West Jordan youth basketball team wins summer games gold
Jul 20, 2018 01:06PM
● By Greg James
A group of West Jordan ninth-graders won the Utah Summer Games basketball gold medal for the third straight year. (Calista Solari/Jags basketball)
By Greg James | [email protected]
Many super league basketball teams are made of the best players no matter where they live. The eighth-grade boys team from West Jordan, rightfully named the WJ Jags, only has players who will attend West Jordan High School.
“We are an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) super league team,” head coach Ryan Farmer said. “I started it when these kids were in the fourth grade. I tried to get West Jordan kids that were good players and form a team that these kids could come up together and eventually get to high school as a group and win some games.”
Farmer organized the team with players he found at basketball camps and from his son’s football team. He scouted Jr. Jazz teams and other youth leagues in the area. He wanted the best, but he also only wanted players that lived in the Jaguar boundaries.
“We had to adjust the team through the years,” Farmer said. “When I was growing up, we did the same thing. We played together, and then when we got to high school, we knew each other and had played together. As a senior, we were supposed to win it all, and then we fell apart at the state championship. We could grab lots of players that would make us better, but we wanted this team to be a West Jordan team only.”
The Jags begin practicing three times week in November and play in leagues and tournaments through the end of June. They culminate their season in the Utah Summer Games in Cedar City.
“We have nine kids,” Farmer said. “We played this year in Boise, Las Vegas, St George and a lot of local AAU tournaments. I have always wanted to do a big tournament in California or back east, but we do not have a big sponsor like Nike or Adidas. That puts a financial burden on our parents, so we fundraise to help pay the cost.”
The team’s families and coaches help finance the season’s tournaments, leagues, uniforms and equipment. Unlike some super league teams, its coaches do not accept a salary. Some larger AAU teams pay their coaches, have expensive equipment and travel all over the country playing hundreds of games a year.
“Our parents help a lot,” Farmer said. “They are really supportive for the team financially.”
Many AAU basketball teams are sponsored by NBA players or equipment companies. Utah Jazz player Dante Exum supports a set of teams in this area.
“We are out there having fun,” Farmer said. “We do other things together and have sleepovers. They have a strong bond. They attend West Jordan Middle and Joel P. Jensen, so they see each other all of the time.”
This season, the team played nearly 60 games. It has participated in the summer games three years in a row and has never lost a game in the tournament. A gold medal was captured each of those years.
“They played great,” Farmer said. “It is rough at the start, but by June they are rock-n-rollin’. They are playing at a high level. In the championship game, we were ahead 45-6 at halftime. We had fun in the second half and had a good time. I feel there are a handful that could play past high school if they keep putting in the effort.” Farmer said. Ben Roberts, Jordan Johns, Brandon Christensen, Aleka Leausa and Justhin Hurtado are all standout players that could play at the next level.
They all plan on trying out for the basketball team at West Jordan High School next season.