Tampa Bay Inferno Hoopsters Stay Hot!
They practice up to four days a week, preparing for basketball tournaments all over the state, and also in cities like Atlanta for exposure to college scouts. They train in the summer with Jade Givens, starting point guard for the University of North Florida. Their behavior is professional and serious, with a competitive drive that strives to win. And they’re a group of local 6th grade girls.
The Tampa Bay Inferno is a nononsense Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team. Their coach, Harold Givens (photo), a 6-foot-6 Tampa native, trains the Inferno with a sort of tough love that is uncommon in today’s youth sports. No team member is guaranteed playing time in games, and practices are outdoors, in the summer. There is no doubt that these 11-and 12-year-old girls are run hard, but the intensity seems to be working.
The Inferno is currently on a hot streak. This team, which has only been together for six months, has competed in seven AAU and Youth Basketball of America (YBOA) tournaments in Florida (placing in the top three in most of them). They also won the AAU State Championship in Clearwater in May. The team does not play regular season games, choosing only to compete in tournaments and camps, and their record so far is an impressive 35-12.
Some people have called Givens’ coaching methods “too militant” or “too tough,” but Givens smiles and calls it “old school.” Givens, 51, says he has been coaching in the Tampa Bay area since he was 13. He focuses on fundamentals, and the team’s defense. It is not uncommon for Givens to run the same defense drills over and over in practices at the Meadow Pointe II Recreation Center.
“I was never a very good basketball player,” Givens admits, “But, I’ve always been a good coach.”
The local group was established in 2005 by Givens, his wife JoAn, and a group of concerned parents to create a team that embraces education, a positive work ethic, and God, he explains. The girls also must maintain good grades and an upbeat attitude to stay on the team. Four of the girls live in Wesley Chapel and the others live elsewhere in Tampa. Traveling to different tournaments and practices is part of the commitment for the parents.
Carol Brower, the Inferno’s team mom and the parent of Stephanie Brower (a 6th grader at John Long Middle School), explained that the parents of this organization are as tight knit as the team members.
“We all work together; taking turns driving to tournaments or bringing snacks,” Brower says.
The Inferno hosts annual try-outs for any girls that want to be a part of this competitive basketball team; however, there is a major commitment involved for the players and the parents, especially in terms of cost.
According to Brower, it costs approximately $1,300 a year to have a child compete with the Tampa Bay Inferno, without factoring in hotels and travel expenses for the parents, although the team regularly works together to fund-raise to ease stress on the wallets of parents.
Desmond, parent of D’Asia James, a small forward for the Inferno, says it can be hard making the time to get his kid to practices and tournaments. “It is difficult, but it is worth it,” he said.
For more info about the Tampa Bay Inferno, call Coach Givens 997- 9933 or visit them on the web at LeaugeLineup.com/TBI. — SB