TC Basketball's John Casale and Beverly Kirk
The All Alabama Roadrunners, based in Birmingham, essentially paved the way for AAU basketball in the state, with high school coaching legend Emanuel Bell establishing the plan more than 20 years ago to bring a more competitive brand of the game to the state.
Unfortunately, Bell was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer; he’s still coaching high school, but in order to keep the AAU machine rolling, he needed help, and that’s what drew Greg and Beverly Kirk to the program. For three years now, the Kirks have been piloting the ship, fielding teams at grades 9-11, with every junior from the last squad signing to play at the collegiate level. Some notable names include Nadia Cathey (Valdosta State), Maori Davenport (Rutgers) and Joiya Maddox (Rutgers).
Beverly Kirk, who played college basketball at UAB, was in the Fort Collins home office of Triple Crown in early November and sat down to give us a closer look at the Roadrunners.
Q: What got you into coaching?
A: Coming from a sports type family, basketball did so much for me. I was a country girl and able to get a scholarship, and I wanted to give back to something that made such an impression on my life. We started with church leagues, and it progressed to AAU, travel ball, when kids were real young. I love having the family atmosphere. I can involve my entire family.
Q: What are the priorities of Roadrunners AAU?
A: We’re trying to get these girls some exposure; you’re trying to give out as many gold nuggets (of help) as you can. Not everyone has a mother and father, and you are different things to different people. Not everyone has a counselor, or a nurse … you play a lot of roles, and that’s important.
This is something you have to love; it’s a big responsibility, big investment. It can be a financial sacrifice, so it’s something a player has to love to do. And if you don’t think you love this sport, this may not be the place for you. We go through ups and downs … you’re not going to win every game, but we can’t lose every game, either. You go through a lot of challenges. These are teenagers, some who want to be independent while someone’s also telling them what to do.
Q: You have some community giveback programs – how does that fit?
A: My job is nurse practitioner, and I work in an underprivileged community. This is something I do five days a week, and these girls (players) are outside that. I want them to see the other part of life, and giving back to people who are without. Seeing their faces, giving them something they can use to help them along the way. No matter who you are, you should give back, and that’s my philosophy of life. Share in some form or fashion.
Q: What does the future look like for girls basketball there?
A: In the south, we are very athletic, but not very skilled. In the north, players are very skilled and some are very athletic, which means we have some catching up to do. In this organization my husband and I are determined to teach skills. How to defend the pick-and-roll, because that’s what we get when we go out and play on a national level. We try to teach and catch them up; it requires a lot. When you are done with practice, you need to go shoot some more. That’s what they are doing up north.
We want to get that IQ higher, so they can really play the game, and be coachable players. There’s more to life and getting a scholarship than just Alabama – we’re going national, and we want all the schools to see the talent in Alabama.