OPS strives to provide more than just regular coverage of basketball at the prep level. With direction from Rob Taylor and Ozie Davis III, OPS has become Ohio's premier web-site covering AAU Basketball from youth through high school.
Our reasons for covering this area of sport is simple. With ever increasing numbers, AAU Basketball has built a cult following in Ohio and around the country. What was once an inexpensive sport with intentions of keeping Americas youth off the streets and in the gyms has now become an expensive tournament driven sport for those with deep pockets or the right sponsorships.
As Rob Taylor stated in his latest article "State of Ohio AAU Basketball" many programs have become a search for the next great player and the ability to cash in on that players name with shoe contracts or other endorsement deals for the high cost of travel.
One program has been built with simple down to earth principles. The Dayton Nets were founded to help kids from the Miami Valley play affordable AAU Basketball with kids from all different economical and cultural backgrounds. With kids from inner city and the suburbs playing and learning life's lessons the Nets are building a strong following with parents who have drawn tired of the high dollar constant travel that many of today's top AAU program are forced to follow.
With help OPS was given the chance to talk with the powers that be of the Nets. What we found were adults really looking to help kids with more than perfecting their jump shot or the great no-look pass. The Nets were built to develop young athletes into young men ready for the reality of the world. The main people behind the Nets are proving you can always go home and give back to your community in some capacity.
We visited the Nets during a recent practice held at Jefferson High School. Chuck Taylor and John Hardwick took some time away from the court to give us a behind the scenes look at the Nets program.
OPS: Who founded the Nets program and when?
Chuck Taylor: I founded this program in 1996. We started with a 1st and 2nd grade team. At every level I had a son that war really starting to play basketball and I was trying to get some type of individual basketball time for him and his friends around the nationhood. It kind of grew after I felt there was a need for kids who couldn't afford the ever growing cost of playing AAU Basketball. As you know the cost of AAU is astronomical and I had a chance because of my job as a court bailiff to ask attorneys to help sponsor my program. Because of their help our program has become very successful and they are very helpful. That is were our money comes from and they believe in our program.
OPS: What makes the Nets a different type of AAU program?
Chuck Taylor: We try to mentor kids and keep a very family atmosphere within the program. We want to bring the kids off the playgrounds and into the gyms to play basketball. We try to get the suburb kids and the inner city kids together to bond as friends. Not everyone is going to the NBA or get a college scholarship and to me friendship is great in a child's development.
OPS: You seem to have kids from all over. What schools do you have covered?
Chuck Taylor: We have so many schools; let me give you the cities. Piqua, Troy, Huber Heights, Trotwood, Dayton, Clayton, Miamisburg, Centerville, Fairborn really the whole Miami Valley.
OPS: When talking about mentorship, how do you keep them on the straight and narrow?
Chuck Taylor: Being a court bailiff I see all these old athletes getting into trouble for one reason or another as they come through the system. So we try to get our hands on these kids in the 4th or 5th grade. We mentor staring in the 4th grade through the 9th grade. We have instituted things like this summer computer classes and we have a coach's wife that helps tutor our kids. Most of the kids we have, both Coach Hardwick and I have known their parents from growing up together. Coach Hardwick and I played baseball together growing up. We've been great friends and with this program it allows us to reach back and make these kids believe in themselves and stay on the straight and narrow path.
OPS: Were did you go to school at?
Chuck Taylor: I went to Roth High School and ended up at Howard University on a football scholarship.
John Hardwick: I went to Trotwood - Madison High School and then I went to the U.S Naval Academy for baseball.
OPS: How many kids are in the program today?
Chuck Taylor: We have 72 kids in the program. We have a 4th grade team, two 5th grade teams, two 7th grade teams and a 9th grade team. Next year will see us grow again as we join with the Dakota Center. We have already spoken to the coach of this program and he felt the Nets program is great. I knew the head coach from growing up and I know all of these kids. There coming aboard next year so we will have another team next year.
OPS: If a kid or parent is interested in becoming part of the Nets what should they do?
Chuck Taylor: They should contact me or Coach Hardwick. My number is 937-333-4354 or 937-524-623. Coach Hardwick's number is 937-898-8909 or 937-307-6497. They just need to give us a call and we can give them more information.
OPS: What has been the response around the other Dayton area AAU teams and also the teams from around the state?
Chuck Taylor: Oh, it's been great. When we started this it was based on just pulling kids in. We use basketball to just pull kids in. We believe as an organization that winning is not that important. It's the mentoring and trying to keep those kids out of trouble. Instead of having kids in juvenile court we want them on the basketball court. We always need to reevaluate because we didn't expect the program to grow like it has with the type of talent we have in the program. So next year you're going to see some changes and I can promise you that you're going to see us on that AAU circuit working to take the program to another level.
OPS: You said you're getting great help from some local attorneys and business. What else do you need for your program.
Chuck Taylor: Like any AAU program we could use a major sponsor. Like I said the majority of these kids couldn't afford the cost of being involved with an AAU program. That is why we've kind of stayed local. OYB is great on prices and I know with AAU there are a couple of more steps we need to take monetary wise for us to do that. That is why this year we didn't step that way. Mainly it was because of the monetary value of AAU. But were looking for a shoe contract like everyone else and working on taking the next steps and get out there and compete next year.
OPS: The Nets have received a lot of talk on our message boards. The one player that has received the most talk is Chris Freeman. What can you tell us about Chris?
Chuck Taylor: He's a specimen. 6'5, 250 lbs and he's one of the biggest around. He will be a great player someday. What he needs to do is work on conditioning and playing all the time instead of some of the time. As a player he's got a nice 10 foot jump shot and a nice little hook shot and he's a dominate force in the middle when he comes to play.
Chuck Taylor: I also want to mention that we have seven coaches who make this program what it is.
Part of the Nets coaching staff
OFF THE COURT
After leaving Jefferson High School and my visit with the Nets I felt a great impact was being made on several of the kids I saw. While it's always easy to talk about programs that have deep pockets or high impact players I often wonder if they get the personal time that most teenage boys need during their development as basketball players and men. What I saw from the Nets were several men willing to give their time and energy to help kids anyway possible. I hope and wish that most AAU programs have the same goals and interest in their young men as the coaches of the Nets show. There is more than just basketball skills being learned by the players on the Nets. There seeing first hand what the power of giving back can do for so many.
I would like to thank Coach Taylor and Hardwick for their time during our visit. I would also like to thank the players, parents and rest of the Nets staff for their great reception during our stay. The Dayton Nets will next play in the All-American Cage Classic Nationals in Kettering, Ohio on June 25th-27th.
Having spoke to several groups since OPS started I can say these men know what giving back to their community is all about. Working with kids is not an easy chore and these men have earned the respect from their players and also the parents. The Nets program is like many across the state. Build on limited funds, help is always needed to provide the guidance and leadership to our youth of today. Without programs like the Nets many of our kids wouldn't have the chance to play basketball at the level they are working towards.
If you're a company or a person who has interest in helping the Nets with sponsorship please call Coach Taylor or Hardwick at the following phone numbers. Coach Taylor can be reached at 937-333-4354 or 937-524-623; Coach Hardwick's number is 937-898-8909 or 937-307-6497.
Link for Team Photos of Nets