Commentary | Palmetto Youth Center exacts revenge with basketball national title

August 20, 2013 

There's a national champion in Manatee County as the Palmetto Trojans USSSA 17-and-younger basketball team earned the Division II national title in Kansas recently.

Competing out of the Palmetto Youth Center, the team traveled to Kansas City following their victory in the Southeast Regional.

After losing one round- robin game, the team rebounded from that overtime defeat to exact revenge on that club, which was based out of Topeka, Kan., to earn the national championship with a 58-50 victory.

Team members included: Keiwon Jackson, Christian Zanders, Brandon Drake, Kahlil Garcia, Nick Buto, Kyle Edwards, Stepvon Saunders, Jarrid Rhodes, Terry Collins, Tre Clark and Dequon Washington.

"This was a huge undertaking in a very short period of time, but the experience that these young men had was well worth all of the effort," Palmetto Youth Center executive director Chris Lukowiak said in a news release.

Despite winning the Southeast Regional championships, it wasn't a guarantee that the club was going to compete for the national title.

But after asking for community support, the side made the trek to the Midwest and returned with the hardware in tow.

Aiding the team's trip through the fundraising effort were the following: Medallion Homes, Neal Communities, Sheriff Brad Steube, county commissioner Larry Bustle, commissioner Michael Gallen, Bradenton's The Bike Shop, attorney Cliff Walters, Battalion Chief Mike Williamson and the North River Fire Fighters Association, Bob Davis and The Panda Foundation, Reverend LC Livingston of Palmetto's Eternity Temple First Born Church, Brenda Rogers, Ted and Mary Tillis, Josh Baker and Amanda Fister, Frankie Craddock, Eddie Shannon, Rich Higgins, Palmetto Dentistry, Kevin and Gale Garcia and several anonymous donors.

"This was an exceptional opportunity to impact the players lives," head coach Reggie Bellamy said.

Baseball tryouts

The PST Academy is holding tryouts at Palma Sola Park on Sept. 7-8 between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. for its inaugural 13-and-younger baseball team.

Following the tryout dates, a team selection is expected for announcement by mid-September.

"Players will be put through a series of speed and agility drills, as well as a series of defensive and offensive drills to showcase their baseball skills," coach Mike Verrill said in a news release. "This will be a developmental team, where conditioning and training will be a primary focus of our organization.

Most teams just focus on the same skills drills, but do not prepare and develop the athleticism of their players."

Selected players will receive one free lesson per week with any coaching staff member, as long as it's scheduled in advance.

Practice sessions are three times per week, with a focus on speed and agility work, core strength training, throwing program and defensive/offensive skill work.

There's also video analysis available as all players will be videotaped on a regular basis.

The PST Elite 13U team is scheduled to participate in tournaments associated with Nations Baseball, USSSA and Winning Inning as well as other organizations. The cost is $100 per month for each player, whose parents participate in fundraising and volunteer work. It's $150 per month for those that forgo the fundraising and volunteer activities. Additionally, players will pay $25-$50 apiece for tournament and umpire fees for each tournament.

For more information, visit

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at Follow him on Twitter @Jason_Dill.

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