Mike Brennan has lofty ambitions for the new Southwest Select basketball team. The program, which launched last month, is the latest effort for a year-round travel basketball program in the Four Corners.
Brennan, originally from Texas, moved to Durango in January. To his surprise, he found that even in an area with a strong basketball tradition, there are no full-time travel programs available for student-athletes.
He met with area college and high school coaches and got the ball rolling. He is now anticipating for the first games to tip off in January 2020. Southwest Select will compete in the Mid America Youth Basketball league, similar to Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
“My mission is to produce honest, compassionate and upstanding young men and women through the sport of basketball,” Brennan said. “We actually care more about them as people and individuals than we do about their overall skills, but we know they’re trying to get better at the sport. We’re just trying to incorporate life lessons, as well.”
The program, which is open to sixth through 11th graders, recently held its first tryouts for middle schoolers last weekend at Durango High School. Brennan said 40 players came out from Bayfield, Cortez, Durango and but has also heard from parents in Dolores, Farmington and Mancos.
The cost is $500 per player per season, which will cover the cost of gear. Brennan said keeping the cost low will provide the program to attend more tournaments.
He added that the high school level will begin one week after respective area teams’ seasons end, and will practice twice a week in the offseason.
“We’ve got 10 to 20 tournaments lined up, and every single penny will be put back into the Southwest Select program,” Brennan said. “What we look at from our perspective is what the kids need. We’ve got to get them suited and booted, travel gear, and each kid once they make the team will get their own personal wristband with their name and number. We’ll also have player boards like helmets in college football. They’ll get decals for hustle plays, and things like that. We take these little steps to personalize it.”
The idea for bringing a full-time travel program has been a longtime goal of area coaches. Once Brennan arrived in Durango, he had coaches on board almost instantly. Durango High School head coaches Alan Batiste and Tim Fitzpatrick are co-founders, alongside Fort Lewis College women’s basketball coach Orlando Griego, who will be able to work with middle school players. The search for coaches is underway, and Brennan said between 10 to 20 parents have expressed interest.
For Batiste, it’s an option for young players to develop that had previously not been available.
“In the past, you’ve always had that great mom or dad who would run with it and coach from third grade on,” Batiste said. “Establishing an organization, the kids can see the full structure where if they see a kid who’s really good a year behind them, it will motivate them to get their skills up, and things like that. I see it lasting. It’s something we always wanted to do, and we needed to find that one person to take on, and we found that in Mike.”
While he realizes plenty of players are active in other sports, such as Durango Youth Soccer Association or Four Corners Volleyball Club, Brennan believes Durango could become one of the hubs for basketball in the Southwest. Brennan’s future goal is to get Southwest Select on solid ground and expand to two more chapters, one in New Mexico and the other in his native Texas.
“This is something that we believe in,” Brennan said. “I think that the Four Corners is a great area for basketball, and we’re going to do everything we can to expand the game and make it as accessible for those that truly love the game as much as possible.”