Swarm turn slow start into successful season
SIKESTON -- When the SEMO Swarm started to prepare for their first summer in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) one of their goals was to put Southeast Missouri basketball on the map.
It's safe to say after spending the past few months racking up wins in nationally recognized tournaments that their mission has been a success.
"We had a rough start for the first tournament or two," Swarm coach Heath McGill said of the season. "Then we got it together and we won the Best Buy Invitational in Cincinnati, our district tournament and just competed in the Disney Classic down in Orlando and took fourth.
"The kids have come a long way in the short time we've had them."
The Swarm boast a 'who's who' roster of talent from the Bootheel, including New Madrid County Central's Willie Jimerson and Charleston's own Delficko Bogan
Others from the region include Oak Ridge's Ryan Below, Jackson's Karson King, Cape Central's Jamal Cox and Advance's Lane Below.
As McGill said the season certainly didn't start how the Swarm would have liked it, thanks to a 2-3 finish at their first tournament of the season, the Gateway Shootout. By the end of their second tournament, Real Deal at the Rock, they held a 3-6 record.
Picking up steam, however, they came back to sweep all four games at the second annual Best Buy National Tournament to earn the championship and their first trophy.
A big part of the success in Cincinnati has to be attributed to King, who earned the tournament's MVP award while Jimerson earned the Mr. Hustle Award in the same tournament.
Following that, the Swarm won the Ozark District Tournament while pushing the winning streak to seven. It was against Gateway, who had already beaten them once this season, that the Swarm secured the district title.
"Beating Gateway on their home court in front of their home crowd was big for us," McGill said, who's team is currently 12-7.
It was the just a few weeks later, in late May, that people started to take notice, according to McGill. That's when the Swarm shook off an early loss at the Disney Classic by coming back to win two straight games and fourth place in the tournament in the process.
"We're down in Orlando in the third game we were playing and you could start to see other teams file in to watch us play," McGill said. "They were saying, 'hey there's the team from Southeast Missouri'. We could hear that when we were leaving.
"From a coaching standpoint we've been trying to put this on the map for AAU. Driving 16 hours away and having other clubs who have been there before coming to watch you play, that was pretty cool."
Though the Swarm will take most of the month of June off to allow kids to participate in the Rib City Shootout and team camps, their season is far from over. At the end of June the Swarm will pick back up with a one day tournament at Southern Illinois University before taking part in the Mullen's High Profile Tournament in St. Louis starting July 24th.
This will easily be one of the biggest weekend's of the summer for the Swarm as more than 400 college coaches, ranging from Division-I down to JUCO, will be expected to attend.
"There are only 32 teams in the nation that have been invited to this tournament and we're one of the 32." said McGill of the tournament.
A week later, July 17-21, the Swarm will be in Eddie Ford's Kentucky Hoopfest, but besides that, McGill said the team can be pretty choosey in where they want to play.
"We're actually in the driver's seat and we're picking now where we want to go," McGill said. "We're just trying to narrow it down to what we want to do.
"We haven't been out West yet and won't this year, but we've went to Cincinnati and we might go to Chicago. We've already hit St. Louis so we're not going there except for Mullins with all the college coaches there."