By DANNY P. SMITH
The Armstrong 8th and 9th grade boys basketball teams out of Starkville already know what it's like to be champions.
Both of the squads will be defending its conference titles when the next season begins in the fall.
Boys coach Tony Minor doesn't want the Junior Yellowjackets to lose their edge during the summer so he entered them into the high school league at the Starkville Sportsplex for the first time.
Armstrong has participated in other leagues in order to stay sharp with its game.
"We're trying to get these guys to maintain, keep them composed and see if we can win another championship," Minor said. "We're playing a lot of basketball. Not only are we playing here at the Sportsplex, but we played at the MSU team camp, Hickory Flat team camp and other leagues in the area so the kids are getting exposed to a lot of basketball.
"They can't say they haven't played enough so what we're trying to do is keeping the guys off the street and playing a lot of basketball."
Getting games in is the only way Minor knows that the Junior Jackets are getting the experience needed to build upon a championship season.
He is stressing the importance of getting better to his players.
"We're trying to find a sleeper and kids that will improve during the summer," Minor said. "Once they improve in the summer they will come over to the season and help in the fall so I'm trying to motivate each player to get better so when the season comes along they'll be able to help out."
The high school league at the Sportsplex enables Armstrong to play against public and private school teams that offers a different look.
Minor welcomes that opportunity.
"We see teams that we won't play during the regular season," Minor said. "It gives us a look at different styles so we can make adjustments."
Minor is thankful to have a place such as the facility at the Sportsplex to bring in his Junior Jackets for competition.
As his 9th grade team prepared to take on Starkville Academy on Tuesday, Minor was reminded of how comfortable it felt.
"It's always good to play locally at the Sportsplex and having the home fans come and watch the team play in an air-conditioned gym," Minor said. "These are nice facilities and it's good that Starkville has something like this for the kids to go play."