Coach takes local team to nationals

Team Wilder (the Wildcats) is going to the United States Basketball Association (USBA) finals in Charleston, South Carolina this month - provided a few more people decide to “give one for the team.”
Founder and coach Jeff Wilder is more than halfway to the $5,500 needed to take his squad of southeast Queens “16 and under” boys to compete between July 23 and 26 at the College of Charleston.
“This is a team with no egos and a lot of teamwork,” Wilder said, adding “They deserve this.” He pointed to one of the youngest players, 14-year-old Antonio Callahan of Rosedale as a perfect example.
“He’s got skills and [at just over six-feet and about 200 pounds] he’s big for his age, with all the makings of a top-notch player,” Wilder raved. “He’s very ‘coachable’ - a sponge - yet very respectful of the entire process,” he pointed out.
The team earned enough points to qualify for the USBA national tournament by winning their division at the Jersey Shore tournament, a four-game whirlwind of Although at 14 he was one of the youngest members of the team, Callahan scored 48 points, hauled in 36 rebounds and made eight steals. “He was a real team player,” Wilder said.
It isn’t all about sports at Wilder Athletics, Inc., which uses the “Character Counts” agenda in their mentoring program. Team Wilder gets complete development.
Callahan, for example is taking more of an interest in academics, and will be attending the High School of Economics and Finance in Manhattan’s financial district in the fall. He hopes to go on to Duke University (or North Carolina or Kansas State, according to his dad, Ronnie Callahan.)
“I trained him earlier, but he lost interest for a while,” said the senior Callahan, who played basketball for Tilden High School. “Antonio has blossomed under Coach Wilder. He was a shy kid, but stepped up while playing with kids who were older,” he said.
Even though the tournament win that qualified the team came so close to the tournament date, Wilder still hopes to collect the money in time. “I had to incorporate, and we’re working on the paperwork to get “501-c-3” non-profit status,” he said.
Those interested in helping out can call him at 646-409-3551 or by email at [email protected]. Wilder said that right now he can only afford a “virtual office,” so the mailing address is his home at 518 Beach 65th Street in Arverne, NY 11692.
After running a couple of nearby basketball tournaments, Wilder is hoping to find a home for a regular tournament in Queens.
“We’re organizing a ‘Love, Peace and Unity Tournament’ in Inwood Terrace Park,” he said. “It’s sounds a little flowery, but with the recent upsurge in violence we’re trying to send a message,” he said.
“The tournament is for kids who may not have a real future in basketball - we just want them to have a future.”

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