UNION — A Union Recreation Department basketball team celebrated a winning season Monday evening.
The Rec. Department basketball team known as the Heat held a postseason banquet at La Fogata on Monday evening, celebrating the team’s 8-1 season.
Players on the Heat team included Kayden O’Shields, Cameron Owens, Brian Renwick, Akavious Mobley, Ja’Raylin Gregory, Zy Hardy, Kayla Stevens, Jaylen Farr, Connor Earls, TJ Garner, Gregory Garner, Alijalua Rice, Christian Hughey, Jaeden Brown and Bryson Weaver. The team also included five-year-old DJ Gregory, who — although he did not technically meet the age requirement — was put in when the team had a big lead. The head coach of the team was Dean Gregory, and he was joined by assistant coaches (and team parents) Tim Garner, Jackie Earls, and Clo Derrick.
Other teams in the league this year included the Timberwolves, coached by Walt Whitlock, Sr. and Walt Whitlock, Jr.; the Knicks, coached by Paul Phillips and Pat Beacham; and the Spurs, coached by Terry Swann.
Dean Gregory said this year’s Heat team was a very special one.
“For me to see a kid that learns and you can tell they have gotten better — and they want to do better and they try, it fills my heart with joy,” Gregory said. “That’s what makes me excited about coaching.”
Gregory said each player on the team got an award at Monday evening’s banquet, but he noted some of the awards for players who went above and beyond.
Brian Renwick was voted season MVP by his teammates, and he was also named Offensive Player of the Year.
“He scored a lot of points — probably as much as some whole teams,” Gregory said, adding that Renwick was a skilled dribbler.
J’Raylin Gregory was named Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Gregory said J’Raylin had lots of steals and rebounds for the team.
The Most Improved award was given to Connor Earls.
“He was a totally different player on the last day than he was on the first day,” Gregory said. “It was easy to tell that he had worked on his game a lot outside of practice.”
Gregory said although the Hustler of the Year Award could have easily gone to several of his players, the winner was Alijalua Rice. Gregory said Rice often dove for loose balls and was able to play any position.
The team’s Beast Award was given to Zy Hardy, who Gregory said was by far the most dominant player in the entire league.
“Zy dominated the boards,” Gregory said. “He dominated with rebounds and blocked shots. He reminds me of Shaquille O’Neal with the way he plays.”
The final award presented at the banquet was the Rookie of the Year award, which went to five-year-old DJ Gregory. Even though DJ was not technically on the roster because of age requirements, Coach Gregory allowed his son to practice with the team. Coach Gregory said a lot of the players on the team asked him if DJ could play if the team got a big enough lead, and he could hear them encouraging each other to work together to get a big lead so DJ could get in the game.
“I thought that was pretty cool that they made him a part of their team,” Gregory said.
Gregory also added that when he allowed his son some playing time, even the fans of the other teams would applaud him. During Monday evening’s banquet, DJ became emotional, shedding tears of joy when he was surprised by his Rookie of the Year award.
“He gets that from me,” Coach Gregory said. “It was all I could do just to give it to him.”
Gregory said he asked the entire team to give a round of applause to their parents, thanking them for signing them up and allowing them to play.
“Through sports, kids find a discipline they can use later in life,” Gregory said. “I always let them know that school work comes first.”
Gregory also said the success this season would not have been possible without team mother Jamie Hughey, who helped the team in numerous ways.
“It’s easy to do it when you’ve got people like that helping you out,” Gregory said.
At the banquet, Hughey presented Gregory with a plaque signed by each of the players.
“That is going up on my wall, and it will be there for the rest of my life,” Gregory said.
Gregory has coached the Heat for four years — as well as Rec. football and basketball — and he said he will miss the nine-year-olds (Renwick, Hardy, Mobley, Stevens and Rice) who will not be eligible to play next year.