KOLR 10's Megan Rice introduces us to a group of gym rats and their coach who's put a new spin on the rat pack.
There are a lot of different factors that need to come together in order to have a successful aau team. The first is to have a good leader.
"I have tried to just stay with local players so that they excel. They get to be seen. The whole emphasis is to get them into college playing basketball," said Gym Rats coach Mike Pierce.
Coach Pierce actually didn't know much about AAU when he started. He was a football and baseball player growing up. But it was 20 years ago that his son got him into coaching AAU basketball.
"I have to admit when I first started I questioned myself over and over if we lost a basketball game, but not anymore. I step into a gym and I know deserve to be on that floor as much as any other coach," said Pierce.
Some AAU coaches have 14 man rosters and charge up to $2,000 dollars per player.
Not Mike Pierce, he's not in it for the money.
"He's not here just to get money, that's how we know that. He is here for us and for our benefits instead of his," said Braden Petry.
"He just does it cause he loves it and we've been with him for so long that he doesn't feel like he needs to do such a thing. I think it really just says a lot about who he is," said Garrett Skipworth.
"I do it, to put these kids in college and I have done that and hopefully will do that again this year," said Pierce.
Mike has been coaching some of these players since they were in the third grade, making them that much closer of a team.
"We have all known each other for a long time so we know how each other plays," said Petry.
They are good too.
Just this May the Gym Rats beat the nationally ranked St. Louis Eagles to claim the St. Louis summer showcase.
Pierce: "We have some fun and a lot of success."
The Gym Rats will play in 3 straight July tournaments in Branson, St. Louis, and Kansas City.
And then their AAU careers are over.
"This is our last time to ever play summer basketball together. It's pretty surreal we have been playing together for so long that we are going to try to make the best of it and have fun with it this last month," said Skipworth.
"I could not be more proud of any basketball team that I've ever coached. There is just a lot of emotion there with a lot of these players. They are not just my players, they're my boys and they know it," said Pierce.
In Republic, Megan Rice, KOLR 10 Sports.
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