The two biggest club teams in the Tennessee region have merged, prompting some to call it a “stranglehold” on club basketball in the region.
Tennessee Flight in Washington D.C. By Kenny Kallina
National Director of Scouting
Posted Feb 10, 2009
The 2008 Nike National Champion Tennessee Flight and Tennessee Team Pride have merged to put a strangle hold on the club basketball scene in Tennessee. The Flight who have been existence in one form or another for the past twenty years have been led by the Insell family which is synonymous with basketball in the Volunteer state.
The Flight are currently led by Tom Insell the son of high school coaching legend Rick Insell who is currently the head coach at Middle Tennessee State University. Since being hired at Middle Tennessee State, Insell has won two Sun Belt Championships in three seasons and placed two players in the WNBA.
After Rick Insell took the Middle Tennessee State job the Flight (formerly known as Shelbyville Sports Shop) were then taken over by Matt Insell who spent one season as the Director of Basketball Operations at Louisiana Tech before landing as an assistant at the University of Kentucky. Once Matt and Rick were at the college level, the current director of the Flight, Tom, son of Rick and brother of Matt, took over.
While the Flight had dominated club basketball in the South for decades under Rick and Matt Insell, one championship had always evaded them until 2008, the Nike National Championship. “Winning Nike Nationals was our goal the entire season and we were proud to achieve it for the state of Tennessee and for Nike,” said Tom Insell. “Even though my brother and father were not on the bench at Nike Nationals, we all won it for them and the time and effort they put in over there years to create the Flight program.”
According to a joint press release, the Flight and Pride have had over 30 athletes sign grant-in-aid scholarships in the class of 2009. This season the Flight and Pride plan to host the Showtime Shootout, Southeast Challenge, and the Battle in the Boro.
Tennessee Team Pride has been ranked in the top 10 AAU Clubs since 2004 and has won two AAU National Titles in the last three years. Some of the alumni from the programs include Alysha Clark (Middle Tennessee State); Jasmine Hassell (Georgia); Glory Johnson (Tennessee); Jasmine James (Georgia); and Faith Dupree (Tennessee).
“We really wanted to work together and unify the state on the club basketball scene in the best interest of all parties” said Insell. While this merger does not come out of necessity, like the merger in New York this past week, it may not have a significant impact on this club basketball season at the highest levels but will significantly affect the future of club basketball in several ways.
Tennessee Team Pride the past few years has had some of the top young teams in the country and their development along with the Flight’s connections around the South will be a big time partnership to create dominant teams in the future. Secondly, it is a big win for Nike who had missed out on players like Glory Johnson because of the Pride’s original affiliation with Adidas and Mike White.
For Adidas and White this hurts because it is one fewer team regionally they will get at their exposure events. With these two teams working together it leaves teams like Memphis Elite and the Memphis Bobcats on an island of their own now.
The Flight returns national elite 2010 players Valencia McFarland of Mississippi who has already committed to Ole Miss and LaQuinta Jefferson of LaVergne, Tennessee. Along with Jefferson and McFarland the Flight are on the market coast to coast for some of the top talent in the country and it would not be surprising to anyone if they take the Nike National Crown again.
“Playing with the Flight changed my recruiting 100%; it was a great experience playing for Coach Insell and I enjoyed playing with the players on the Flight” said former Flight player Ashley Jones who left the Nike Orlando Comets Red last spring to join the Flight. Jones will be attending Mississippi State University on a full scholarship next year; “It is tough to compare any program in the country to the Flight because of their history and the things they can do for their players.”
Obviously Tennessee Team Pride will begin to reap those benefits this travel season and this merger will sustain both programs for some time to come. Tom Insell summed it up pretty well: “I have always respected and admired the program Team Pride has run. I am very excited to stop competing with them and start working with them this summer.”