Columbia Gorge Basketball Academy president Greg Cummings has continued on the foundation built for this program, and the tournament has grown in numbers each and every year.
“It’s nice to have so many teams come to The Dalles and play competitive basketball,” Cummings said. “Many of these teams spend the night in our hotels and spend money in our community. We also provide the very best officials that our region has to offer. They do a great job of controlling the games but keeping them moving along, so we can play every game.”
In the two-day tournament, there were as many as 10 games played on each court both days at The Dalles Middle School and The Dalles High School.
Just a few of the highlights from action last month were three TD teams taking first place in their respective age divisions. South Wasco County’s sixth and seventh graders, coached by Zac Hayes, beat Hood River’s seventh graders in the finals, and The Columbia Gorge Basketball Academy seventh and eighth grade girls posted a 3-1 record, just to name a few.
Locally, Cummings said that this is the biggest year the program has had in seven years, where there were originally 11 kids in the program.
Now, those numbers have swelled to 90 boys and girls from third-through-eighth grades, spanning nine different teams.
“It is certainly a labor of love for me,” Cummings said. “But, the time and energy spent watching these kids get better and better every day makes it all worth it. Every year, we have a new group of athletes that make their way to the high school ranks, and every year, the level of talent and work ethic increases and gets better and better.”
Coaching the girls were Jeff Hodges (fifth and sixth grade) and Lindsay Brock (sixth and eighth).
Megan Thompson and Nick DeLeon coached the third-grade boys, Craig Gunderson and Wiley Dodd were the fourth-grade coaches, Corey Case led the fifth and sixth grade boys, Mike Cates and Andrew Voodre, along with Sarah Carpenter and Jeremy Nesbitt, were the seventh-grade boys coaches, Kameran Sam and Nathan Parker coached one eighth grade squad, and Cummings took control of the tournament-winning eighth grade squad.
Cummings has been around coaching his eighth-grade group ever since they were in fifth grade, with some new additions over the past few years.
On that roster were Andre Niko, Henry Begay, Nolan Donivan, Sam Shaver, JJ Johnston, Cooper Cummings, Olsen Meanus, Cody Parker, and Owen Withers.
Coach Cummings called these players grinders on the floor, who are fun to watch as they bring their energy and effort to every practice and game.
“My eighth graders have become family to me,” Cummings said. “Their parents and siblings have become family to me as well. I cherish our times spent together grinding in the gym and on the road to the many tournaments we’ve been able to participate in over the years. They are a very special group of boys. The best part is, I get to continue coaching most of them moving forward in high school.”
Athletes in the CGBA are better equipped for major 5A-level basketball.
Case in point is this year’s varsity roster, which includes three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and one freshman, with nine out of 10 playing CGBA ball, a majority of them for four or more years.
Conner Cummings and Spencer Taylor, both TDHS juniors, started in the fifth grade and were among the original 11 kids that in the CGBA ranks.
Styles DeLeon, a freshman, is giving Cummings and his coaching staff huge minutes off the bench this year, and got his start in the fourth grade, Shane Floyd, Jaxon Pullen and Tristan Bass, all sophomores, all started CGBA as fifth graders and are all contributing at the varsity level now, with both Pullen and Floyd taking minutes in a starter’s capacity.
Seniors Dalles Seufalemua, Aidan Telles and Jacob Hernandez cut their competitive hoops teeth in the fifth grade as well and are all integral parts and leaders of the Riverhawk team.
Using the same elements that the high school program implements across three levels, the youth coaches are committed to teaching those elements and working on the fundamentals, all while preparing the athletes for a higher level of play in the future.
“My philosophy is recruiting coaches that start at the third or fourth grade level and they stick with those kids through eighth grade,” coach Cummings said. “That way, the kids are getting the same kind of coaching and they won’t have to learn new offenses or defenses. Our volunteer coaches are really great. Basketball season is long, and they do a wonderful job of motivating and leading our teams.”
Starting February 22 and 23, the Columbia Gorge Basketball Academy hosts several teams from across the area in The Dalles Winter Classic, with games at several locations.
Tournament players range from third-through-eighth grades and hail from Hermiston, Dufur, The Dalles, Hood River, White Salmon and Goldendale, to name a few.
Games are slated to start at 9 a.m. on Saturday in pool play matchups at The Dalles Middle School, The Dalles High School and Wahtonka Campus, where each team will play two pool play games for each division to determine seeding.
Seeding is based on overall record, head-to-head games, point differential and points scored, in that order.
Double elimination bracket play kicks off on Sunday at 8 a.m. until the championship games, with games at TDMS and The Dalles High School.
With so much going on in multiple areas, Cummings relies on parents, other adults and volunteers to help with day-to-day duties.
He also gets a show of support from district administrators.
“I’m thankful that our school district supports our organization the way it does, Coach Cummings said. “Dufur School is always on stand-by as well just in case we need the extra room, so it goes without saying that without District 21 and Dufur graciously allowing us to use their facilities and without the community support that we get, our program would simply not exist.”
Brackets and rules will be emailed out the Wednesday before the tournament, and all games are officiated by OSAA-sanctioned officials.
All games will be scheduled on the Tourney Machine application through their website, www.tourneymachine.com.
Fans can download the application to their smartphone to stay up to date on scores, pool play standings and bracket play games.
Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students over five-years old, and free for children four and younger.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Cummings at email@example.com or call 541-980-5978.