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Bryant Martin, the Hawks head coach, talks to his players at the end of a practice last week at RAF Mildenhall's youth center.
Bryant Martin, the Hawks head coach, talks to his players at the end of a practice last week at RAF Mildenhall's youth center. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Bryant Martin, the Hawks head coach, talks to his players at the end of a practice last week at RAF Mildenhall's youth center.
Bryant Martin, the Hawks head coach, talks to his players at the end of a practice last week at RAF Mildenhall's youth center. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Martin watches as his players go through lay-up drills.
Martin watches as his players go through lay-up drills. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Tavion Bush, 7, conducts a passing drill at a basketball practice last week. The base's youth basketball league season will kick off next month.
Tavion Bush, 7, conducts a passing drill at a basketball practice last week. The base's youth basketball league season will kick off next month. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Dawson Buchanan, 8, puts up a shot at a basketball practice.
Dawson Buchanan, 8, puts up a shot at a basketball practice. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Brandon Reid, 7, dons his Hawks jersey before a basketball practice last week.
Brandon Reid, 7, dons his Hawks jersey before a basketball practice last week. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

RAF MILDENHALL — A basketball team full of energetic kids jumped at the chance to don their red mesh jerseys during a practice in the base’s Youth Center last week.

Proudly wearing their Hawks jerseys, the kids ran around the basketball court knocking out drills presented by volunteer coaches. The players, ages 7 to 9 years old, tried to appease the coaches while a few couldn’t resist the temptation to goof off or throw wild shots during the 45-minute practice.

The Hawks are just one of 15 coed teams in the base’s 2008 youth basketball league, made up of almost 150 children preparing for the eight-week season that starts next month.

“It’s something for the winter,” sports director Dave Wilcox said. “They seem to love it, and that’s what counts.”

Although younger teams are already set up, there are still slots available in the league’s 13-to-15- year-old squads. Those interested should sign up by the first week of January to be on a team, which costs $40 to play the entire season, Wilcox said.

Teenagers play on traveling squads that have games at RAFs Alconbury, Lakenheath and Menwith Hill, about a 3½-hour drive away. At the end of the regular season, teams battle each other in a tournament.

“We figure out who’s the champion of England,” said Wilcox, who added that a Mildenhall squad took second last year.

For the youngsters, the league is less competitive and allows them to burn all that energy they usually store up during the winter.

Besides having a lot of patience, the trick to coaching youngsters in basketball is to keep them active, said John Wilson, the Hawks’ assistant coach and also a technical sergeant with the 488th Intelligence Squadron.

Wilson stepped up to coach for a third year after he heard that there was a shortage of coaches this year. Also, it’s a way to be closer to his son who is on the Hawks team.

“It’s satisfying to see how the kids improve throughout the year,” he said about coaching.

Bryant Martin, the Hawks’ head coach and a captain with the 488th, has three sons playing in the league.

“It allows them to learn how to work as a team and gets them out of the house,” said Martin, touching on the importance of youth basketball.

As for one of the Hawks’ players, it’s all about scoring.

“I like shooting hoops,” said 7- year-old Tavion Bush, the son of an RAF Lakenheath staff sergeant.

Other than basketball, the youth center offers youngsters the chance to play flag football, in-line hockey, baseball and volleyball as well as indoor and outdoor soccer at different times of the year, Wilcox said.

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