Purple Aces AAU program sees a change at the top
August 13, 2018
Purple Aces AAU program sees a change at the top with Cordero Barkley taking reins
Scott Venci, Green Bay Press-GazettePublished 5:12 p.m. CT Aug. 13, 2018
GREEN BAY – Mark Demerath didn’t have a long-term plan when he created the Purple Aces AAU girls basketball program in 1994.
He started coaching his daughter’s eighth-grade team that year. Another season rolled by and then another until they all started to pile up. Last month, Demerath completed his 25th year.
“I just wanted to give the girls an opportunity to play some basketball and have some fun,” said Demerath, who coached at several levels in the Ashwaubenon school district for 15 years and was an assistant under former De Pere coach Dave Johnson when the Redbirds won the WIAA Division I state title in 2005. “I didn’t think it would get to what it is today.”
The Purple Aces have become one of the premier girls programs in Wisconsin, expanding to start at the fifth-grade level and going through high school.
The Purple Aces’ coaching staff doesn’t get paid. Demerath has gotten each to donate their time, doing it for the love of teaching basketball.
“It was pretty easy to get some quality coaches to come on board because the coaches we have just love the game,” Demerath said. “They just want to help kids to improve and get better at what they are doing.”
Still, times have changed. Green Bay Southwest's Jaddan Simmons (2) has gotten national exposure while playing for the Purple Aces AAU team. The junior point guard already has several offers from NCAA Division I schools.
It’s much busier and more focused, especially at the high school level, with girls who want to play college basketball. Back when he started, anybody who wanted to play could play for fun. It wasn’t a big deal if they had didn’t have college aspirations.
“Nowadays, it’s like, if your daughter is really not interested in playing college basketball, why would you spend the whole month of July going to these tournaments?” Demerath said. “The parents have to pay for their hotel, they have got to pay for their kid’s meal. It gets expensive.”
Demerath is an old-school coach. He likes the way it used to be a bit more than the way it is now.
Which is why it’s time for someone else to take over.
Demerath is sticking around, but he is handing over program director duties to former University of Wisconsin-Green Bay guard Cordero Barkley, who just completed his sixth season with the Purple Aces.
Demerath will serve as the assistant program director, but he felt it was the right time and presented a good opportunity to make the switch. He laughed when talking about how conversations with Barkley sometimes center around Demerath having to “get with the times.”
“Mark has been and will continue to be a great leader,” Barkley said. “He has been a tremendous mentor not only to me but so many others that have come through the program. Looking up and down the teams in our program, we have great coaches and basketball minds.”
Barkley, who will guide the 17U team in 2019, is one of several notable coaches Demerath has brought in. The list includes Barkley’s wife, Erin, who is Green Bay Southwest’s head coach and a former Phoenix player. She will run the 15U squad next season and is the Purple Aces' Youth Coordinator. The Aces also have former West De Pere assistant Ted Stefaniak (2018 17U Head Coach/High School Program Coordinator), who was recruited by and played for former New York Knicks great Willis Reed at Creighton University.
Green Bay Preble girls head coach Jim Doell (16U), former UWGB and Youngstown State assistant Liz Grzesk (seventh grade) and former Appleton East and UW-Stevens Point standout Amie Berggren (sixth grade) will all be part of the staff again in 2019, while Northeastern Wisconsin Lutheran boys coach Mark Meerstein is the program adviser.
The Purple Aces recently announced a multi-year partnership with Blue Star Basketball – the longest-running girls basketball exposure camps and events in the nation – which will give the program even more opportunities to get their players in front of college recruiters.
It also will allow its 17U team to travel to Washington, D.C. each year to compete in the USJN National Championships.
“We have a bunch of hard-working, high-character kids who are also good at basketball,” Barkley said. “The girls are hyper-competitive. Me, personally, I have sisters, so it’s kind of fun to be able share some life perspective that I couldn’t necessarily give my sisters growing up.
“Basketball is basketball. At the end of the day, the orange ball goes into a 10-foot goal. Our responsibility is teaching the girls how to be prepared for life as well as basketball. It’s a healthy culture, and it’s a fun space to be in with kids that are talented, but also enjoy and respect the process of improvement.”
The Purple Aces have several area players drawing interest from NCAA Division I schools.
Southwest junior point guard Jaddan Simmons has offers from UWGB, UW-Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Toledo, South Dakota, Houston, Marquette, Bradley, Nebraska, Arizona State and Utah.
Preble junior center-forward Kendall Renard has offers from IUPUI, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois and Illinois State.
Bay Port junior center Mady Draak and Appleton North junior forward-center Emma Erickson each have an offer from Northern Illinois – Draak also has one from DII Michigan Tech – while Kewaunee forward Sara Dax committed to Michigan Tech this month.
Things likely will get even bigger and better for the Purple Aces, as more players develop within the program or join the program.
“There is a lot of talent in the state on the girls side of basketball,” Barkley said. “You just look at the rosters. You are going to see Wisconsin talent. … Across the Midwest, people are recruiting Wisconsin kids hard because they know how to play basketball.
“There are a lot of really good clubs and good programs that are doing things the right way.”
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