Successful start for Billups' basketball academy

Two youth teams qualify for AAU national tournament

Championships are nothing new to Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups.

The Denver native won two state titles at George Washington High School and added an NBA crown in 2004.

That track record of success is already carrying over to his newly formed youth basketball program.

Less than three months removed from its inception, the Chauncey Billups Elite Basketball Academy captured titles in the sixth- and eighth-grade divisions of the AAU Super Regional Tournament over Memorial Day Weekend.

Facing opponents from California, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Utah and Washington, the Billups Academy teams qualified for their respective AAU National Tournaments next month.

“I didn’t know it would happen this fast, but with the talent that we have, I knew that we would be dominant around here,” Billups said. “But I didn’t know we would fare this great in the eighth-grade division and basically blow out every team that was here from Oakland to Kansas City to Salt Lake City. The sixth-grade group was great as well. I’m a little surprised, but excited as well.”

Billups, along with former University of Colorado teammate Ronnie DeGray and former CU football player Elton Davis, launched the academy in March with the intent of developing the state’s top young players and helping them succeed on a national level. Since 2002, only about a dozen Colorado high school players have received basketball scholarships at major-conference universities.

“My vision and my goal is three or four years from now when my eighth-grade guys are juniors in high school, when they go out to national tournaments in the summer time, they are all being heavily recruited,” Billups said.

“I’m trying to just gain some respect in the state for basketball. These guys are really good. I think they can change the respect factor a little bit. Maybe one day I’ll be sitting back and watching five or six of them playing in March Madness. That’s all I really want.”

Though the Nuggets’ season ended earlier than Billups had hoped, it enabled him to attend practices and workouts leading up to the Super Regional tournament, which took place at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden and the University of Denver.

“We have a great staff and great coaches,” said DeGray, the Academy’s CEO. “With Chauncey coming around and giving kids offensive and defensive tidbits, that has helped a whole lot, as well.”

Even with the guidance of a five-time NBA All-Star, no one expected success so soon.

“We dreamed about doing this over a year ago, but we put the teams together in April,” DeGray said. “For them to be clicking as fast as they have has been unbelievable.”

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