ABERDEEN — The Team Elite Mississippi Amateur Athletic Union Basketball Club soon may have a new home.
Based in Columbus since its formation on Jan. 10, 2010, the club is considering a move that would make Aberdeen its new home. Team Elite Mississippi founder Erise Wilson met with Aberdeen Mayor Cecil Belle on Monday and also talked with parks and recreation officials in the city about securing gym space for his travel basketball team.
Belle has asked Wilson to make a presentation tonight to the Aberdeen City Council detailing his plans to move the club to Aberdeen. If all goes well, Belle said he hopes to ask the city council for a motion to support bringing the club to Aberdeen.
“I want to bring it to Aberdeen,” Wilson said to Belle. “We would be right here in the ‘hub’, and what is going on in the ‘hub’, the vision you have for the city, we want to be a part of the transition you are making in the city. I think the program coming here definitely will benefit the student-athletes here in the city. I want Aberdeen to be the home of Team Elite Mississippi.”
Belle appeared to be excited about the possibility of Team Elite Mississippi to his city. His office was adorned with posters touting his plans and a vision of growth for the city, which he believes is appealing because it is the “hub” for a large number of well-populated areas, including Tupelo, Starkville, Columbus, Amory, and West Point. He feels the addition of an AAU basketball program could be a benefit to the local youth and could help generate revenue for the city.
“We really want to get involved with the opportunity to bring the program to Aberdeen,” Belle said. “If that is possible, we surely want to make it happen.”
Team Elite Mississippi has had success this year in helping basketball players attract notoriety and earn college opportunities. 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. Last month, Tate, Demorius Walker, Tae Latham, and Whyatt Foster were recognized for their play and will be included in the 2013 edition of The Best Basketball Players of AAU.
Wilson said he wants to open his AAU program to a greater number of athletes and extend his sphere of influence outside of Lowndes County. His teams have featured players from Columbus, Caledonia, New Hope, and Noxubee County high schools, among others.
In addition to expanding his basketball program, Wilson said his goal for next year is to play host to a tournament that utilizes Aberdeen’s facilities and generates revenue for the city. He said a plan could be in place early in 2014 if everyone in the city believes in the AAU basketball program and gets behind it.
Those ideas interested Belle, who also serves as the director of the Aberdeen Economic Development Authority and director of the Aberdeen Port Authority. His vision is to help Aberdeen grow by bringing more businesses to the city and things that improve the quality of life. He said an AAU basketball program is something that could fit nicely into those plans.
“AAU is not only basketball, but we are trying to look beyond the basketball court and trying to develop children into leaders and to find ways to keep them out of trouble,” Belle said. :If you can make it a positive, you can change a lot of peoples’ lives.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.