PLATTSBURGH - Through hard work and dedication, the Lake Champlain Lakers AAU U-17 basketball team qualified to compete in a national tournament this summer.
Now, they're working hard to raise the money they need to go there.
The team consists of 10 of the top players from six schools in the North Country - Brody Douglass and T.J. Burl of AuSable Valley, Bo McKinley of Westport, Kyle LaPoint and Tre Bucci of Plattsburgh High, Carson Hynes of Seton Catholic, Joe Tousignant of Franklin Academy, and Devon Anderson, Thomas Ryan and Malo Valerien, all of Beekmantown.
In early May, they competed in and won the Adirondack LIVE Tournament, qualifying them for the AAU National Tournament to be held at Wald Disney World's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., July 26 through Aug. 1.
The Lakers, who have a 23-6 overall record for the season, finished at the top of the standings in the pool of 10-12 teams in their age group in a region that extends from the Albany region west to Utica and north to the Canadian border.
"It was pretty exciting because they knew going into the tournament that it was a qualifying tournament," said Ryan Converse, head coach for the team. "They wanted it pretty bad, so when they knew we had qualified, they were excited."
While some Lakers teams may have qualified in the past, Converse said, this could be the first time the team actually competes in the national tournament.
"As far as the teams I've coached, this is definitely one of the most talented teams and one of the most well-balanced," said Converse. "We've got good guards who can handle the ball well, we've got shooters, and we've got size."
Now, with the tournament just weeks away, the team is racing to raise the roughly $1,000 per player they need to fund their trip to Orlando.
McKinley, the team's starting point guard, participated in the AAU National Tournament last year when he was invited to play with the Albany City Rocks.
"Depending on what bracket we're in, I think it's possible we could get to the elimination round," said McKinley, adding that to do so would put them among the top 32 teams in the country.
Though they expect tough competition in Orlando, McKinley said the team is just thrilled with the opportunity to play alongside the top high school basketball players.
"It's a privilege just to compete with some of these guys who will probably be playing in the NBA one day," he added.
Their first fundraiser, a car wash at Stewart's Shop in West Plattsburgh June 25, raised $645.
The next event is a coin drive scheduled for Saturday, July 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Au Sable Forks.
"Money is tight for everybody right now, so it's really important that they go out and work for what they want," said Converse.
The team is hoping to raise the remainder of what they need by offerent sponsorship in the Bob Kyea Memorial Golf Tournament being held Friday, Aug. 6, at AuSable Valley Golf Course. With a $100 donation, businesses and organizations can get a tournament advertising sign displaying their name and logo on the course.
In the meantime, the team is scheduling some regional games to help keep their skills sharp.
"We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing," said Converse. "This is a hardworking group; they come to practice and they want to learn, they want to get better."
Donations for the team's trip may be sent to "Let's Get the Lakers to Orlando," care of Kathy Kyea, 9 Gooseberry Lane, Jay, N.Y., 12941.