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Georgia Southern, SHS team up to build youth hoops
Youth Hoops
Ethan Kuykendall goes in for a layup Friday afternoon at Statesboro High in the final day of the Upward Stars Fall League. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff

Plenty of our area high school basketball teams have been advancing to the state playoffs over the past few seasons. Much of that success comes from players picking up the game at an early age. Recently Statesboro High head coach Keith LeGree and Georgia Southern assistant coach Chris Shumate started a fall basketball league for boys and girls from third through fifth grade in order to give them a chance to get in some practice in a time of year that any of them don’t usually get a chance to play basketball. 

“Me and coach LeGree both have sons who are about the same age,” said Shumate. “Our kids play on the same AAU team and we went up to Augusta over the summer and our team got their butt kicked. We decided we needed to try and get more kids involved in basketball not only during the season but in the fall as well.”  

“When the two of us were growing up it wasn’t too hard to find games year-round when we were their age,” said Shumate. “Times have changed and now it’s a little tougher to find a safe place to go and play. We wanted to help create more of a basketball community in South Georgia.” 

The Statesboro Stars fall league wrapped up Sunday and featured a few guest speakers along with playing games. Teams were selected every Sunday and lineups rotated to give the players a chance to get to know different teammates.  

“We first started having kids come to Hanner Fieldhouse on Sunday nights and doing some work with them,” said Shumate. “We then started thinking it would be great to do something with some organized games in the fall and we found people from all around who were interested. We have about 50 kids from not only here in Statesboro, but Sylvania, Rincon, Claxton and Savannah. They have come for the past four weeks and we play from 5:00 until about 6:15 here at Statesboro High.” 

“You look around here and you see so many parents showing their support by showing up,” said Shumate. “It’s been a great and the kids are also getting to know each other and making friends that they may not have met if not for coming out here.” 

With the success of their first league Shumate and LeGree are already working on trying to get things going next fall as well and possibly even in the spring. Shumate has also contemplated organizing similar leagues in cities like Claxton and in Effingham County. 

“We just feel like this is something that can help in so many different communities,” said Shumate. “We had such a great success without really promoting things so much here. I know may other areas are in a similar situation to how things are in Statesboro, and we would love to be able to get things going throughout this part of the state to promote basketball.”