By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Stars burning it up this summer
07.24 stars 3
Members of the Effingham Stars practice Wednesday at the Board of Education annex in Springfield. They have one more tournament this summer, but tournament expenses aren’t easy to cover. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Make that three in a row for the Effingham Stars.

Coach Curtis Nixon’s band for 10-and-under girls captured their third straight tournament title last weekend, winning the YBOA’s Mid-Summer Classic in Cobb County.

“We had hurt players (last) weekend,” he said. “But if you could see the spirit in these girls ….”

The Stars got their start after losing in a “heartbreaker,” Nixon said, in the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association district tournament. The all-star team from Effingham County didn’t dissolve after that tourney.

“I saw the look in these girls’ eyes,” he said. “They really wanted to keep playing basketball.”

They won their first tournament, the Battle at the Beach in Wilmington, N.C., and also a tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., this month.

Nixon, an assistant coach for the Ebenezer Middle School girls basketball team, has been coaching for 14 years and has found girls, especially at this age, take to coaching more than boys of the same age do.

“I found it easier and more relaxing to coach girls than boys,” he said. “They stay focused on what you’re trying to teach them.”

Taking the team to tournaments isn’t cheap. The usual entry fee for a single YBOA tournament is $270. Plus, there are the expenses of transportation, meals and lodging for the team. Nixon expressed his gratitude to the parents of the players and to the players themselves for helping to defray those costs, from selling dinners and raffle tickets to bagging groceries at Kroger.

“Without my parents, there would be no Effingham Stars,” he said. “They did everything to get this.”

Nixon also credited Effingham County Recreation and Parks director Clarence Morgan for his help, offering his appreciation to Morgan for arranging a place for his team to practice.

The Stars got started on the tournament circuit late, Nixon said, and some of his opponents have been together longer than the Stars.

Three of his players have turned 11 years old during the tournament season, and Nixon wants to be able to keep this team together as it grows older. They lost by four to a 14 and under team from Burke County in a scrimmage. The current team will move up to 12 and under and Nixon wants to continue to field a 10 and under squad.

“We might be coaching two teams next year,” he said. “I think the parents are committed to this program.”

But another team does mean more expenses, Nixon added. The goal, though, isn’t money but to prepare the girls for basketball careers beyond their current level of play.

“I want to give them the skills necessary, especially at this age, so they can be ready to make their middle school teams,” he said. “I hope this is the start of something for the girls of Effingham County.”

So far, his young charges have taken to their busy summer schedule — and the winning. But the Stars will take a break after the next tournament and likely won’t get back together until next February or March.

“They love it. They really do,” Nixon said. “They don’t want me to stop. The parents don’t want me to stop. But with my schedule, I’ve got to stop.”

The Stars will take part in the last tournament of the summer season at the Atlanta Dream’s 2nd Annual Tournament of Champions, to be held July 30-Aug. 1. Tournament teams will get 15 tickets to the Dream’s game July 30 against the Phoenix Mercury. The tournament finals will be held at Philips Arena.

“If I get a chance to coach on the Philips Arena floor,” Nixon said, “I’ll break out the church suit.”