By Maddie Joiner
For the Opelika Observer
Basketball is all Aubrey Reese has ever known. He started playing over 25 years ago and played for Auburn High. Following high school, he attended Murray State University on a basketball scholarship, then went on to play in Europe for 13 years.
Even as Reese stepped off the court for the last time, he could not let basketball go. So, he came back to his roots and found a way to share his love for the game with the Auburn community.
“When I finished as a player, you know, I always envisioned coming back home to work with the youth through the game of basketball,” he said.
When Reese arrived back on the Plains, he created AR Elite, a basketball training gym that focuses on player development and training local children physically and mentally.
“So, now I’m using basketball to gain access to these younger kids, not only to teach them and pass on my knowledge of the game, but also to help these kids move forward and navigate this life,” he said. “I just want to make sure the kids that cross paths with me are fully equipped to do what’s necessary to proceed and be successful in life.”
AR Elite is a training gym for male and female athletes ages 8 to 17. Reese and his staff train athletes individually or as a group, and focus on player performance, as well as life skills.
Reese preaches three things to his athletes: commitment, accountability and discipline.
“You’re gonna need those three things to be successful in whatever you do,” he said.
In addition to the training AR Elite has, the gym has AAU travel basketball teams, called SLAAM Basketball. SLAAM stands for “Students Learning Athletics and Academics Through Mentoring.”
According to AR Elite’s website, “SLAAM was created to enhance skills and solidify fundamentals of student basketball athletes; helping them achieve their maximum potential. SLAAM Basketball is committed to educating and empowering their players with confidence, commitment and integrity while instilling a code of ethics built on honesty, responsibility, commitment and teamwork.”
SLAAM currently has seven teams, which are divided by grade level. Reese coaches three and his assistants coach the other four.
Any athlete in the area can try out for a SLAAM team, no matter if they train at AR Elite or not.
While SLAAM has had girls’ teams in the past and hopes to return them in the future, SLAAM is currently only host to boys’ teams.
Reese had to cut the girl squads due to a lack of coaches but is optimistic they will return.
“We definitely want to bring our girls’ program back starting next year,” he said. “We want more girls to sign up and train and get involved with basketball in the area. We really want these girls to come train.”
AR Elite is currently looking for passionate and dedicated coaches in the area so they can expand and add more teams.
So far, each SLAAM team has played 11 total tournaments this season and will travel to Pensacola June 25 to 27 to play in another. The season will wrap up at the end of July. Tryouts for next year’s teams will be in February.
AR Elite periodically does fundraisers, which raises money for anything from Gatorades and waters at tournaments, to helping pay for its end-of-season awards banquet. Check the Facebook page, SLAAM Basketball Alabama, for announcements regarding future events.
For more information or if you are interested in training at AR Elite, call Reese at 334-740-5231 or visit AR Elite’s website at www.arelitebasketball.com/.