MOULTRIE -- Seth Berl says there are three ways to operate a youth all-star basketball team: it can play to have fun, to win or to to try to earn college scholarships for its players.
Berl, the Moultrie physician who has coached the Georgia Hawks traveling teams for 12 years, says he chooses his teams, and the tournaments they play in, so that the players have the best opportunity to earn scholarships to play at the next level.
And while his teams have won just one tournament over the years, 43 of his players have earned scholarships to play athletically in college.
Two of the Georgia Hawks most notable alumni are Kyle Davis, who played at Auburn and was drafted by the New Jersey Nets, and Chris Daniels, who started at Georgia and is currently playing professionally in Europe.
Four members of last year's team earned scholarships. Charles Jackson, a 6-foot-8, 265-pounder from Tri-County, is heading to Illinois. Rashaad Singletary, a 7-footer from Graceville High in Chipley, Fla., has committed to Georgia.
Crisp County's Lewis Clinch will take his talents to Georgia Tech. And Westover's Sean Keaton has committed to East Tennessee State.
Not all of the Hawks who have signed have gone on to Division I programs.
Players have performed at programs such as North Georgia, Georgia Southern, Gardner-Webb, Austin Peay and others.
And not all of the former Hawks have played at the next level on the basketball court.
University of Georgia football standouts Fred Gibson and Leonard Pope played their AAU and invitational tournament basketball for Berl and his Hawks.
Preston Pannell also played football briefly at Georgia before an injury ended his football career. And Cordele's Jamal Jackson signed to play football at Kentucky.
Those willing to come to Moultrie's Willie J. Williams Middle School gymnasium for Saturday practices, to abide by Berl's strict code of social and academic conduct and to travel around the Southeast to some of the top invitational tournaments in the country stand an excellent chance of catching the eye of a college coach.
"I know what I do works," Berl said. "It's just finding kids who are motivated.
"The kids I have are all highly motivated to do well in basketball."
With his most recent senior team having moved on, Berl is building another group of young teams. He is working with three groups of Hawks, two of which are 14-and-unders. The other is a 15-and-under team.
The teams include 33 players. Only two - Berl's third and youngest son Brian and Monti Thompson - are from Colquitt County.
Five others - John Torell, Ricky Pierce, Anthony Bryant, Tay Mallory and Michael Fowler - are from Tift County. Jim Torell, the Tift County seventh-grade boys basketball coach, serves as Berl's assistant.
The rest are from the South Georgia-North Florida area. And their parents often drive them to Moultrie for the practices, which often last as long as three hours, and then sit in the stands and watch.
Berl has always had a strict set of rules for his players, but this year, borrowing from the popular film "Coach Carter," he has had his players sign a contract with him.
It states that the team's goal is for the players to get to college by any means possible.
The player's responsibilities are listed, including doing their best in school; their obligations to the team, including making all practices and being on time; and Berl's "rules of the road," covering behavior when the team travels to tournaments.
The agreement also lists what the player can expect from his coach.
"We both sign the contract," Berl said. "And the parents really like it. The parents have been real supportive of it."
The Hawks will go to their first tournament of the season this weekend in Macon. Also on the schedule are trips to the prestigious Bob Gibbons Invitational, a July visit to a top invitational in Louisville, Ky., and a tournament played at venues in North Carolina, including the Dean Smith Center, more commonly known among basketball fanatics as "the Dean Dome," at the University of North Carolina.
Also planned are trips to the state AAU tournament and to an invitational in Atlanta sponsored by Adidas in July.
The Hawks don't go to tournaments during much of the summer, when players are attending camps with their high school teams.
"My goal has been to get invited to the invitationals," said Berl, noting that those are where college coaches go to look for up-and-coming talent.
Berl said it took seven years for his team to become established enough to get an invitation to the Bob Gibbons tournament.
Now, he and his teams are well-known to college coaches and recruiters all over the country.
Berl says it takes about $12,000 to operate his program each year. The biggest cost is entering his team in the tournaments and providing transportation, rooms and meals for the players.
Often parents take players and that helps. But often, the team pays for players' lodging and meals.
Since being established 12 years ago, the Hawks have been funded primarily by donations from Colquitt County businesses and individuals, even though many of its players have come from outside Colquitt County.
"The support we've received has always been good," Berl said.
Berl sends out letters to previous contributors and is always looking for new supporters.
"We liked to have enough money to also sends kids to camps," he said.
Berl is a believer that athletics can spur youngsters to perform better in the classroom and set their sights on, and perhaps win, a college scholarship.
And for the players such as the Hawks, the chance to travel, to play in some of the top gyms in the country and to compete against other top young players can be great motivators, Berl said.