Members of the East Tampa Thunder Blue travel basketball team are proud of their recent summer success and are looking to earn national recognition as they grow together. First row (L – R) Camille Giardina, Sabrina Whiting, Ashley McWilliams. Second row (L – R) Coach Rob Walker, Maiya Trigg, Leah Ford, Kierra Haywood, Lauren Boerger, Peyton Walker, Amanda Melsoky, Coach Joe Cooper.
East Tampa Thunder Blue girls travel basketball team was pleased to claim a great deal of success for the 2012 season with a number of wins including a couple of prestigious summer tournament performances.
According to program head coach and director Rob Walker, solid fundamentals and great defense came to the forefront during the Florida Summer Invitational, AAU Super Showcase and the AAU National Championships, where the girls reached the Final Four of the 10th Grade Gold Bracket.
“This is huge for the program,” Walker said. “We were the only 10th grade team in Florida to make the Elite 8 in the highest bracket. The girls definitely responded and the fruits of their efforts reflected on the court.”
The program was established in late 2009 starting with one team of seven girls and has grown to six teams consisting of more than 60 girls ranging from fifth-11th grade.
The Thunder girls, the Tampa Titans (boys), the Elite Skills Academy and ETYBA 501(c)(3) all fall under one governing body, East Tampa Youth Basketball Association.
The start of the 2012 season was exciting, as several very talented players jointed the program. Walker believes the players would have likely considered going to another program out of the Tampa Bay area, was it not for the programs impressive growth and success.
“Practices this year were more demanding and expectations for players to work skill development on their own, attend camps and clinics and routinely condition and strength train was much higher,” he said.
Besides Walker, the players are led by William Ruffin, Joe Cooper, Maggie Hedley and Jason Ellis.
“Coach Cooper did a great job of implementing strategies that maximized the team’s strengths while targeting the opposing team’s weaknesses,” Walker added. “I can say that Thunder Blue, when on their game, was the best defensive team we saw all season.”
After transitioning from a travel program to an exposure program, East Tampa Thunder is now eying the Elite exposure scene in hopes of competing nationwide against the best programs.
“Our primary goal is to help our girls achieve college scholarships and competing in the toughest venues is the most valuable thing we can do to help in the college recruiting process for our girls” Walker said.
Next year the Thunder intends to prove that it is not only the premier program in the greater Tampa area, but one of the top programs in the state.
For more information about the East Tampa Thunder Travel Basketball Club, please visit or call Rob Walker at 662-9506.

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