Carolina Flames Will Feature Strong Combination Of Players For Upcoming 2022 Nike EYBL Season @GarnerFlames @TDNike @CarolinaGHoops

What started as a grassroots effort back in 1992, has grown into the equivalent of a well-manicured golf course that could rival any.

It all started at the Avery Street Recreation Center in Garner, N.C., an economically-challenged suburb of Raleigh. Looking for a way to kids out of trouble, the center started basketball programs for boys and girls.

At first, the program was named the Garner Flames. But, as time went on and success piled up, the Flames began drawing players from North Carolina and made the jump from an AAU team to the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, it was time to change the name.

These days, the team is called the Carolina Flames.

“We started with pretty humble beginnings,’’ Flames Director Arne Morris said. “We’ve grown from there and have been able to compete anywhere.’’

That’s a credit to Morris, who coaches the Flames 17-and-under girls team, and the players that have come through his program.

Just look back at the talent the Flames put together in the Class of 2014. Jamie Cherry went on to North Carolina and played abroad professionally. Kiara Leslie played at Maryland and North Carolina State and went on to the WNBA. Azura Stevens played at Duke and UConn and went on to the WNBA.

“All three of them lived within 10 minutes of each other in the Raleigh area,’’ Morris said.

But the Flames no longer are just a team from the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill areas.

“Historically, we have about four or five players from the Triangle,’’ Morris said. “We also draw from the Fayetteville area, Winston-Salem and Greensboro areas. And, every once in a while, we’ll draw a player from Charlotte. There is a lot of good basketball talent in this state.’’

And that will be on display with the Flames’ 17-and-under team this spring and summer. The team will feature a combination of players from the 2023 and ’24 classes that are potential Power 5 or mid-major recruits.

From the class of 2023, 6-foot wing Reychel Douglas (No. 184 on All-Star Girls Report’s rankings for her class), 5-6 point guard Sydney Barker (No. 199), 6-1 wing Madison Jordan, 6-1 power forward Darriona Howard and wing Kylah Silver are all drawing interest from recruiters, Morris said.

“Reychel is super smooth and already has a college body,’’ Morris said. “Sydney is our floor leader and she’s very vocal. Madison is very long and she can strong it from anywhere on the floor. Darriona plays hard around the rim and is the type of player that will do all the dirty work for you. Kylah had some problems with shin splints because she was playing basketball and volleyball. But that won’t be a problem in the future. She’s made her choice and is going strictly with basketball.’’

The Flames added two players from Charlotte, who will lead the Class of 2024, that are highly ranked.

Blanca Thomas, a 6-4 post player, is No. 4 in ASGR’s 2024 rankings.

“She had been pretty slim,’’ Morris said. “But she’s putting on muscle now and her skill set already was developed. She’s getting offers from everyone.’’

Mila Holloway, a 5-8 guard, is ranked No. 116.

“She’s super smooth,’’ Morris said. “She’s very explosive and she shoots it well.’’

The class is rounded out by another player who is ranked No. 33 in ASGR’s top 50. That’s 5-8 point guard Jayda Angel.

“She’ll be the backup to Sydney this year,’’ Morris said. “But it’s a great opportunity for her. She’s lightning in a bottle and she shoots it very well. She just needs to become a more vocal floor general and she can learn that from Sydney.’’