Youth basketball Jan 8.jpg

This week brought a belated season opener for a Redstone 10-and-under basketball team.

The Rockets practiced Thursday at the newly-renovated Youth Center for their debut scheduled Jan. 7. The Huntsville recreation season began Dec. 7 but Redstone didn’t have home games until this week because the Youth Center was closed for renovation. The center reopened in mid-December.

“We haven’t played yet due to weather. Both our games were canceled,” Rockets coach Johnnie Irby said before practice. “So we’re looking forward to our first game on Tuesday.”

Irby, a supervisory contract specialist at Army Contracting Command-Redstone, is in his 10th year as a Redstone youth basketball coach.

“I honestly love kids. I love giving back,” Irby said of why he volunteers each year. “I think that this is a pivotal age for kids to learn a game before going to middle school. So this year my main focus is to build player development versus focusing on results.”

Half of his 10 players are returnees and the rest are newcomers. The returning Rockets include his son Christian, 10, who plays wing; point guard Jamari Smith, 10; point guard Joshua Naylon, 10; small forward Braylon Lawson, 10; and wing Khamari Lawson, 9.

Newcomers include wing Kameron Battle, 9; power forward Evan Harvey, 10; center Keonte Glass, 10; center Kaleb Loadholt, 9; and power forward Tenn Chowfen, 10.

At 5-foot-3, Glass was taller than his teammates.

“It’s fun,” Glass said of playing basketball.

The Rockets were scheduled to open against Redstone’s other 10U team (1-1) which is coached by Michael Crum.

“They’re hungry,” Crum said. “I know they’re ready to play.”

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