In 2003, when Kevin Young, Sr. organized the Maryland Tigers, his vision was to use the Amateur Athletic Union (A.A.U.) to put Maryland on the basketball map. Mission accomplished. In the past 11 years, countless athletes have come up through the ranks of the Maryland Tigers to go on to collegiate success and beyond but nothing thrilled basketball fans like the 10 through 14 year old girls did this weekend.
A.A.U. is the platform used for young athletes to gain experience beyond scholastic organized sports. It also grants young, gifted athletes the opportunity for exposure to collegiate scouts who would otherwise not know they exist. NBA All-Star Lebron James and WNBA star Sklyar Diggins both praise the organization for where they are today. Skylar says, "If it wasn’t for A.A.U., I probably wouldn’t have gotten as many scholarship offers as I did. I was lucky enough to be on a good team with a good coach who went to tournaments that coaches were at, and that was so important." Enter Kevin Young.
Since its inception, the Maryland Tigers and Maryland Lady Tigers have gained recognition of being polished basketball players, great students and involved in their communities. It is the infectious personalities and passion of their younger athletes that has everyone talking. In their first trip to the A.A.U. Eastern Championships, the young ladies, coaches, family members and fans trekked to the Spooky Nook Athletic Center, Manheim, PA to experience the unknown.
Over three days, each of the teams (5th , 6th and 8th grade), played up to seven games with as many as four games in one day. Facing some of the best teams in the Eastern region of the United States, the ladies were not intimidated and started sending teams home one by one. In the few games they lost, it was only by a few points but all three teams came home with hardware. Lady Tigers 2002 (11-12 years old) had a respectable showing in the tournament and came home in 4th place. Lady Tigers 2000 (13-14 years old) went all the way and took first place as the A.A.U. Eastern Champions for their division. Their younger basketball sisters, Lady Tigers 2003 (10-11 years old) left the building in 4th place, outplaying 16 other teams over the weekend. Lady Tigers 2003 is coached by Kevin Young, Jr., the son of Kevin, Sr. Although only 21 years of age, Kevin, Jr. has 4 years of coaching experience and stands his ground against some of his more seasoned counterparts. The young darlings of the organization keep everyone smiling with their tenacity on the court and their ability to remain age-appropriate girls, complete with nail polish and headbands.
Next stop for the Maryland Lady Tigers is the National Championships in North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee-depending on the age group. The ladies are ready to play and if the Eastern Regional is any indication, they won't be coming home empty-handed.