Montez McCullough could be heard coming from half a block away.
"I've got about 18 to 20, I guess," McCullough said when he got to the Freedom Center gym and began pawing through the numerous gold medals pinging around his neck. "They're from AAU and YMCA ball."
He and the rest of the Rock Hill Elite have the chance to win a few more medals this weekend.
The Elite, a 12-under basketball team comprised of local players, is headed to the national AAU tournament in Virginia. The team leaves tonight with its first game set for 7 p.m. Friday.
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All goes well, and the Elite could return as champions after a grueling eight-game stretch. If not, they'll get at least four games and return seasoned and ready for next year.
"Last year we finished in the top 60 (out of 100)," coach Warren Vinson said. "Our goal this year is to go a little higher."
Vinson's squad took the state championship last year, but returned this year minus a few players. The Elite reloaded and finished runner-up in this year's state tournament, also finishing second in a Super Regional in Georgia.
The results got them another invitation to the national showcase. Ten players, four coaches and several family members will make the trip to hopefully see the Elite add to another impressive list of accomplishments.
The team posed with plaques and trophies, a banner commemorating its 2007 season hanging from one of the gym's balcony railings. Several players followed McCullough's lead, sporting all of their medals at once.
Vinson got involved with AAU ball because of his son, Warren, and his three assistant coaches also have sons on the Elite. They see it as good preparation for high school ball and also recognize how teaching a bunch of would-be rowdy pre-teens the game keeps them focused and away from other numerous distractions.
"We try to get kids who are known to have always be interested in basketball," said Vinson, a former college player at a Los Angeles junior college before he returned to the Carolinas. "We drill them and teach them and you can't underestimate how much they learn as sixth-graders -- they know everything but how to dunk."