Caruthers' AAU basketball program builds champions

Last season, the Caruthers girls' basketball team won their first ever state championship.

With last year's success now just a memory, it's back to the basics for the Blue Raiders.

Entering her tenth year as the director of Caruthers AAU girls' program, Anna Almeida has overseen a massive change.

"I started where I was the only coach, I coached four teams every single weekend and I was gone all the time. Now we have ten coaches," Almeida says.

The program has grown from just two youth teams to now more than 100 athletes from kindergarten up to the high school level.

Morgan Trigueiro, a freshman on the varsity team, is one of those who have gone through this youth system.

"It was my whole life. I felt like I had something to work for and do. I wasn't just being lazy at home," says Trigueiro.

Then there's Nicole Pedersen, who played for Almeida and now has a daughter doing the same.

"I didn't start playing basketball till I was in high school so for my daughter to already start playing - she's five - to see how good she's going to become in middle school, high school, is amazing," Pederson says.

Adds Almeida: "The fun part is when you get girls who come to high school that already somewhat have an idea of the system, somewhat know how to play basketball. You get the chance to teach them more and grow their knowledge of basketball. The payoff is having kids who actually know what they're doing now because they've been doing it for so long."

Last year's great shooting at state was thanks in part to a new shot machine for that AAU program.

As the varsity girls try to make another run at state this year, Coach Almeida encourages her players to be good role models.

"When I was little I always looked up to the high school girls. All these little girls are coming up to us after our practice, telling us, 'Good job'. They're coming to our games. It just makes me want to work harder for them," says Trigueiro.
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