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Teams get summer work at Danville

By By Todd Thompson, Hartselle Enquirer
DANVILLE - Summer basketball can bring some special challenges for high school teams getting in their allowed seven days of play during the off-season.
More than 20 varsity girls teams from around the northern half of the state - including Danville, Falkville, Hartselle and Priceville - are participating in the summer round-robin play dates.
With eight dates during the month of June, teams are battling brutal temperatures and the occasional bird that finds its way into Danville High School’s gym.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association allows teams seven practice dates during the summer and teams like to take advantage of the rule by playing as many as three games a day.
Danville has played several teams in higher classification this summer, including Grissom, a Class 6A school.
The idea of hosting play dates at Danville came when Lady Hawks sought to save on the cost of travel to participate in team camps.
The play dates include some of the top teams in the state, including Sparkman, one of the state’s premier girls’ basketball programs. Sparkman has reached the Final Four in four of June Seals’ six seasons as the Lady Senators’ head coach. Sparkman won state championships three times during that span - in 2002, 2003 and 2007.
Sparkman will participate in three team camps this season - at the University of Alabama, Wallace State Community College and at Lauderdale County High School - giving players exposure to college coaches and recruiters.
But the play dates at Danville are all about getting on the court and playing basketball. The Lady Senators, scheduled to play three times in the Danville tournament, played twice Tuesday.
So the Lady Senators hit the road to play in a hot gym that featured a small crowd of supporters and a handful of intruding birds who entered through the open doors of Danville’s facility.
But like Wilson, Seals isn’t pushing wins on her players during the seven practice dates. Instead, she uses summer workouts to keep the Lady Senators in shape and give young players who are expected to take on a larger role this fall some added time to adapt to the varsity level.
The kids seem to enjoy it and the parents seem to enjoy it. If everyone enjoys it, we must be doing something right.”
Part of Seals’ challenge during the summer is building a schedule that works around family vacations and AAU summer basketball. But by playing at Danville for several days, the Lady Senators can put in more on-court time in one day.
Seals limits Sparkman’s summer practices to four days a week, giving players a long weekend. It also gives some of the Lady Senators long weekends if they play on AAU summer teams.
And that means avoiding low-flying birds and braving brutal temperatures to get in some valuable playing time.