Clovis East players help lead team to 3rd in National AAU Championship

Bottom row, l-r Trevor Vertiz- Clovis East; Camden Thompson- Clovis East; Orion Tomlinson, Fresno Christian; top row l-r Cedric Coward, Central; Tyus Parrish-Tillman, Fresno Christian; Jalani Liva, Santa Margarita PHOTO COURTESY OF 24/7 BASKETBALL

Clovis East Timberwolves from the 24/7 AAU basketball team based in Clovis, recently took 3rd place against some of the nation’s toughest competition in Orlando earlier this week at the 2019 National AAU Championships.

The boys finished with a 6-1 record against teams from Boston, Florida, North Carolina, New York, Lousiniana and Kentucky. Their placement was the highest finish ever for a Central Valley team, consisting of the class of 2022. They went undefeated in pool play before securing a third-place finish. 

24/7 made this before tournament, but didn’t place as high as they did this time around. 

“It’s probably the biggest tournament in the country. There are lots of different states and teams involved, so it’s a big deal,” head coach Imamu Tomlinson said. “We actually made it here two years ago, but we came out and didn’t do so well, so we took a couple years off and found our way back.”

This time around, the team showcased their talent against some of the top teams in the age group (U15). 

They even beat the top-ranked team from Kentucky to get to the final four spots, where they came up just short against the top team from Massachutests, before winning their third-place game against a team from Lousiniana. 

They were the only west-coast team to qualify for the final eight spots in the national tournament. 

The team consisted of five players from the Central Valley and one player from outside the area, including two players from Clovis East. Orion Tomlinson and Tyus Parrish-Tillman from Fresno Christian, Jalani Liva from Santa Margarita, Cedrick Coward from Central and Camden Thompson and Trevor Vertiz from East. 

Coward led the way with three double-double’s and strong play on the defensive side of the ball throughout the National Championships, while Vertiz hit two big free throws in the end to seal their third-place finish. 

“We had a few players in different situations that couldn’t play in July, but for the month we have six guys and I think that is almost a pride thing,” Tomlinson joked. “We don’t go out and recruit. Everybody is good, but we aren’t great and that just makes everyone work hard.”

Not many teams only had six players, but 24/7 relied on each other to fight through any adversity they faced. 

“We are a family. This is just team ball and I kind of use the mantra that we have no superstars, but we do have a few kids that are really good players and that do a lot for us. It’s selflessness, it’s team first and that was the big difference between the other teams because they had maybe higher prospects than us, but our guys were able to play as a team, support each other and they always picked each other up,” Tomlinson said. 

To make the team, you have to be skillful on the court, but your commitment in the classroom is just as important and for many student athletes, the demand is too much – limiting the amount of players capable of playing on the team. 

“We want kids to be academically sound because with that kind of schedule, sometimes during the school year, it’s tough on them and we need players who can handle both playing on the team and their school duties,”Tomlinson said. “But it was funny, we were the only team with six guys.”

Despite that, Tomlinson had his boys ready for action and they proved that defeating top teams after traveling across the country to get there. 

Now, the 24/7 team will head to Indianapolis where they will compete in the U.S. Open Championships and get another chance to showcase their skills in front of a crowd of potential coaches and other USA related basketball members.

“We have some talent and some prospects, but I still try and keep them humble and make them feel like they are horrible so they still work hard,” Tomlinson joked.

Nugesse Ghebrendrias
For the past three years, Nugesse has been a vital part of the Madera Tribune covering sports, news, entertainment and feature writing. Nugesse’s ability to interact with the community allows him to promote students, athletes and community members with fairness and objectivity. We are happy to have Nugesse join our team here at the Clovis Roundup.