A team of seventh- and eighth-graders from the Leavenworth area won a basketball tournament in Omaha over the weekend.

Leavenworth Elite went 3-0 in the eighth-grade “Jammers” bracket at the Omaha Sports Academy-Mid America Youth Basketball Spring Fling, defeating Canasta Hawks 61-39 and Sunset Summer Ball 47-45 on Saturday. The team defeated Sacred Hoops 14 U Sam 48-29 on Sunday.

Head coach Brandon Hildebrandt said the team played well.

“I thought our play was good,” Hildebrandt said. “We played against some good competition.” 

Leavenworth Elite usually plays tournaments in the Kansas City area. Hildebrandt said it was good for the players to see some new opponents.

The coach couldn’t pick one player to be the MVP.

“I would have to say all were MVPs,” Hildebrandt said. “Can’t pick one. They played as a team in the tournament.”

The coach also had praise for the help of assistant coach Verlondon Johnson. 

The team is made up of local kids. Hildebrandt said he doesn’t handpick the players from across the region. Two of his players are from Atchison but the rest are from the Leavenworth area.

He said this helps the players develop chemistry together that can stick with them as they get older and move up to high school.

Hildebrandt said that the team is open to taking new players. 

“We are trying to develop the players,” he said. “I will take anyone if we have a spot for them.” 

The Leavenworth Elite program started four years ago when Hildebrandt said he wanted to give kids more competitive play. The competitive play is to help the kids prepare for high school ball and to avoid culture shock when they get to the higher level of play.

He said the first year was rough with the team getting beat regularly but now the team is competing against AAU teams.

The team will continue their play at the HSE Showtime Nationals in St. Joseph, Missouri, the weekend of May 10. 

After the tournament on the Missouri Western State University campus, the Leavenworth Elite basketball team will continue to play tournaments during the summer with the goal being to compete at the MAYB Boys’ Nationals in Wichita in August. Teams from all over the country will participate.

Hildebrandt also said he would like to expand the team next year to include more grade levels. He would like to do all levels if he can find enough coaches to go along with him and Johnson. He will look to at least start with sixth grade to high school.

For more information about the Leavenworth Elite basketball team, contact Hildebrandt at hildebrandt.b@yahoo.com or 913-702-7013.