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Wilson native Rod Bridgers has built quite a Twitter following over the years with his observations on youth basketball talent around the state and especially in eastern North Carolina.
In addition, he and fellow Wilsonian M.J. Harris co-founded Elite 50 Middle School Hoops, which puts on camps and tournaments to give aspiring middle school players more exposure.
Now the 2002 Hunt High graduate and Garner resident is picking up his game with the debut of The New South Podcast on YouTube and iTunes, along with co-host Webb Wellman.
Wellman, a Kinston native, has been part of Ball is Life, an immensely popular website that features videos of high school and college basketball highlights, for several years. Wellman also works for Team Wall, the nonprofit basketball organization founded and funded by Raleigh native and Washington Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.
“It really started when we were kicking around the idea about a year ago but we just kind of laughed it off. But one day he said, ‘Let’s get it started,’” said Bridgers.
The podcast, which debuted Jan. 15 and just posted its fifth episode, is a mix of information and entertainment with basketball as the focus. Much of the discussion centers around mixtapes, or highlight clips, of players, past, present and future.
“The biggest thing is that we just want to kids in North Carolina exposure on a national platform and that’s why we do our Elite 50 Middle School basketball camp — to get kids exposure,” Bridgers said.
While Bridgers’ infectious grin and jovial demeanor are a hallmark of the podcasts, the former Fike and Hunt player is serious about giving younger players, especially ones from Wilson, greater exposure.
Elite 50 just held a camp at Hunt last weekend and a showcase tournament in Raleigh is planned for May.
“We wanted these kids to see that for the next four years of high schools, they’re going to be playing in front of all these scouts. So we just wanted to give them an early look,” he said.
Bridgers reminded that he and Harris always tell their Elite 50 players to balance their obsession with hoops with their studies as well as “a hobby outside of basketball that takes you away from the sport, physically and mentally.”
“If you play hard and study hard and do the right things, the sky’s the limit,” he said.
NCHSAA BRACKETS COMING
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association is scheduled to unveil its girls and boys basketball playoff brackets Saturday.
The NCHSAA changed its seeding policy during its fall meeting in November so that teams are seeded by conference finish, instead of overall record or their MaxPreps.com ranking. The change came about due to complaints of some football teams with lower rankings but winning records that didn’t make the playoffs. So, while the top two teams from each conference will get automatic bids, the Nos. 3 and 4 teams will also more than likely earn playoff berths, regardless of their overall record, over fifth-place teams.
Expect a fair amount of chaos Saturday when the brackets are released before they are finalized.
SPRING SPORTS ALMOST HERE
With spring seemingly just around the corner, the high school spring sports season is almost here as games are set to begin as early as Feb. 28.
Four staples highlight the spring calendar, beginning with the 14th annual Brittany T. Willis Memorial Scholarship Soccer Showcase on March 9 and 10. There are 16 games scheduled Friday, March 9, at Gillette Soccer Complex, two at Fike High and one at Hunt High, the first time the latter has been used as a venue for The Brittany. That will be followed by 32 games at Gillette and three at Fike on Saturday, for a total of 54 matches involving 85 teams, both records for The Brittany.
The Golden Leaf Invitational high school baseball tournament celebrates its fifth anniversary with more than 20 teams playing March 31, April 2-3, at Fleming Stadium, Fike, Hunt and Farmville Central, which will be the first time it has been a Golden Leaf venue.
The Wilson Tobs will host the first of their two Varsity Baseball Classics in Fleming Stadium on Friday and Saturday, March 23-24. There will be three games Friday followed by five on Saturday with the following matchups: Greenfield vs. Wilson Christian, Nash Central vs. North Lenoir, Hunt vs. South Johnston, Greenville Rose vs. Rosewood, C.B. Aycock vs. Hillsborough Orange, D.H. Conley vs. Cardinal Gibbons and Fike vs. Raleigh Sanderson.
A Junior Varsity Classic, set for April 13-14 in Fleming, will be followed by a second Varsity Classic on Saturday, April 21, pitting public school teams Bunn, Farmville Central and SouthWest Edgecombe against homeschool teams Wake County Homeschool, Southeastern Homeschool and the Raleigh Hawks, respectively.
For the first time since 2006, The Wilson Times Track Classic will be held at Southern Nash. The 26th running of the invitational track and field meet is set for Monday, April 16, starting at noon. Besides the host Firebirds, teams from Beddingfield, Fike, Hunt, Community Christian, Wilson Christian, Greene Central, C.B. Aycock, Nash Central, Kinston and Rosewood have been invited to participate.