A friendly face and a longtime staple in the Richmond County basketball scene affectionately known as “Coach,” Reader spends most of her time working with and developing the community’s youngsters.
If it’s not in the classroom as an employee with Richmond County Schools, or with the Lady Raider basketball team where she serves as an assistant coach, Reader can be found in a gym teaching the fundamentals of the sport and of life.
During the last couple of months, one of those places has been Falling Creek Park Gym in Rockingham, where Reader coordinates the Richmond Jammers Summer League.
The co-ed league has 28 teams and approximately 225 players playing games several nights a week. Players as young as four and five-year-olds compete, with seven different age groups ranging through elementary, middle and high school, as well as an adult league.
Reader started the Richmond Jammers AAU travel program in 2000, and has held the summer league the last 15 years. She says it’s a way to bring the community together through the sport, while also providing a productive environment.
“The purpose is to give the kids and the community something to do during summer break,” Reader said after a full slate of games on Thursday. “And it helps keep the kids off the streets and gives them a safe place to hang out and play basketball.
“It’s been great to return to the summer league after not having it last year,” she added. “It’s been packed in the gym every night and the participation has been really high. It’s a good family environment that people love and look forward to.”
Last August, the death of high school player and Richmond Jammer Jalen David “really bothered” Reader, which helped fuel her desire to make her programs provide a “safe and constructive activity” for the county’s youth.
Dexter Moseley (left) and Jamyaih Pettigrew (center) guard Amir Keane (right) during a summer league game on Thursday at Falling Creek Park Gym. (Kyle Pillar)
A 1998 graduate from Richmond Senior High School, Reader was a three-year varsity starter for the Lady Raiders. Her love for basketball began as a child when she would watch her uncles play and often join them, wanting to develop her craft just like them.
With the ambition to one day become a high school or college basketball coach, Reader earned a four-year scholarship to play at Johnson C. Smith University.
But a “derailment” landed her back in Richmond County after just one year, which led her to start the Jammers program in March 2000.
At the time, it was an unexpected bump in the road for Reader, but the return to her hometown has blossomed into a successful developmental league for Richmond County’s youth.
“I played travel basketball in Raleigh as a teenager with the Garner Flames and Garner Road Heat, and I saw firsthand the bigger stage of exposure that travel basketball puts players on,” Reader explained.
“I was offered numerous scholarships because of travel basketball and I wanted to give the kids in the Richmond County area who love basketball the same opportunities that I had. And for them to understand there is more than one way to make it out of the county.”
Prior to the hiatus in sports created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Reader and the Jammers had 10 teams (eight boys and two girls teams) ranging from third to 12th grade. Over the last couple of months, as North Carolina lifted restrictions, the Jammers fielded five boys teams and two girls teams.
“Our main goal is to get our players in the most competitive exposure environments for the opportunity to advance their talents,” Reader said. “We work as a feeder program to help prepare our players for the high school programs, as well as create opportunities at the collegiate level.”
Several former Jammers players like Patrick McLaughlin (Pitt Community College) and Nygie Stroman (Flight 22 Post-Grad) have found success after high school. Current rising sophomore Paul McNeil has already received two Division I offers.
Reader also offers individual skill training sessions as part of her “Nothing But Fundamentals” program. Helping bolster a player’s overall skill set and basketball IQ in practice and team settings, sessions are offered for beginning, intermediate and advanced players.
Taneika Reader keeps score during a game on Thursday, one of many things she does to coordinate the Richmond Jammers Summer League. (Kyle Pillar)
While her focus has been to help develop Richmond County’s basketball players, including her daughters Jayla McDougald (former three-year varsity starter at Richmond) and Jamyia Lindsey (rising freshman), Reader has also bettered herself the last couple of years.
This past winter, Reader graduated from Fayetteville State University with a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, completing a journey she started in 1998. While at JCSU, Reader was studying to become a health and physical education teacher, and two decades later, she’s seeing that dream come to fruition.
“I had many setbacks that caused this to be a long journey, but I am a firm believer in whatever you start you should always finish,” Reader smiled. “I wanted to prove to myself first, as well as my children and all the kids I coach, that no matter what it is you set out to do in life, you never give up.
“You may fall, but you get back up and keep getting back up until you reach whatever goals that you have set for yourself,” she continued. “It doesn’t matter if it takes you four years or 20 years, but believe in yourself and your dreams and nothing is impossible. I’m super proud of myself and I’m looking forward to where this journey leads me.”
One message she tells her players is that they can always learn from mistakes, but Reader added she’s trying to keep the from making some of the same mistakes she made.
As basketball and other sports return to a normal schedule amidst the restrictions put in place by the coronavirus, Reader’s mission to continue to help others isn’t slowing down.
When asked what’s most rewarding about being a coach and mentor, Reader explained it’s seeing kids of all ages succeed not only on the court, but in the classroom and in life.
“For over 21 years, we have given many young boys and girls a positive environment and kept a lot of our youth off the streets. This is what drives me to want to continue to work with our youth,” Reader said. “Not only do we help improve basketball skills, but we also help develop essential skills that are important throughout our lives.
“We teach discipline, leadership, accountability, respect, patience and friendship or family ties that help young boys and girls prioritize the things that are most important to them,” she added.
“The bond and connection that is formed with these kids is unbreakable and I love my Jammers family, past and present, and I thank everyone in the community like Teddy (Moseley) and Bootsy (Pettigrew), who have continuously supported the program over the years.”