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Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010 07:53 am

HOOPS HELPER

Abe Lincoln may be Springfield’s most famous former resident, but Andre Iguodala has Lincoln beat in height. At 6 feet 6 inches, the Lanphier High School grad and NBA pro for the Philadelphia 76ers has two inches on old Abe, and he even has a basketball team named after him here in the capital city.

AI9 Elite is a group of 10 Springfield youngsters around 11 years old who play some mean hoops all over Illinois and neighboring states, coached by 33-year-old Springfield native Courtland Walton. The team, named after Iguodala’s initials and his jersey number, recently won second place nationwide for their age group in the United States Specialty Sports Association championships, as well as  sixth place in their age group nationwide in the Amateur Athletic Union championships. Walton has coached the team since the boys were just four years old, and he says they learn about hard work, discipline, commitment and leadership – as well as the basketball fundamentals.

Though the team is sponsored by Springfield restaurateur Jimmy Oh, Walton says donations to help the team expand can be given to The Future of Our Youth Foundation at Sangamon Schools Credit Union, 1420 S. Eighth St. in Springfield. For more information, e-mail Walton at courtlandwalton@yahoo.com.
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