Starting next school year, Logan County's top seventh- and eighth-grade basketball players will be on a unified team instead of playing for their respective middle schools.

The five county middle schools will continue to have boys and girls basketball teams, and a county tournament, but children who play for the combined "district basketball team" will only play for that team.

Logan County High School athletic director Greg Howard announced the changes on Wednesday.

"Our goal is to continually provide the best opportunities for our students," Howard said. "With this configuration, even more students will have the opportunity to participate in this sport."

Howard said that most of the feedback he immediately received was positive.

"I have heard a lot more positive comments than negative," he said. "I think everybody is seeing the need to do this now."

For some time now, Logan County has been the only school in the region that did not have a combined middle school basketball team and that has held back the progress of the high school team at various times throughout the years.

Howard said that this first year of the Logan County middle school team will be one of transition.

"We're just going to see how it works and then if we need to make some tweaks to it, we will," Howard said.

Next fall seventh and eighth-grade boys and girls will try out for the middle school teams. The plan is two have two boys teams and two girls teams - one for seventh graders and one for eighth graders. The seventh-grade team will be made up of strictly seventh graders and the eighth-grade team will be only eighth graders.

Those teams will play a full schedule from approximately November through February.

"Obviously the players that don't make the district team, they can go back and try out for their middle school team," Howard said.

Fifth and sixth-grade students can also still play for the middle school teams.

The individual middle school teams will play a pared-down schedule.

"They will only be playing each other next year," Howard said.

The middle school tournament will also be moved up and that season will end earlier, likely sometime in December.

"We're still trying to figure out exactly what the middle school schedules will look like," Howard said.

After the completion of the middle school tournament, those coaches will continue to work with the players in a Logan County junior pro league, which will likely start up some time after Christmas.

"The junior pro league will rotate around to the various middle school gyms," Howard said. "That way, we will keep our middle school coaches employed during that time."

The new "district teams" will have two boys coaches and two girls coaches. There will be a head coach who will be in charge of both the eighth and seventh-grade teams, and an assistant.

Howard said that he also plans on inviting the various middle school cheerleaders to come out and cheer for both the Logan County middle school football team and the new LCMS basketball teams next year.