Dreamchasing, “The Process – The Grind”
The Story of the 2024 11U Virginia Dreamchasers United 2017
AAU Division 1 National Champions By Maurice D. Hammond, Jr.
“Awwwww we came to play, Awwwww we came to play, Awwwww we came to play, the RIGHT WAY!” is the loud rally-cry chant many Virginia Dreamchasers’ fans belted out and sang in harmony as they exited the main court of the Nova Southeastern University Arena in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after winning the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Division 1 Boys Basketball 11U National Championship game in overtime 57-52 against the Minnesota Spartans. “They deserved it…They did it the right way” is what many onlookers said when speaking on the Virginia Dreamchasers. The Virginia Dreamchasers 2024 11U team is a team made up of kids from the Northern and Richmond, Virginia areas. On 21 July 2017 the entire team and 50 plus supporters from the Dreamchasers United organization boarded a plane at Dulles Airport to claim that national championship crown they allowed to slip away from them in 2016. They took 3rd place honors in the 2016 10U National Championship tournament in the summer of 2016.
It was a long and grueling season in 2017. After playing 79 games and posting a 74-5 record……..and to win it all was truly an exuberating feeling, said Trainer Cliff Gorham. Fueled by coming so close the year before (66-4 record), and losing in the 2016 AAU 10U D1 Basketball National Championship semi-final overtime game in Clarksville, Tennessee, the mission and vision of Coach Derrick “Donte” Henderson and his young Dreamchasers were not to be denied this year. They did it!! And the most gratifying part is how they did it. The GRIND!!
Head Coach Derrick “Donte” Henderson, a small town guy from Lancaster, Virginia had a plan for how he was going to get back to that national platform. It was a very demanding plan. And the demands expanded way beyond the basketball court. Whether grinding in the ‘lab” or competing in a tournament, his demands were the same. Whether you are 9 years old or 11 years old, expectations are the same. You must be disciplined and play the game the right way. You must Buy-In!
Coach Donte’s regimented style of coaching is no secret. His military background coupled with the lessons he learned playing the game at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA has provided him many tools of the trade. Perhaps one of his biggest attributes is his ability to connect and get so much out of his players, coaches and parents alike. Coach Donte’ realized he could not do it alone, and he put a lot his stock into the strong arms of his assistants Willie Jennings – Hype Man/Master Drill Sergeant, Maurice Hammond – General Manager, Greg Turner – Organizer, Cliff Gorham – Trainer, and Coach Tajama Ngongba – Consultant. Each assistant comes with that military-like disciplined approach, and a higher demand for excellence.
This 2024 roster of eleven disciplined players with a higher learning student/athlete approach have so many reasons to hold their heads high. And it’s much bigger than the National Championship, and the combined 140 wins over the past two seasons; it’s the “PROCESS”, the experience of the process. The process of competing within and staying committed to the daily grind to get better as a team…….. Push-ups, pull-ups, burppies, sit-ups, towel drills, vertimax strength and conditioning, track work, running the bleacher steps, power sprints, shooting drills, defensive drills, rebounding drills, dietary rules, play book study, the buddy-call plan, boot camp two and three-a-day sessions…..Accountability to your teammates…..These are but a few of the demands placed on these 11 year old boys. “The GRIND.” They bought in!! They did it the right way!!!
As the rapper Meek Mill says in his latest release, “We eat the Dream, We sleep the Dream, and We live the Dream”. Dreamchasers Production Company Released, summer 2017. The 2024 Dreamchasers United team is the epitome of that lyrical message by Meek Mills. They are:
#0 Jeremiah Gorham – Bristow, Virginia
#1 Patrick Ngongba – Manassas, Virginia
#2 Corey Turner – Haymarket, Virginia
#3 Brandon Jennings – Prince Georges, Virginia
#5 Benjamin Hammond – Manassas, Virginia
#6 Donovan Richardson – Midlothian, Virginia
#22 Colby White – Buckingham, Virginia
#24 Troy Henderson – Chesterfield, Virginia
#30 Jeadon Harris – Triangle, Virginia
#35 Jacob Ross – Bristow, Virginia
#40 Isaiah Abraham – Gainesville, Virginia
This regional team amazingly is made up of 11 players from the same AAU district, the Virginia District. Although the distances from wince they come span many miles across the Northern Virginia Plains and the valleys of the Rappahannock, it is only through the commitment of their awesome Dreamchaser families is this vision even possible. The camaraderie and fellowship displayed by the Dreamchaser families is one aspect of Coach Donte’s organization he is most proud. A typical weekend of tournament play and lodging at a local hotel with the Dreamchasers families is always one to remember. The impressions they leave are lasting. And the tournament organizers, opposing team fans, and hotel staff is often compelled to join in the fun, and eager to invite the Dreamchasers back. The Dreamchasers know how to put the business of the “process” first and have good clean fun. Selection into the Dreamchaser family is a part of the process that is treated very seriously. Dreamchaser families are screened, recruited, and vetted more heavily than the players. “We recruit families, not players; this family culture is contagious, and it’s one of the pillars to our success. You will find the same thing when you visit the two 16U teams, the 13U team, the 12U team, and the 10U team, all very successful teams in their own right,” said Coach Donte’ as he stood tall and spoke proudly of his entire organization.
Perhaps it is the “GRIND”, the regimented style, the collective organizational structure, the vivid display of order, the family environment, the fans, the following, or the fact that all VA Dreamchasers teams play the game the right way…………… that attracted the likes of Mr. Gerrick Pinkney, Owner-CEO, Maryland Finest Youth Basketball, Incorporated. His investment and sponsorship of the 2024 DCU 11U Team has certainly assisted Coach Donte in achieving his season goals while also marketing the Maryland Finest brand. This partnership is a great story that highlights some of the goodness of youth travel sports today. Coach Donte has a larger vision of expanding the Dreamchaser culture across many more borders. The goodness of this vision is the potential for many more youth to be impacted by the “GRIND”- “Doing it the right Way”.
“Oh they are so disciplined. They are so respectful. They play like an older high school team. And they look so good!” These are some of the comments echoed in the many gymnasiums the Dreamchasers have displayed their talents over the last several months.
There are a few secrets Coach Donte refuse to reveal about what happens in the “lab”. One secret that he recently made public knowledge is the fact that they all are doing a phenomenal job in the classroom. The roster is filled will student athletes producing straight A’s and A/B honors in school. Coach Donte is well aware of the most important aspect of the “The Process”……”The Grind” in the classroom. Dreamchasers embrace “The PROCESS – The GRIND”. It makes it all that much more satisfying.
Footnotes: 2016-2017 Season (5) Losses
Team Loaded (6th Grade- Richmond, VA) – 2 losses
Team Durant (6th Grade- Upper Marlboro, MD) – 1 loss
Minnesota Spartans (5th Grade- St Paul, MN) - 1 loss
RM5 (5th Grade- Dallas, TX) - 1 loss
2015-2016 Season (4) Losses
Cap City Ballerz (5th Grade- Richmond, VA) – 1 loss
Baltimore Thrill – (4th Grade- Baltimore, MD) - 2 losses
Team Canada (5th Grade- Ontario, Canada) - 1 loss
You are looking at the new #1 class of 2024!