The third grade boys basketball team of the Riverside Hawks, a youth basketball program based in Harlem, New York, captured the elusive National Title at the AAU National Championships held in Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
The team of nine year old boys from the New York City metropolitan area competed against over 40 teams from across the country, and over a one week period won all seven of the tournament games and ultimately beat the Maryland Pride 29-17 on Monday, July 7.
“The boys showed great character throughout the intense tournament games,” Coach Danny Colon stated. “Winning each game in the tournament by an average of 14 points was a testament to their teamwork and dedication both on and off the court.” Colon, who played high school basketball at School of the Future and college basketball at City College in New York City went on to say “the one point overtime victory in the quarterfinals against Maryland’s Finest [who won the national championship last year] was the best game in which I’ve ever played or coached.”
In the semi-finals of the national tournament, the young Riverside team was down 14 points at halftime to ASA, from Atlanta, Georgia. Coach Colon made a key defensive adjustment and the boys responded by limiting the other team to only four points in the entire second half, finishing with a seven point victory.
Colon says coaching nine year old boys in such a high stakes environment was not always easy. “I didn’t know what to do with them when we first came together in October. They were a group of young individual talents. Getting them to buy into a team system and share the basketball was challenging because the boys were so passionate and emotional in the process. At times, I felt like a counselor more than a basketball coach.”
Colon saw the team begin to gel in April during a regional tournament in Pennsylvania when they avenged an earlier loss at the same tournament to the # 4 ranked team in the country with an 18 point victory.
A cornerstone of the Harlem community, The Riverside Hawks basketball program was founded in 1961 by The Riverside Church and celebrates more than 65 NBA players, including Kenny Smith, Kenny Anderson, Chris Mullin and countless college basketball players among their alumnus. Over the last 10 years, the Hawks have won three Division II National Championships; but notwithstanding its storied tradition, this victory is the first Division I National Championship in the history of the program and the first for any New York City team (regardless of age group) in the last 10 years.
Here’s a video tease from 2010 playing at the AAU Boys Basketball game:
That’s how we do it!