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Youth league honors basketball athletes, coaches

NATCHEZ — Adams County Supervisor Mike Lazarus has coached his fair share of athletes in little league baseball throughout the years.

Players like Jared West and R.J. Fleming are among those he’s helped develop, and Lazarus said each of the area’s top athletes he’s coached had something in common.

“They were all great kids,” Lazarus said.

For this reason, Lazarus is a sponsor for the City of Natchez Recreational Basketball League, which helps develop young athletes by teaching basketball fundamentals, and how to play with a winning attitude.

“It keeps them focused on something,” Lazarus said. “They put a lot of time in practice and games. Think of what else they could be doing, like just sitting inside and playing video games.

“(The league) teaches them about teamwork in winning and losing. You’re not always going to win, but it takes a lot to lose with class.”

The league hosted a trophy awards ceremony Saturday to honor the time and energy the athletes and coaches dedicated to their teams. Wilbert Whittley, who oversaw the presentation, said he hopes the skills learned in the league helps the athletes as they get older.

“Our goal is to get down the fundamentals they miss at an early age, so that later on you’ll be watching them on Tuesdays and Fridays,” Whittley said.

“This ceremony was all about honoring the kids for their participation this year and giving back to them, because they gave us some exciting moments. We’ve been playing from the second week in January to this past Thursday, so they’ve been playing a lot.”

ACSO Capt. Randy Freeman, who sponsors the 3-to-6-year-old Randy Freeman’s Constables team, said he views the program as an opportunity to help shield young children from bad influences.

“Our Pee Wee basketball team gives them something to do, and helps keep kids off the streets and away from drugs,” Freeman said. “It teaches them basketball, and how to get along with each other.”

Kaden Batieste, 5, who played on Freeman’s Constables this past season, said he had fun playing this past season.

“I liked shooting the ball,” Batieste said.

Tennijah Smith, 10, who played for the third and fourth grade United Mississippi Bank Flyers team, said she’ll put her basketball trophy next to the one she already has for tennis.

“I really had so much fun doing this,” Smith said. “I want to be a basketball star and play for Natchez High School. My favorite part of the season was getting the rebound. I want to be a ball-handler.”

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