Amateur Update: Rochester Shock has provided opportunities to area athletes
AAU girls basketball came into Keith Bland's family life in 2007. That summer, the AAU Girls Basketball 12U Division I National Championship was held in Rochester. Keith and his daughter, Arianna, came down to take in a few games and see what it was all about.
And after seeing the best teams in the country battle it out to earn a national championship they were hooked.
Three years later, Keith coached and Arianna played on the host team for 2010 AAU 12U Division I National Championship. And not only that, but Arianna was selected to run in the torch for the opening ceremony. The team went 2-4 during the event recording the only two wins by a Rochester host team at an AAU Division I national tournament.
This spring, Keith and Arianna will finish up their run coaching and playing AAU basketball for the Rochester Shock. Only Arianna and Kailey Webster have remained with the team since its inception. Overall, 40 girls have played for coach Bland from schools all across southeastern Minnesota as well as players from the Twin Cities and North Dakota.
This year's team roster is made up of players from Byron, Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Lourdes, Kasson-Mantorville and Irondale.
During the seasons since 2010 the Rochester Shock-Bland team has always represented the community well. They have also had their share of success, winning many games and tournaments highlighted by winning the USSSA Tournament of Champions 9th Grade Championship in Kansas City, Missouri in 2012.
The AAU basketball season typically starts right after the high school state tournaments wrap up. Teams begin practice in late March and begin playing games in April. AAU events run from April through the national championships held in July. The Rochester Shock-Bland team played in their first tournament on April 12-13, the Midwest Kick-Off Classic held in Bloomington, Minn. They finished sixth in their division.
For Keith, one of the more rewarding parts of coaching the Rochester Shock is helping his players prepare for the next step of their careers. Whether that is working on fundamentals and getting more court time so they can make their high school team, or having the opportunity to play in front of college coaches for a shot at getting recruited to play beyond high school.
We will be keeping tabs on the Rochester Shock-Bland team and wish them the best of luck this season and all their future endeavors.