After coming so close a year ago, the Schenectady Shockers 11U basketball team finished the deal this year and won the recent D-III East Coast AAU National Championships in Hampton, Virginia.
“This was huge for us because we lost last year. The kids have persevered,” said head coach Daniel Smalls, a 2004 Schenectady High School graduate. “This team is used to being up on a lot of teams. We were down 13 in the semifinals and won.”
The Shockers finished as the tournament’s runner-up last year, which came after a 1-4 showing at the tournament in 2017. This year, the Shockers went 6-0 at the tournament after going 3-0 in their pool before defeating Virginia’s Team Assault 2019 36-16, Ma-De 6th Man Warriors 55-54 and Virginia’s Hustle Family 59-51 in the championship bracket with players such as Sei’mir Roberson, Amare Coffill and Daniel Smalls — the coach’s son — leading the way.
Coach Smalls said the teams the Shockers faced were talented in the July 11-13 tournament at Boo Williams Sportsplex, but the Schenectady-based squad benefited from having played against older teams prior to heading to Virginia.
“Playing a year up gives us a huge advantage,” Smalls said. “It allows us to play national talent level basketball throughout the season.”
For its own team, Smalls said the team’s coaching staff has looked for more than talent with the players it adds to its roster.
“Nothing but positive people around this group,” Smalls said.
Smalls, an attorney whose college basketball career culminated at The College of Saint Rose, said it's by design to try to help his players reach their potential.
“Our main goal is for each of our kids to put on a college jersey,” Smalls said. “I played Division II, but I think all of our kids have college potential — whether it be Division III, Division II or even a couple I can see making it to Division I.”
The Shockers program started in 2015 and does not yet have teams older than the 11U level. The plan, though, is that there will be a team next year to advance to for this year’s 11U players.
“With this group,” Smalls said, “the sky’s the limit.”
Tyrell Feaster is an intern at The Daily Gazette. Feaster, a junior at the University at Albany, is majoring in journalism.