Back2Basics brings education, team building to sports festival

by Tech Sgt. James McKee
Contributing writer

It all started in late 2005 when Back2Basics was doing volunteer basketball camps and clinics for military children in the KMC and surrounding areas. 

Coach James “Slim” McKee and Derrick Williams were emotionally moved when they witnessed children with potential and motivation struggle to find avenues to improve their basketball skills. At that point, they became determined to provide children with the tools needed for success, on and off the court. They began with putting 20 boys and girls through a very challenging and vigorous basketball training program.

The “3-Ds,” which consisted of defense, discipline and desire, foreshadowed the expanded core competencies of today’s Back2Basics programs. The 3-Ds have now evolved into the eight columns of character: integrity, caring, citizenship, respect, responsibility, fairness, trustworthiness and pride. Back2Basic has grown to become more than a vehicle for youth to hone their athletic skills, but a place to hone their leadership skills, serve as mentors and establish themselves as the “bar-setters” for those following in their footsteps.

This is where all the hard work pays off, from March to June/July. These children gave their all, practicing, working hard, restructuring their eating habits, getting to know their teammates and working together.

We took 165 children, coaches, managers and parents from the KMC, Wiesbaden, Mannheim, Baumholder, Heidelberg, Bitburg and Spangdahlem to Austria to compete in the World Sports Festival in Vienna, Austria, from June 21 to 26. There were 25 countries and more than 2,000 participants. We took four basketball teams (three boys and one girls team), a seven-member bowling team and an 18-boy and girl mixed soccer team. We were able to bring back three gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal. This trumped last year’s total of one gold and two bronze. The numbers increased as well from 36 to 86 children and growing. We are going to add volleyball, swimming, baseball, wrestling and football to next year’s group if all the support is there to make this happen.

As basketball progressed, they did it in smooth fashion. We beat teams that were thought to be more talented, even some out-aging us with their players. In the end though, it was the basketball team that started this, and they ended it in gold medal fashion. This team once again took home a gold medal after defeating CASE AAU. This team is now in the World Sports Festival Hall of Fame for doing it again with only seven players. Coach Carlton Bailey and manager Cate Boardman represented the under 16 boys who took home silver against Croatia. Coaches Keith Castille, McKinley “LA” Taylor and John Magill and manager Alexis Tremble took home gold after defeating CASE AAU in the finals. Coach Adrian Crawford, Chris Mosley and manager Andrea Arnold represented the under 16 girls, who took home silver against Bulgaria.

Bowling was one of the new programs we added to the Back2Basics team, led by coach Danny Berardi, Walt Cranfield and manager Stacy Berardi. They fielded seven children who bowled in the under 14 and under 18. This was all done with kids under 12 and 16, who had all finished in the top 25 overall. We won a team gold and Danny Berardi II took home bronze in the individual ladder.

Soccer brought on another new program as we expanded. Coach Ingo Rhiel brought in a group of 10- to 12-year-olds to compete in the under 13 tournament with a strong European field. They did exceptionally well with a great mix of talent of girls and boys and were able to win in the place rounds to end the tournament.
The children had a special invite to meet the U.S. ambassador, the honorable Ian C. Kelly, at his residence before the sightseeing tour. We were all able to ask questions about his position, take pictures, tour the grounds and experience something most would dream of. 

We brought in Derrick Mayes from the Super Bowl XXXI champion team the Green Bay Packers with the NCSA Athletic Recruiting Network to help children with recruiting and the things to do to excel. We also had him bring along Major League Soccer player John Wilson from DC United and Edward Gaines, who was a seven year NBA, WNBA, CBA and Division I referee.

NCSA leadership grants were given to one boy and one girl who had clearly raised the standard bar and earned exceptional grades. It was a very hard selection with the amount of children with exceptional grades, representing the eight columns of characters, being role models to the up and coming youth, community involvement and just an overall great person.

DeVonte Allen from Ramstein and Kylee Miller from Heidelberg were the recipients of this prestigious award presented personally by Derrick Mayes. Now they get the chance to have their recruiting and scouting profile done free, and this will help them increase their chances of being seen by more than 1,800 universities and colleges under their system.  

For more information on what Back2Basics does, call James “Slim” McKee at 0178-689-5509 or e-mail him from their website at