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Young basketballers have mixed feelings on AYA increases

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Super Auto Glass’ Taylor Ashley reaches for the ball as she collides with McDonough Investments Hailey Nunnery Saturday during an AYA 5th and 6th grade girls game in Trinity Episcopal’s gym. The league has more teams this year with more girls playing than last year.

NATCHEZ — The increase in numbers for AYA basketball participation this year has at least one 11-year-old lamenting the situation.

Taylor Ashley plays for the Super Auto Glass fifth- and sixth-grade girls AYA team. While some boys and girls might like having more people to play with and against, Ashley said having more girls is just a recipe for trouble.

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — McDonough Investments’ Baylee Graning takes the ball around Super Auto Glass’ Brooke Martin Saturday.

“When people want a boyfriend, it starts drama,” Ashley said, quite seriously. “More girls means more drama.”

AYA president Rudy Wilson said there are 184 children playing AYA basketball this year, up slightly from 174 last season. But Wilson also said numbers in the fifth- and sixth-grade age bracket are up considerably.

“We have 18 teams in that bracket between girls and boys, and normally, we probably have between 12 and 14,” Wilson said.

The addition of two third- and fourth-grade teams and two fifth- and sixth-grade teams by Wilkinson Country Christian Academy has factored into the overall increase in numbers, Wilson said. Aside from that, he said he’s unsure of the reason in the overall increase, especially at the fifth- and sixth-grade level.

“These fifth-graders were all third- and fourth-grade players last year, and I don’t think we had that many children move into town,” Wilson said. “It may be there’s just more participation from the kids themselves, with more that decided to play who haven’t played before.”

Wilson also said enrollment at the four private schools that make up AYA — Adams County Christian School, Trinity Episcopal Day School, Cathedral School and WCCA — doesn’t explain the increase.

“We haven’t seen enrollment numbers change much overall,” Wilson said. “Maybe at the individual schools, but not overall.”

Walt Brown, who coaches Walter Brown Law Firm fifth- and sixth-grade girls, said he thinks the increase in numbers is due to the camaraderie factor.

“They want to play because their friends are playing,” Brown said. “They don’t all think about starting for Cathedral one day. But they play soccer and softball year round, so when basketball comes up, they want to play it, too.”

Dylan Troxler, 11, plays for the Guedon Farms fifth- and sixth-grade boys team, and he said the increase in numbers for his age bracket is a good thing.

“We can have more teams and more competition,” Troxler said.

Twelve-year-old Tyler Lindsey, who plays for the Nettles Electric fifth- and sixth-grade boys, said the desire to play basketball and be with friends is the reason so many children are playing this season.

“It’s fun, and it’s something to do,” Lindsey said. “I enjoy the sport, and I have a lot of friends playing, so it makes me want to play even more.”

Lindsey also said there are positives and negatives to the increase in numbers for the fifth- and sixth-grade age bracket.

“I want more competition, but I only want there to be one team, so I can play with all my friends,” Lindsey said.

Wilson said the numbers for third- and fourth-graders are slightly down than in years past. There are six boys teams and seven girls teams in that age bracket, compared to nine boys and nine girls teams in fifth and sixth grade. Since AYA requires each player on the squad play at least one quarter each game, Hayden Kaiser, who coaches the Biscuits and Blues third- and fourth-grade boys, said having a smaller roster can make playing time easier to handle.

“It’s easier to rotate when you have fewer players,” Kaiser said.

Ready Decks third- and fourth-grade girls coach Bernita Dunbar said a smaller squad allows her to give her girls more individual attention.

“Sometimes it gets a little easier when you can focus on the five and six that you have,” Dunbar said. “With a smaller group, you can focus on those and work more closely with them.”

With any small squad, the potential drawback lies in the possibility that the numbers might get a little low during the game if a team gets into foul trouble. Kaiser said his squad had one player for his team sick this past weekend, leaving him with six to play. One fouled out in the fourth quarter, making things even tighter.

“It happened toward the end of the game, and we were winning pretty (big),” Kaiser said. “I never worry about it. They call fouls pretty loosely in AYA.”

 

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