Strategy to combine Hamilton middle school basketball teams pays off

HAMILTON — A first-year strategy to combine the Hamilton Schools’ boys and girls basketball teams into single middle school squads has already paid off in historic fashion.

The joint boys’ team from Wilson and Garfield middle schools has produced for the first time in 17 years an undefeated 7th grade squad that then won the GMC middle school league championship in a recently completed league tournament.

It’s a winning strategy that should produce even more winning, said Hamilton sports officials, as the players move on to older grades and continue to play together perhaps even through high school, said Missy Harvey, athletic director for the 9,000-student city schools.

“When we made the decision to combine our middle school (teams) kind of like we had done with football four years ago, this is what we were hoping for,” said Harvey of the 7th graders 20-0 season.

Separately, the two middle schools had previously had trouble fielding full squads. But now combined, there are enough players for both an A squad and B squad to better accommodate all the boys and girls’ skill levels.

“We wanted to give our kids some success so as they get to the high school they are more prepared. We felt going with this (combined) model gave us the best opportunity for that.”

“And it was done well because the biggest thing we want to do is do right for our kids who are athletes … to be successful and to build their skills to the right level,” said Harvey.

Kevin Huston, head boys’ basketball coach for 7th graders, said the last time the middle school program went undefeated was 2006.

Combining the two middle schools played a big part in this season’s success, said Huston, a 15-year veteran of Hamilton middle school basketball coaching.

“Our starting five had three players from Wilson and two from Garfield.”

And he said the players develop bonds off the court that helps make their transition to the Hamilton Freshman School and Hamilton High School smoother.

“It gets them playing together earlier, which is very good in the sense of trying to build a winning program. They get to know one another and it will only help and get better,” he said.

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