Travel Basketball Program Builds A Brand Of Winning In Wellington

Travel Basketball Program Builds A Brand Of Winning In Wellington

Since 2002, the Wellington Wolves Travel Basketball Association has been providing a top-quality boys basketball program. Then, five years ago, Javatis Midget’s daughter, Jahnae, got involved and her father began coaching her fifth-grade girls team.

The first couple of years, the Wolves only had that single girls team. However, with Midget’s help, the program began to expand and improve. This year, the fifth-grade girls team are proud U.S. Amateur National Champions.

“I got involved because my daughter was interested in recreational basketball and someone suggested we get into the travel league,” Midget said. “I had about seven years of experience coaching then.”

It was a challenge early on.

“Most of the girls were in the fourth grade, but it’s hard to find competition younger than fifth grade, so they played up,” Midget recalled. “The first few years were very, very rocky, then we got more young ladies involved, and they started playing at a higher level. There was a large commitment from the coaches and the parents and the players.”

Through this hard work, the girls travel basketball program began to grow steadily.

“We started to develop some talent and attract some talent that had been going to towns as far away as Miami and Daytona to play. We started winning a few games,” Midget said.

Most of the current team has been together two years. “The coaches have learned a bit more, and the girls started buying-in,” he said. “That first year, the official record was 22 wins and three losses. We played in three tournaments, and we won one. I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got something here.’”

Midget still coaches the fifth-grade team, and his younger daughter, Jayla, is on it. Jahnae now plays on the ninth-grade team.

“Last year, the older team came in second and the younger team came in third, but there seemed to be improvement in every game,” Midget said. “This year, we had a tryout process and took a couple of new girls, and both my fifth-grade and ninth-grade teams won state, and the fifth-graders went to Tennessee and won the nationals.

The fifth-grade girls team includes: Ja’Niah Suprius, Sophia Vasquez, Alanna Beckman, Jayla Midget, Kiersten Henley, Julia Vasquez, Aubrey Beckham, Karolina Ramirez and Sophia Kateris.

The ninth-grade girls team, which started out as Midget’s first team, includes: Tyler DeBose, Ashley Thornton, Franaja Williams, Aspen Johnson, Ja’Niyah Eggeletion, Jahnae Midget, Lynzie Smikle, Christell Mentor and Kaela Swick.

“For the first couple of years, there was only the one girls team in the entire program,” Midget said. “It was a boys organization, but I kept working, along with a few others, to get more girls playing in it to build the brand for girls teams in Wellington. Our teams have professional uniforms that are second to none. Each player has the same shoes, the same socks, so they look sharp and professional. We win and lose with class.”

Midget complimented all the other coaches. “They are doing a tremendous job in building the brand for girls basketball in Wellington,” he said. “Hopefully, the teams will do well and get some college scholarships to help the parents out.”

Last year, seven players in the league received scholarship offers.

Some 60 girls competed this year, with the ninth-graders competing this summer in Kentucky. The seventh-grade girls also won at state. Next year, the Wolves will field seven grade-level girls teams.

“That’s huge growth,” Midget said. “I’m proud to have had a little bit of something to do with that growth.”

The boys unit, which fields twice as many teams as the girls side, won three state championships this year for the fifth-grade, seventh-grade and ninth-grade boys teams, with the seventh-grade team also winning the U.S. Amateur National Championship.

The certifying entities organize tournaments and live periods to provide prime opportunities to play in front of coaches, evaluators and collegiate scouts under authorized conditions. Players and parents never know just who might be watching.

Some of the organizations distinguish the different team groups based on age, grade level or year of graduation. “The groupings are all interchangeable,” Midget explained.

He believes that everything came together to create a year of championships.

“This year has been a phenomenal year for a lot of reasons, including that Wellington is a great place for kids to play, and the coaches treat them right,” Midget said. “It’s a good program with a really great president.”

That president is Chris Fratalia, who said that the league had 19 teams this year with more than 225 boys and girls participating in the Wellington Wolves program.

“It was established with the help of former Mayor Bob Margolis, who still acts as an advisor today, and it has an interlocal agreement to be the official basketball supplier for the village,” Fratalia said.

It also has the permission of the school district to use the high school and middle school courts, as well as the village’s basketball facilities. “That keeps costs down because we don’t have to pay gym fees,” Fratalia explained.

The athletes are able to learn life lessons through the program.

“There are 37 trained volunteer coaches. Most are current high school or assistant coaches and some college staff, but it’s not just about competing in basketball. We hire Perseverance Training every year. They have professional coaches,” Fratalia said. “We teach the kids, who do all their playing in indoor, air-conditioned gyms, about [everything from] fundamental ball handling, to a strong work ethic to achieve results, all the way to decision-making skills.”

Fratalia said that the association will be adding a “Council of Dads,” inspired by the book of the same name by Bruce Feiler.

“Rolling out in August, the association’s own council of 13 local businessmen have little interest in basketball but are key people who have a very strong interest in helping kids,” Fratalia explained. “The council will advise and mentor players on the SAT and ACT [tests], scholarships, and Sylvan and Huntington for tutoring.”

Participants learn how to be the best basketball player they can be, as well as get some lessons in how to be the best student, best athlete and best person they can be.

Of course, the Wellington Wolves Travel Basketball Association’s comprehensive campaign centers around youth basketball. It opens doors by providing players entrance to top tournaments.

At one annual event, about 1,000 college coaches and scouts watch some 9,000 student-athletes compete. “It doesn’t get much bigger than that,” Midget said.

For more information about the league, visit