Edina Basketball Association Creates Well-Rounded Kids

The Edina Basketball Association works to create well-rounded kids.
The Edina Basketball Association works with both boys' and girls' teams including this quartet of girls: Jayde Barrick, Haley Paulson, A.J. Middleton and Maggie Dronen.

Edina’s top sixth-grade traveling boys basketball team won the state title in 2012, but the hoopsters left an impression on coach Deon Richardson when they set out to defend it as seventh-graders.
“They were a good team that overachieved a bit and won,” Richardson says of the sixth-grade bunch. Then “they had to be tougher because other teams were coming for them.”
They repeated in 2013, with the help of the real-world lesson Richardson preached.
“Everyone has roles on the team,” he says. “We had stars and role players . As you get older, in the job world, everyone has roles, and we are trying to instill that at a young age. Everyone likes to score, but there is only one basketball. Everyone has bought into that.”
The character displayed by that group of 12- and 13-year-olds is what the Edina Basketball Association (EBA) works to instill in its approximately 1,200 players—boys and girls—who range from kindergarteners to high school seniors in its traveling and in-house programs.
“We are promoting teamwork and respecting the coaches, respecting the refs,” says Giovanna Ingram, the association’s treasurer and fundraiser, and the mother of two players. “We are trying to instill fitness.”
Given those goals, the EBA has seen participation increase to a point where gym space is at a shortage. To meet its needs, the EBA has sought space at the 43 Hoops Academy in Hopkins and the Blake School in Minneapolis.
“It’s becoming very popular because it’s a guaranteed 72 degrees inside the gyms as opposed to freezing inside with hockey or being outside with soccer,” Ingram says.
Matt Nilsen, the girls’ varsity basketball coach at Edina High School, says the EBA board has struck a healthy balance between competition and participation.  
“It’s a great group of people who are out for the best interest of all the kids,” says Nilsen, who has two daughters in the EBA.
Evidence of the combination of competition and participation is that each grade level has not one but three traveling teams; most other suburbs have two and sometimes just one team. That carries into the high school program, which has “A” and “B” ninth-grade teams.
“It’s for kids who just want to play,” Nilsen says. “It’s not super-competitive and they are still able to be on a team and play basketball. I just love that. It’s a huge compliment to what the EBA is doing.”
Another compliment to the EBA is how the boys and girls play once they reach the high school ranks. Nilsen says that most of the players have grown up together and display great chemistry on the court.
“They are all Edina kids, and we are proud of that,” he says. “Our kids that come in know ‘the Edina way’ and it’s really neat to have that.”
“The Edina way,” Nilsen says, is just an old-fashioned work ethic.
“Edina has the reputation of being white-collar, but our high school kids, it’s amazing how hard they play and how hard they get after it,” Nilsen says. “I just see that trickling down. Our middle school kids see that, and now having daughters that age, I see it in the elementary school kids. Their effort is just tremendous. They try real hard. They are kind and nice kids. They have good parents to where  they take coaching well.”