The Rockford Heat has produced more than 60 women's college basketball players as an elite AAU program, maintaining years of success as a destination for aspiring talent in our community.
It's a familiar refrain at practice.
"It was probably one of the best decisions I've made."
No matter the level of college hoops, the Heat are elite. Year after year, developing Rockford's on-court talent.
"Can we continue to help kids get to the next level?"
The answer is yes, with a homegrown family atmosphere, where no matter the age of the player, everyone is a teammate.
"They tell me how they experience it. They make it easier for me," says Mariah Hill of East
Teammates act as teachers, to their younger counterparts.
"They have a lot of potential, and they're all great," Hill adds.
The younger crowd sees their elders as on-court role models.
"They play high school ball. They work hard. They've earned their spots. Yeah, they've worked hard, so why not look up to them?" says Brooklyn Gray, a soon-to-be Auburn freshman.
When you talk about practice, it's a serious conversation.
"You work hard every single practice. Coach does not like us playing around a lot. We scrimmage each other and we just get better, every single day," Gray says.
"This eighth grade group we have right now hands down could be one of the best groups we've ever seen out of the Rockford area," says Heat coach John Penney.
In a climate of improper behavior to lure players to programs, the Heat stay true to their culture of setting their players up for success, the right way.
"When these athletes have bought in, they don't need politics, or problems or dirty tactics to highlight them," says Penney.
They're highlighting their community, as this part of Ilinois sends its players across the country to play at the collegiate level.
"They see a lot of talent in Rockford, they're glad to be able to recruit kids from out here, seeing how special we are and how good we can be," says Lutheran senior and California Baptist commit Madison Davis.
The Rockford Heat are elite, and show no signs of cooling down any time soon