The community saw them a lot since last March. Members of the PA Truth AAU basketball team often were out in public, holding various fundraising events.
The last two weekends in Virginia a lot of college coaches and recruiters saw them too. That, plus the fun experience, made all the fundraising worthwhile.
The Truth, coached by Williamsport High School assistant coach Jeremiah Washington, played in two national tournaments, the Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest and the Big Shots Road to the Dual at Randolph Macon College. Players held their own against elite competition, received valuable exposure and above all else, had a lot of fun.
"This is one of those things they will talk about into their adulthood when they run into each other and something they will tell their kids about," Washington said. "It's almost like a fraternal relationship that otherwise wouldn't have been there because they might not have met or been that close."
"It was very fun. It was a new experience for a lot of members on the team," Truth and Williamsport point guard Nyric Gosley said. "It's very memorable to not just the experience that with your teammates from school but from other schools as well. We shared a lot of laughs."
Truth team members included players from various District 4 schools. They were: Gosley, Serge Cole, Montgomery; Mason Moore, Canton; Malik Benjamin Williamsport; Malik Washington, Williamsport; Nazsa Short, St. John Neumann; Nadir Boone, Lewisburg; Caleb Thomas, Williamsport; Micah Peterson, Williamsport; Hunter George, Selinsgrove; Mason Moore, Canton; Noah Fagnano, Montoursville; Luke Warnacky, Montoursville; Jeff Fry, Muncy; Stanley Scott, Williamsport; Laplace Upshall, Williamsport; Rondell Carson, Williamsport; QyyHim Ali Williamsport
Washington has coached The Truth throughout the last decade and the team mostly played tournaments around the area. Washington and the team, however, wanted to upgrade in 2014. The two primary reasons were to give the players exposure in front of Division II, III and NAIA schools while also opening the door for District 4 players who might not otherwise receive a chance to play in these showcase events.
Williamsport graduate Isaiah Washington will play at Penn State next winter and Williamsport's Jahad Thomas and St. John Neumann's Alize Johnson both have received Division I interest the last few years. Playing in these tournaments helps players understand that there is more to life than just Division I basketball. Getting to play at the next level, period, is a success and these tournaments go a long way into helping those goals become reality.
The Truth played three games at each tournament, going 1-2 each time. Three of their four losses were by five points or fewer so it was an impressive showing against bigger and more experienced teams. Opponents usually featured front lines that were at least 6-foot-5 across the board and several college recruits. Williamsport wanted to win every game, but simply by playing those games the biggest wins might come next winter.
"Down the road and into the season, the players that are playing in various leagues what will find that while their tough games are still tough, the game seems a lot slower," Washington said. "You get comfortable playing at the intensity and speed these guys are playing at and you get used to people who have bigger wingspans and who eat up space a lot quicker. It will make the game slow down and they be able to manipulate it better."
"I think it will help us a lot. We played against a lot of 6-9 bigs and it was a whole different level," said Gosley, who will be a junior next month. "You get to see how people prepared and how they trained in comparison to us preparing for them and I think that will set us up for success this season. Everybody was playing for the same thing, for a championship or for scholarships so we had to step up our game."
The Truth played six games against teams from five different states, including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. They were a few plays from winning three more games as recruiters and coaches told Washington they were impressed by the team's performance. Benjamin, Gosley and Neumann's Nasza Short especially stood out. Benjamin led the entire tournament in scoring at Randolph Macon, averaging 18 points per game while Gosley averaged 12 points and Short played an excellent floor game, progressing well from the previous tournament.
"It made us play harder because we had to show them what we have and what we can do," Gosley said. "It made us seem like the underdogs so knowing we were the underdogs made us play a lot harder than we would have if we were a regular big-name team."
Performing well and play hard has another benefit. It might generate a sponsor next year or in coming years. Doing so would make going to these showcase tournaments easier.
This time, The Truth took the hard road, starting fundraising efforts last March. The players sold candy, held cookouts and were visible throughout the community. Before a game was even played, players were building relationships and chemistry while learning to communicate well. All those qualities helped the team excel on and off the court the last two weekends.
Because of that, they might be receiving more attention this winter. And that door toward a chance to play college basketball might grow wider open.
"What I think this may do is bring someone to one of their games (this winter)," Washington said. "They had some eyes on them and what you see with some of them from 11th into 12th grade is those guys will start making contacts. They will contact the high school coaches and hopefully see some games."