JOHN WILBERT: New Albany players polish skills, have fun at the club

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – New Albany High senior guard Kareem Brown said playing hoops at the New Albany Boys & Girls Club has helped made him into the player he is today.
In fact, up and down the 2010-11 New Albany High roster you will find players who shaped their games at the Boys & Girls Club. Quite frankly, this year’s New Albany High boys team probably wouldn’t be off to a 10-2 start if the majority of its players hadn’t honed their games at the club.
“That’s where most of us get our good skills from,” said Bulldogs junior player Devonte Berry, who goes to the club every day during the summer. “It makes us better playing against the older kids.”
Added New Albany senior Neives Oglesby, “When I was 7, I played against people who were 13 or 14.”
And one of the New Albany High girls basketball team’s best players has also played frequently at the club, and developed into a dominant player because of that.
“That’s basically where I went to go play basketball with my friends, my family, other boys and girls,” said sophomore Jazmine Spears, a three-year starter who is once again leading her team in scoring. “That’s where I grew up playing basketball.”
The Boys & Girls Club also served as a place for transplants to meet new friends. Tadarious Coburn, Jevonte Newsome and J.T. Moore haven’t lived all of their lives in New Albany, a town of 8,000-plus people about 75 miles southeast of Memphis.
After moving back to New Albany from Byhalia when he was about 14 years old, Jevonte Newsome was brought to the club by friends Coburn and Malcolm Spears.
“It was fun because I got to display my basketball skills and show out a little bit and have fun with them,” said Newsome, who is a senior guard on the New Albany team. “All of a sudden they introduced me to the (high school) basketball coaches and they got me on the basketball team.”
Coburn, who leads the Bulldogs in scoring, first started going to the club upon moving to New Albany from Memphis in the third grade, and added that he wasn’t any good to begin with until Oglesby and Spears got him to play.
Moore said he moved to New Albany from Bruce when he was around 11 and “instantly” began going to the Boys & Girls Club.
“I wanted to really play ball and get better because my father was never there to teach me how to play ball,” said the New Albany sophomore. “I instantly started going there and started getting better.
“I’ve been going there ever since, basically.”

Not for the weak
If you’re playing in a pickup game at the Boys & Girls Club, you have to have a thick skin. There’s trash-talking galore and fights tend to break out.
“People start fights,” said Coburn, who expressed the desire each player has to win their pickup games so they can remain on the floor. “But people who fight don’t come back.”
Added Moore, “It gets really heated there a lot. Fights usually break out. The bad ones, they never get to come back.
“We try to keep our composure and make sure we don’t get into a lot of fights. It just gets really competitive. … Nobody wants to lose.”
Unfortunately for the New Albany High players, their high school coaches don’t allow them to play at the club during the high school season.
“Everybody gets competitive whenever we play at the Boys & Girls Club,” Moore said. “It just makes us want to get better and play really harder whenever the (high school) season starts.
“We really enjoy playing there and I just like the game, and I just try to go there as often as I can.”

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com.