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The Virginia Venom sixth grade travel basketball team has been a slam dunk in Virginia this year, winning two state championships in as many months.
After winning the U.S. Basketball Association (USBA) state championship in May and the Youth Basketball of America (YBOA) state championship in June, the Virginia Venom travel team is preparing to compete in the YBOA National Championship, which will be held July 5 through 11 in Orlando, Fla.
Virginia Venom’s sixth-grade travel basketball team consists of 11 middle-schoolers, 10 of whom attend Williamsburg-James City County Schools.
The home-grown Virginia Venom squad has the size and physicality that has helped the team outclass almost every opponent they have played in the state of Virginia, even prompting the team to play against older opponents in higher divisions.
With two players standing more than 6 feet tall, the Venom have towered over their opponents. Jordan Pollard, a student at Hornsby Middle School, stands an imposing 6-foot-3 while Chance Washington, a student at Toano Middle School, carries a heavy frame at 6 feet tall and 230 pounds.
While not the tallest player on the team, Toano Middle School’s Miguel Reel has proven the focal point of the Venom offense. Reel, a 5-foot-7, 220-pound post player, has been nearly unstoppable on the travel circuit, consistently scoring more than 15 points per game.
“He’s very athletic and skilled in the post,” Virginia Venom coach Jonathan Hughes said of Reel. “For his age, his post moves are way above his years. We haven’t played one team that has anybody that can stop him one on one.”
The Venom’s combination of size and skill has led them to the national championships as a No. 1 seed, which will put them in a favorable position to advance past the opening round, a four-team round-robin format that advances the top two teams from each group into a single-elimination tournament similar to that of March Madness.
July’s YBOA National Championship will not be this Venom team’s first foray in a national competition. The Venom finished with a 2-2 record in the 2014 USBA National Championship, a tournament that does not carry the weight or exclusivity of the YBOA tournament.
The USBA National Championship is open to any team that competed in a USBA State or Super Regional tournament. Conversely, the YBOA National Championship is an invitational tournament, where state champions and wild-card teams are selected to participate.
With a more competitive field of teams awaiting them, the Virginia Venom are expecting better results than last year’s performance.
“We’re going to win it,” Hughes said. “That’s always our goal. If it doesn’t happen, that’s fine. But we’re going to give it everything we’ve got. I have not seen another sixth grade team that’s as good as us. We haven’t left the state, but Virginia talent is pretty good.”