Sago Tribute Basketball Team Goes to Finals

The West Virginia Miners youth basketball team was formed two months after the Sago Mine disaster, in tribute to 14 miners who died this year. This week, the team is set to play in the Amateur Athletic Union championship in Florida. Coach Shannon Mealer and player Bo King talk to Noah Adams.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Noah Adams. Among the contenders at this weeks Amateur Athletic Unions National Basketball Championships in Orlando, Florida, is a team called the West Virginia Miners. It's a new team that was formed as a tribute to 14 West Virginians who died in mining accidents earlier this year.

Twelve of the players wear the name of one of the men who died in the Sago Mine disaster on his jersey. Two team members wear the name of miners who died in another accident also in January. Joining me from Orlando is the coach of the Miners, Shannon Mealier. Welcome, coach.

Mr. SHANNON MEALIER (Coach): Hello, how are you doing today, sir?

ADAMS: Coach Mealer, how did this idea of forming in a tribute, in a tribute, as a memorial in a way, come about?

Mr. MEALER: Well, as you know, we had a tremendous tragedy earlier this part in the year in our state. We had fourteen miners who had passed away in the Sago mine and Upshire County mines. And basically what we wanted to do was showcase not only our guys, but leave something positive for our kids and our states to represent. And just - you know, we just wanted something positive.

We felt that wearing of the lost ones would help not only our team, but you know, help the memories of the lost ones. We've had the miners families come out to those games and support each one of our players. And it just been a tremendous experience, and we just had no idea that it would go this far.

ADAMS: How long has the team been together?

Mr. MEALER: The team was formulated early March, so the success we've had in such little bit of time has been phenomenal.

ADAMS: I understand that you have Bo King, one of your players, there. Will you give him the telephone so we can talk to him?

Mr. MEALER: Oh yes, I would love to.

Mr. BO KING (Player): Hello.

ADAMS: Hi Mr. King, it's Noah Adams calling from Culver City, California.

Mr. KING: How are you doing, Mr. Adams?

ADAMS: I'm fine, I appreciate you taking time to talk to us. When you first head about this idea of a team that would be a tribute team in a way for the miners who died, and you would wear names on your jerseys, what you'd think?

Mr. KING: I was thrilled, because I knew this would be fun and a great experience for me, my family and just for West Virginia.

ADAMS: What name do you have on your jersey?

Mr. KING: I have Terry Helms on my jersey.

ADAMS: So you have Terry Helms. Where on your jersey is it?

Mr. KING: Right above my heart.

ADAMS: And is your own name on the back of your jersey?

Mr. KING: Yes, my name is on the back of our jersey, but our coach has emphasized how important the names on the front is - than the names on the back.

ADAMS: Do other players - have they asked you about the name of the miners?

Mr. KING: Yes, they ask us all the time, their always like why are your names on the front of you-all's jerseys. And we're like these aren't the names of our jerseys. Then we have to explain to them what happened in West Virginia, and how it was a tragedy and what we're doing to bring something positive out of this situation.

ADAMS: And does it feel any different playing in a way in honor of men who have fallen in the mines?

Mr. KING: Yes, because we know that we're not just playing for ourselves, we're representing something bigger than us. We're representing the miners, their family and our whole state of West Virginia.

ADAMS: What do you hope to do after high school?

Mr. KING: I want to play basketball for the rest of my life, but I know that's not possible, so I'll just have to see what happens.

ADAMS: Bo King is a player with the West Virginia Miners seventeen and under basketball team. He talked with us from Orlando Florida. We also spoke earlier with Coach Shannon Mealer. Thank you, Mr. King.

Mr. KING: Thank you very much.

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