The Derrick Pringle-coached DAP Elite 15U is heading to Orlando for the Youth Basketball of America National Championships – a week-long event which draws the nation’s best players ranging from second grade through high school.

For many on the team, it’s their first venture to the Sunshine State.

innovative sleep centersFor Pringle, the trip has been more than two decades in the making.

“When I was living in West Virginia,” said Pringle, a retired U.S. Army Sergeant, “my son’s AAU team made it to the national tournament in Utah. This was back in 1994. My wife and I knew only one of us could go. She went. I stayed home.”

Pringle has finally found the equalizer as he will now be leading the charge 22 years later, coaching a select Thurston County-based travel team that will play games at the Orange County Convention Center – which has been converted into a basketball mega-hub featuring 16 courts with play on each court going simultaneously.

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Coach Derrick Pringle’s goal is to make these 15U basketball players better for their high school teams.

The tournament is from July 3 – 9.

“We will get one day off out of the seven days we’re there,” said Pringle about the event which will also include a skills camp, as well as tournament play. “Other than that one day, it will be all basketball.”

The YBOA is an international governing body which promotes youth basketball worldwide. The organization offers league development, tournaments, educational clinics and other basketball-related programs around the nation.

Each team advancing to the national tournament must qualify at a state tournament in order to be eligible.

This marks the first time a team from Washington will be represented in the tournament.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Pringle said. “I was talking to the guys last year, telling them how much I would love to take them to Florida before they started their high school careers.”

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Jaylen Clay will be one of 11 Thurston County elite basketball players headed to Florida for the YBOA tournament.

An email was distributed to 35 players who were a member of Pringle’s DAP Hoops program last September soliciting feedback on the idea.

“I got 11 back who were interested,” Pringle said. “I can coach 11. So, we put together an elite team to take to Florida.”

This is the vision Pringle had when he first started DAP Hoops 18 years ago. As youth basketball continued to soar talent level-wise in Tacoma and Seattle, Thurston County was starting to fall behind.

Pringle’s travel team’s traditionally play in tournaments in the Pacific Northwest, with an occasional trip to Las Vegas to compete against loftier competition.

“When I came out here in 1996 from West Virginia we tried to find something for my son, but there wasn’t that many options locally,” Pringle said. “If you’re down here (in Thurston County) you couldn’t play in Tacoma. You couldn’t play in Seattle.”

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Coach Pringle started the DAP program 18 years ago.

Pringle, who retired from the military in 1998, grew the program over time, eventually sparking the idea of competition against the nation’s premiere teams. But that’s not to say there wasn’t some resistance initially.

“I wanted to take the next step with the kids, So, I contacted the YBOA,” Pringle said. “I wanted this team to play a year up against the best of the best. It was tough at first. I couldn’t get the families to get out of their comfort zone. No one wanted to go back east and get beat by 100. I told them, ‘You can go to Vegas and get beat by 100. We can play in a state tournament against teams from Seattle and Tacoma and get beat by 100.’ Playing against this level of competition in Orlando will make these players better.”

Central Florida has now been the carrot for the team for 10 months.

“I told them they could be pioneers. What they learn they can bring back to their teammates. No one from here has ever played (at the YBOA National Tournament) before,” Pringle said. “We had a couple of meetings. I told them about my experience with my kids playing there. Every time we take a kid out of the state of Washington, when they come back they make their high school teams better. I said all along that if we can get these guys to play back there, I guarantee it will change their mindset.”

Prior to even arriving in Florida, it appears the team’s focus has already been altered as the players have been working towards this tournament going on a year now.

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Carter Barnes is one of Coach Pringle’s DAP Elite players headed to Florida.

“When I heard the news I wanted to prepare myself. At that point I just started focusing on basketball more,” said Carter Barnes, who will be an eighth grader at Olympic Middle School in Shelton. “I’m only in seventh grade. I knew I had to step up and get stronger as a player. Playing now against older players will just help us all in the future.”

Joining Barnes on the team is Michael Paje, Duncan McDermott, Brandin Riedel, Isaiah Walker, Christian Taylor, Jaylen Clay, Ty Thompson, Keagan Heistandand Peyton Peterson.

“This has been a highlight for me, watching all the hard work these kids have put into it,” Pringle said. “My goal is in 2020 to walk into the state tournament, not coaching anyone, and see these kids playing at the state tournament.”

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