Albany Goodlife semi-pro basketball team on a mission to help youth

The Goodlife's most recent game in Robert Cross Gym against Alabama.
The Goodlife's most recent game in Robert Cross Gym against Alabama.(WALB)
Published: Jan. 22, 2023 at 9:54 AM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - A new semi-pro basketball team wants to introduce themselves to the community.

The team is based in Albany and is appropriately named the Goodlife Basketball Club. They are a part PBA D-League team and are soon heading for the semi-finals.

PR Director Yaz Johnson said this organization is different from past attempts to bring a team to Albany.

“You can’t have a basketball team and want the community to participate, but you don’t participate with the community,” Johnson said.

The Albany Sharp Shooters were the last semi-pro team in Albany. That was more than a decade ago.

Johnson said you should expect to see players at schools, on the road cleaning the streets and at community events like parades. He says the players will inspire kids and create role models for them outside of the big leagues.

“Albany is known as a basketball city. The community will determine how long we stay.,” Johnson said.

Right now, the team plays their home games at Robert Cross Gymnasium, not the Albany Civic Center, which can seat 10,000 people. Johnson said while they work up to that, they are trying to pursue playing games at more schools.

“Every home game, we’ll have a different high school. Will have a game at Westover High School. Next home game at my Monroe, (then the) next home game we go to Dougherty,” Johnson said.

He said this idea could help their exposure, but it’s not set up yet. The team is also holding cheerleader tryouts that have been announced on their Facebook page. This is a way to get girls and women involved, according to Johnson.

Another way to connect with the youth is with kids already playing those sports. He says increased participation in sports helps young kids grow out of their shell and it also helps their basketball team grow. Many are growing across SWGA. The Georgia Heat only had two basketball teams last winter. This year, they have two teams for nearly every age group.

Earnest Christian, the president of the youth sports group, said the participation is growing with the kids, but the number of fans watching is also rebounding.

“The gym is full. Last year, we had a nice participation, But this year, we have kids and parents that are coming out supporting (us). The gym is packed every Saturday and that’s a good thing,” Christian said.

EJ Vereen, chief operating officer for the Albany YMCA, agrees that there has been a significant increase over the past year in youth sports.

“People are getting back into the routine. When they had COVID, people sat out. Now they’re starting to get back into it. And we hope each year it’s going to get better and we grow more,” Vereen said.

Christian calls his players the Hot Boys and Girls for a reason.

“It stands for ‘Heart Over Talent.’ We tried to present our year that you were going to have to work to get where you want to go. Just because you’re talented, that doesn’t mean anything. Basketball has always been an instrument that we used to get to the kids,” Christian said.

Both the Georgia Heat and Albany GoodLife are using basketball to make an impact in kids’ lives. The Georgia Heat is starting up their first tee-ball team.

Christian doesn’t have experience with it, but says coaches are eager to hop in and coach.

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