throughs in parking lots, in hotels and restaurants, and it’s just basketball class.”
The familiarity shows. The Blazers run their sets as well as any team, and in the fourth quarter Saturday, they forced a deliberate, methodical pace on Brunswick and put the game away.
ERSC also helped Spotswood adapt to playing a speedy team like Brunswick.
“It just helps us from playing quick teams,” SHS junior forward Tayler Dodson said. “Brunswick was a quick, athletic team, and I honestly don’t think, if we didn’t play AAU against quicker, athletic teams, we would have been ready for this game.”
ERSC starts in the second grade and runs through a player’s junior year in high school. In that span, they play so many games that Chris Dodson said players on the SHS team even missed school dances, notably several homecomings. He said Williams made two out of four and that his daughter, Tayler, was 1-for-3.
“That’s what they give up, and in the end, it pays off,” Chris Dodson said. “And I think people forget that. AAU is great, if it’s done the right way, and ERSC does it the right way. You practice as much as you play. If there’s 98 games, there’s probably 160 practices. It’s done the right way.”