The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 7, 2014

Team Air soaring into Beckley for first time

Wendy’s/YMCA Biddy-Buddy starts today

BECKLEY — From the C-K Wonders, Chesapeake Panthers and any of a slew of Beckley-based teams, the Wendy’s/YMCA Biddy-Buddy All-Star Tournament attracts more than its share of loyal friends each and every year.

But one team will soar into Beckley this weekend for the first time as the 42nd annual tournament begins today.

TOGS/Team Air, a Morgantown-based AAU team, will compete in the fifth-grade division. But this is far from being a new program. Team Air is one of the top AAU teams in the nation and is looking forward to its first challenge at the Biddy-Buddy.

“We have talked to other teams from Morgantown that played there before, and they told us how great the people of Beckley are and what a good tournament it is,” said Andrew Smith, the team’s manager. “Of course we all know about Woodrow Wilson and how rich in basketball tradition Beckley is. We want to go down there and see what it’s all about.”

Beckley, in turn, will get to see what Team Air is all about.

The team is currently No. 21 in the preseason rankings of Division II AAU programs. Team Air began in 2011 and competes mostly along the East Coast.

“We started with two parents and their kids back in second grade and sort of built on that to what it is now,” Smith said. “No question, we take it very seriously. We try to find the most talented kids that we can at the same grade group and try to work as hard as we can on a weekly basis. Most of the kids also play football. Other than that, eight months out of the year we are trying to get better and make our kids better.”

The acronym TOGS stands for “Team of Great Shooters.” Smith said he and the coaches “would like to think” that describes the players, but TOGS was actually adopted from an older group that helped Team Air when it was getting started.

“We have a relationship with the team and hope that we are potentially a sort of ‘baby TOGS,’” Smith said. “They let us use their brand and help us with tournaments and uniforms and exposure.”

A total of 59 teams will compete in the Biddy-Buddy, which starts today with its earliest game set for 10 a.m. Teams in five age groups — fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade — will compete. Games will be played at Woodrow Wilson (two courts), UC-Beckley’s Van Meter Gymnasium, Park Middle School and the YMCA of Southern West Virginia.

Championship games are set for 1 p.m. Sunday.

— E-mail: gfauber

@register-herald.com

and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.

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