Local AAU program starts in Pekin

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Hoping to offer athletes more opportunities closer to home, Pekin native Austin Churchman has created an AAU program in Washington County.

Indiana Ignites is a basketball organization, for both girls and boys, that offers another level of play close to home.

“I didn’t start playing AAU/travel basketball until my freshmen year because the closest team was an hour away in Louisville,” he said. “I wanted to start this program to give kids around Pekin, Salem, West Washington, Borden, etc. the opportunity to start getting better earlier on in fourth and fifth grade and to continue playing with the program up until they graduate from high school.”

Churchman, who is the program director, said he started putting the program together in May/June 2016. His wife, Maranda, is the assistant program director.

“The first year was difficult to get players and coaches to help out,” he said. “The second year will be easier knowing what I have to do or change to make it better for everyone.”

He said the teams this year played in nine to 11 tournaments, but he plans to increase that number to 10-12 tournaments next year depending on the age group.

“I wanted to have a Southern Indiana basketball program available to boys and girls where games would be played almost always in Louisville, Bloomington or South of Indy,” he said. “I know that most parents do not want to travel very far to play because of other activities or plans they may already have. I try to schedule all tourneys in these three locations.”

He said he knows most travel teams have to go further distances to be in tourneys, so he hopes of having a local team, with local tourneys, will result in even more talent being in the area.

There are currently seven teams and all of them practice in Pekin.

The teams are: 5th grade boys Black; 5th grade boys Orange; 7th grade boys; 8th grade boys; 9th grade boys; 10th grade boys and 10th grade girls.

The team has a Facebook page, Indiana Ignite, where they post information and photos, as well as a website: www.indianaignitebasketball.com. The website has team information, player registration, team schedules and a photo gallery of teams in action. Player registration will open on the website Nov. 1.

Chruchman graduated from Eastern High School in 2013, where he played basketball. He is currently studying education at Indiana University Southeast, with a concentration in math. He said he enjoys working with youth.

“I plan on doing this program year after year for players to look forward to,” he said.

The team’s mission statement is: “Indiana Ignite Basketball will improve opportunities for amateur basketball players and develop their leadership, sportsmanship, and athletic excellence on the court. As a program, we will strive to have each individual finish the season knowing they have improved as a player on the court.”

Indiana Ignite is looking for coaches for the 2018 season. If interested in a paid coaching position, send an email to indianaignite@gmail.com or call Churchman at 812.620.5539.

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