Last year, if a Scioto County basketball player wanted to play AAU ball, they were better off looking outside of the area. However, that is no longer the case.
The Southern Ohio Hoopsters, coached by Jeff Duduit, have been in existence for four years. But they have not been AAU certified until this past season.
Prior to coaching the Hoopsters, Duduit coached at the high school level for three decades. But upon his retirement, he was through with the game, having no desire to return to the hardwood. However, one night his daughter Megan Duduit, approached him about starting an AAU team.
Not thinking about creating or coaching an AAU team, Jeff Duduit began researching different programs for his daughter to join, only to find the expense a bit much to handle. Besides, regardless of the financial obligations, his daughter wasn’t interested in attending a program, she wanted her father to coach her and the soon to be local AAU team based out of Scioto County.
“I’ve done it (coach) for 30 years, I wasn’t going to do it anymore,” Duduit said. “But I’m sure glad she talked me into it because this has been the most enjoyable time that I’ve had in coaching.”
The team has been in existence for four years and features all local student athletes. The team is comprised of players from Wheelersburg, Valley, South Webster, Eastern, Northwest, Greenup County and Manchester.
“What’s more rewarding is that we’ve got all local kids to buy into what we’re teaching and we are taking it to the national level,” Duduit said. “At this tournament, we played teams in North Carolina, West Virginia, Minnesota, Florida and Georgia; it was just an awesome experience. It couldn’t have been better.”
Duduit’s squad has played in several tournaments since their creation, mainly playing in the state of Ohio under the Girls Basketball Association (GBA). As the team progressed through those events, Duduit received multiple compliments, all ending in the same message: your team needs to play in AAU tournaments to garner more national exposure.
“I wasn’t really sure we had the talent level to do that,” Duduit said. “Each year, we progressed a little bit more. So, we got AAU certified and our kids have done very well.”
After spending three seasons competing against AAU teams in various tournaments, the Southern Ohio squad became AAU certified.
The first tournament the Hoopsters competed in was Mason, Ohio and Southern Ohio prevailed in its first attempt. The Hoopsters have also claimed victories in tournaments at Rio Grande, Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus.
If those victories weren’t enough, Southern Ohio entered the United States Basketball Association National Tournament, which was held in North Myrtle Beach.
The USBA event is the first national tournament the Southern Ohio Hoopsters entered after their time in the GBA concluded.
“It was very rewarding because you’re going against the unknown,” Duduit said. “You don’t know if you’ve prepared your kids well enough to compete at that level.
After making it to the Final Four in the USBA National Tournament, Southern Ohio beat two teams with unblemished marks in the tournament during past appearances.
The Hoopsters beat Greensboro in the Final Four 51-46 to advance to the championship game. Prior to the contest, Greensboro had yet to be tested in the tournament, winning every game by double digits.
In the finals, Southern Ohio was victorious over the West Virginia North Stars, 55-49, to claim its first national AAU championship. On their way to claiming the title, the Hoopsters handed the North Stars their first loss of the 2014 season.
The Hoopsters just completed an exceptional year, their first full season, at the AAU level, competing in 48 games while compiling a 37-11 record along the way.
The Southern Ohio Hoopsters are comprised of Sydiney Holden, Micah Leslie, Megan Duduit, Cheyenne Weakley, Morgan Johnson, Carson Roney, Laken Smith, Makayla Akers and Kamryn Conaway.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.