Thursday, May 3, 2018

Basketball Atheist

Some believe. Belief requires faith. Faith is a complicated concept. The game of basketball is filled with players that are unfaithful and find it hard to believe in the notion of Greater. How did it come to this?

The story goes that there was war in heaven. The highest angel supposedly started feeling itself too much and rebelled against THE MOST HIGH. The highest angel was so convincing that it reportedly got one third of its ilk to rebel as well, they were expelled together to cause havoc and spread vanity, un-faithfulness and disbelief. And here we are!

 Hyperbole aside, in over a dozen years as a grassroots guy, I have seen the spread of the Basketball Atheist. The basketball atheist believes in self, attributing their success and survival to the evolution of their brilliance. They are what matters and the concept of team is a myth, only to be believed by those blinded by traditions and ignorant to the science of chasing stardom.

In a great broadcast by Bill Simmons featuring music industry heavyweight Scooter Braun, Braun went on to share an interesting story. To summarize it, he reached a personal financial goal that allowed him to live very comfortably and retire in his mid-20's. Upon reaching the goal, he called his father and boasted of his wealth. As he told his pops that he never had to work again, he went on to admit that he was not happy. His father told him to think back to his happiest moments over that past year. Braun sat still and reflected on doing charitable work for others. He called his father back and detailed that his most pleasurable moments in life have been centered around helping others. He profoundly asserted that people that serve others often are the happiest while those that are WORSHIPPED are depressed. He hypothesized that human beings are not meant to be worshipped and those that are worshipped, often live miserable lives.

Miserable describes the relationships that many players are having with their coaches. At every level of the game, players are not buying what coaches are selling. The why is too complicated for a blog written by a simple minded amateur but the increasing trend of self worship has surely something to do with the current condition.

"Pride comes before the fall" they say, or at least that is what James, the king, transcribed. Being an etymology buff, I was delighted to discover the word that James translated as "pride" can be also interpreted as "arrogance". That makes more sense. Arrogance comes before the fall!

Arrogant players that have read so many tweets and articles about themselves that they believe only in themselves. Arrogant parents that worship their kids instead of keeping them humble ensuring that they have the ability to remain faithful. Arrogant grassroots coaches that promote kids like rock stars to their detriment. Arrogant high school coaches that allow their players to work harder at the game than them. Arrogant college coaches that believe that their title and lofty position automatically earns them the loyalty of kids that they too have worshipped during the recruiting process. All this arrogance is not normal! Or is it?

If THE MOST HIGH allowed his creation to rebel by creating a hierarchical system based upon rankings, maybe it's inevitable that some fail to submit to the higher notion of team, culture, sacrifice and loyalty. Rankings, tweets, awards, invites, articles....... bonuses, better jobs, better players, contract extensions.......  all have helped create an environment that guarantees  a depression. Who is truly serving others and not being engulfed by self?

Scooter Braun was spot on, happy are those that humbly serve others. Depression is a state reserved for those that are self centered with no adherence to a higher goal. Like the architect of vanity, it is only a matter of time before they expel themselves from a paradise that they worked so hard to reach. That is if you believe in paradise.....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Daddy Ball - Bad for Business......Or is it?

My oldest daughter recently tweeted something positive about me. I appreciate her appreciation of me. I was made aware of a sub tweet and searched to find it myself. Sure enough, a young lady replied to my daughter's comment about me, her father. The response said, "it must be nice". Reading that punched me in the gut. I immediately felt guilty. I felt angry that my child was "bragging" about having a father she respected when so many others do not. My response to send out a tweet to shout out all the powerful young women being raised by single mothers. Like them, I too know what it feels like to think that "it must be nice". Then the thoughts turned to thanks for a mother who instilled the importance of being a father. Note, I did say my MOTHER taught my brothers and I the importance of being a FATHER. What she tried to instill but was unable to thoroughly complete was the need for elite discipline needed to achieve elite results.

On an unofficial  visit with my oldest to a championship program years ago, the head coach made a profound statement. " My first teams were made up of kids mostly from single parents. Now, almost all my team are kids raised by two (involved)parents." This coach has won championships, plural. He/she chose to make this comment while we discussed the discipline needed to win on an elite and consistent level. Again his/her comment took me back.

Early 90's and I dreamed of playing for Tark, RIP. The game I fell in love with started with the 1986 UNLV Runnin Rebels. By the early 90's, Tark was the coach for Fresno State and his son was coaching against me at a California junior college. Tark's son had a guard that was nice, we called him Rob K, now known globally as Sik Wit It from And 1 fame. Rob K, like me, was getting a little interest from Fresno  State at that time. The battle was on! Coming out of high school, I got buckets. A senior year average of 30 points a game gave me a little rep as a scorer but my jumper was streaky (what takes more basketball discipline than a pure jumper!). Fast forward to a conference battle against Rob K's squad led by Tark's son, my true colors came to light. The obvious scout on me was to give me the jumper, which Tark's son screamed the first time I touched the rock. Splash! The second time I touched it, he screamed the same thing but louder. Have Some!! Two more times and two more loud pronouncements to back off of me and make me shoot it. Both times, two more bombs from 3. On the last make, I turned around and mouthed, " Get your old a** out here and guard me since I can't shoot ". Stupid BOY! No discipline. No true toughness. No chance at Fresno State!

I am told that Daddy ball is such a hot topic among women's college basketball coaches. A bunch of us fathers manipulating and living the game through our daughters. When UConn hoisted yet another championship a few weeks ago, I saw how "accurate" this depiction may be.

That championship game between Notre Dame and Connecticut featured some players that have ultra involved fathers. One father basically changed the landscape of club basketball in one of the most talent rich states by "forcing" mergers and indirectly helping shut down clubs that pinned their hopes on his daughter. A couple more kids have fathers that coached them in nationally respected clubs and or high schools. Another player's father is one of the largest club basketball event operators in the country. Another kid's mother was an assistant coach on her high school team and father is one of the most respected "consels" in club basketball in his area. This list goes on and on. Not just fathers, but involved parents helping produce some of the best players in the game. The down side is that many of the basketball daddies are DTM's. They Do Too Much. (Shout out C.H. for the acronym)

I already chronicled the ugly spots on a lot of the men that lead daughters and basketball organizations in the Ugly Blue Malibu blog. Like any other leader(s), they(we) are very flawed. They(we) have personal agendas and can be myopic when things concern their own interests. But, what about them and their contributions to children not of their progeny?

Tommy (Speedy) Greggs and Fonzell Martin run one of the best clubs in the State of Texas. From what I understand, the former rivals came together to form Austin Elite, a club that has helped close to 160 kids reach the next level.  Speedy and Fonzell have daughters that have gone on to play college ball at the D1 level. Over a 150 kids that are NOT related to them have used their club to help them  get on a college campus. While hearing so many college coaches bash daddy ball recently, I took a quick roll call of SOME of the prominent Texas clubs. DFW Elite, Cy-Fair Shock, SA Finest,  Texas Elite Christian, The Nation, Texas United, Houston Elite, AD Elite, UBAVE, SA Islanders, Urban Heroes and MP Elite were either founded, is coached or led by basketball daddies. Like Austin Elite, the overwhelming majority of the kids in these organizations are NOT kids related to the basketball daddies that run them.

(Side note: Coach Speedy's daughter, Amber is a club coach on the boys side! The former UTSA standout is skill set trainer and very respected basketball head)

Fab Five is a great documentary. Having hooped in that era, I absolutely love it. The Fab Five and their rebellious "me against the world" attitude had it poppin in the early nineties. The same brashness that led me to go at a college coach for what I perceived as heckling was that same ferocity the Fab Five possessed. Brashness, ferocity and rebellious are all adjectives for what I now consider as undisciplined. Hearing Jalen Rose say that he considered Grant Hill a "sell out" WAS an ignorant mentality. An undisciplined outlook on maturity.  I too recall the sentiment  that kids with involved daddies were soft. It was a mentality that applauded counterproductive behavior in a culture that had few involved fathers.  Watching Jalen Rose mature has been a beautiful thing. Seeing his efforts to give back to the poor children of Detroit by founding charter schools is terrific. Seeing him begin to behave like "sell out" Grant Hill is remarkable. He now values education and instilling a discipline that not only helps programs win championships but more importantly,  win in life.

Like a young Jalen Rose, the naysayers of basketball daddies may not see the forest for the trees. In a local example, of the 9 area SA Express News Super Teamers this year, all have very active basketball daddies(one has a daddy that is a high school football coach). When I think of local daddies Charlie Harper( 3 D1 Kids), John Roberson( 4 D1 Kids), Leonard Brown(3 D1 kids), Frank Mason (3 D1 kids) Wayne Simmons( 2 D1 kids), I can't help but to notice that besides on court success(all but one of the above mentioned have kids that played in state semifinals) all have raised good citizens and great people. Show me a culture that is hampered by a lack of discipline, a culture where social ills are prevalent  and I will show you a culture without strong fathers! Basketball daddies are DTM's, but surely that is better than DDS's, Don't Do S***. The above mention men also have something else in common, strong women.  As for mothers, strength is a synonym . Like in the case of my momma, the stronger gender is not debatable, at least in my opinion. But maybe that's why the discipline to be truly elite is so elusive to me. Ya BOY probably could have used a basketball daddy. Yeah, "it must be nice".

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"Sole Man"- Shoe Games

"Sole Man" is a must see 30 for 30 on the creator of "Shoe Games", Sonny Vaccaro. The full special will air soon but here are chapters 1 through 4, debuting daily on Grantland.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

End of Season Quick Hitters

Congrats to Kyra Lambert on making the McDonald's All American Game. The brilliant Lambert was also named to the inaugural Jordan Brand Classic game for girls basketball players. Having wrote about Lambert since the heady PG was 9-10 years old, watching her play her last game was bittersweet. San Antonio has lost a class act, a kid that is quick with encouragement for the youngsters in the city and lacks all of the arrogance that accompanies some young "superstars".  Duke and the entire Duke's women's basketball community is going to love Kyra Lambert!

Wagner played a half to remember against the eventual state champs, Cy-Woods. The T-Birds have to be the early favorite to make a third consecutive trip to State next season. They return every contributing player except Dessiere Johnson. Johnson will surely be missed but the wealth of the Wagner feeder schools will be on display with incoming freshman, Corrina Carter set to make an immediate impact. Look for 2018's Da'Naisha Hood, Tamayra Avery and Toni Cuellar to grow into their bones as well.

Wagner's great 1st half was led by 7 three point makes by Amber Ramirez (7 for 9 in the first half). The Oklahoma State bound guard finished with 8 three point makes to set the state tournament record. She made the all tournament team and her 31 points allowed her to finish the season with 999 points! 999 points in one season!!!

Many quality players in the 2015 class are still unsigned. Moriah Creswell(Madison), Johnson(Wagner), Brittany "Moose" Leonard( Jay) Kate McCuller(Jay), Arysia Porter(Roosevelt), Aaliyah Christmas(Roosevelt), Angel Charles(Judson). One 2015 that sat out this year due to transferring from Roosevelt to MacArthur is Endia Peterson. The 5'9 power guard is a D1 caliber prospect.

The list of underrated players in the city must start with Arysia Porter. This is a kid that I admittedly slept on. Porter has that salt to her game, an ability to create shots using the bounce. She can make shots consecutively from deep when she has it going but lived the paint this season. Her and Moriah Creswell were two of the toughest kids to stay in front of this year.

Look for some freshmen to make noise early and often next season. The 2019 class is not as deep as the loaded 2018 class but a few gems are to be found. Besides the previously mentioned Corina Carter, Destinee Jenkins, Kyra "Slo Motion" White and Ta'Niya Jackson will have college coaches continuing to sit on the Alamo City. All of these young guards are Top 100-150 caliber national prospects. Look for Jessica Paz Y Puente, Ashley Adaszczyk, Sarah Gwin  and Keanalei Akuso to make varsity teams and made their presence felt as soon as they step on campus.

Who will be next year's O'Connor? Outside of the O'Conner basketball team, no one expected them to hold down the top spot in the city for the meat and potatoes portion of the season before coming up one game short from a State Tournament trip. My early guess is Steele High School. A dedicated and capable coach enabled with players blessed with size and athleticism spells success.

This season saw the emergence of the new "lead guards". The nationally ranked and highly recruited Kiana Williams(Wagner) and Gabby Connally(Brandies) continued their impressive progression. Alexis Torres(IW), Megan Valdez(Brennan), Aaliyah Holmes( Southwest), Mailee Jones(Reagan) all stepped up and names are ringing out among college coaches. The season also saw the rise of Ria Gulley! The Clark PG showed an athleticism and headiness that may catapult her to BCS offers.

College coaches have some quality Bigs to visit next season. With probable Super Teamer Monique Terry off of the board to San Diego State, coaches are still hoping for a shot at 2016's Sara Lewis (Reagan) and Alexis Bryant(Steele). The 6'3 post players can play on the perimeter, knocking down jump shots and making plays as face-up Bigs. I would be very surprised if Bryant and Lewis start their senior seasons as uncommitted players. Deservedly so, both are getting crazy attention from college programs.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Love for the little "guy"

Olivia Balderas is putting up crazy number for YWLA. Here is what I wrote about Liv in 2011 in a future stars blog:

Olivia Balderas( SA Hustlers)- The 2017 guard is nice! She is the rare young kid that possesses ball handling and body swag to accompany it. She moves defenders with her head , shoulders and eyes. This enables her to set defenders up for her tight handle. Her go to move is a nasty hesitation dribble that freezes defenders. She counters the "hezzo" with a hard cross over that leaves defenders left standing still. On top of a handle with swag, Balderas can shoot the 3 ball, off of the dribble! In the face of defenders! She's real, a Box & 1 kid that has a bright future.

Sounds about right as the high scoring sophomore is averaging a little more than 22 points a game. Years ago, I wrote about Shana Holmes, a high scoring guard that was putting up crazy numbers for Stacy, a small military affiliated school. I compared Holmes numbers to other prominent scorers in the city at that time. When Homes transferred to 5A Southwest, she still gave buckets to the opposition a at a high rate. There is no doubt in my mind that Balderas can too move to a bigger school and score proficiently.

To average 20 plus points a game in an entire season is a rare accomplishment in girls basketball for the San Antonio area. A lack of a shot clock and equal opportunity offensive coaching ensures that 20 point scorers will not be the norm anytime soon. Liv Balderas has a chance to end up topping the 800 point mark for the season. What is more impressive is that she has spear headed a remarkable turnaround for her YWLA squad. YWLA has won 20 games this season, up from one total victory last year.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

If Freeway Rick Ross had a Jump Shot....

Playing marbles in the front yard was about as far as we could go. The neighborhood was becoming a "hell on earth" according to Grandpa. If my brothers and I left the yard, we could expect Grandpa's stern discipline. In hindsight, it was comical. When our mother, his oldest child, would discipline us, he would cry.  Literally...This World War 2 veteran, a giant of a man in our eyes, crying for us, crying with us over a spanking. What would make this compassionate old man whoop his beloved grandsons? Freeway Rick Ross, The Hoover Crips and the world that Crack Cocaine created.

Freeway Rick would drive down the avenue and Hoover street would stop. Most of the youngsters stood and  almost saluted his car with admiration. Here was a ghetto superstar who reached the American dream of becoming rich, very rich. The church going, GOD fearing elders stood and watched the same spectacle in disgust. This was a man, they said, who was helping tear the fabric of the community with the poison he pumped. According to the now deceased Pulitzer prize winner, Gary Webb in his book 'Dark Alliance', Freeway Rick had a connect to a limitless supply of cocaine through the Reagan war machine that allowed the Contras to sell drugs to finance an illegal war against the Sandinistas . But that is another subject....

When Freeway Rick released his autobiography, I had to buy it. The easy read was finished over a weekend, a disappointment on many levels. The thing that grabbed me was the failure of an "AAU" coach that almost saved Freeway Rick from the streets. How would have my Grandpas' neighborhood  been if this "AAU" coach was successful? What is clear is that Richard Williams could not save Freeway Rick but did save his own daughters from their own hell on earth.

Compton is less than 20 miles away from the Hoover Street hell. However, Freeway Rick was the McDonald's of the crack trade, franchising and "putting on" the street leaders of the hoods all over Los Angeles. Richard Williams, like Freeway Rick, was once a functioning illiterate. He was a self taught and accomplished businessman by the time he started teaching tennis to the boys in the hood. In his autobiography, "Black and White, The Way  I See It',  Richard Williams briefly mentions trying to mentor a young Rick Ross. It is not surprising that Freeway Rick Ross spends a considerable amount of time speaking about the impact that Richard Williams had on his life in his book. Richard Williams ALMOST helped changed history for so many. Almost...

Kobe Bryant bashed AAU recently. No surprise there as AAU basketball has become scapegoat for anything wrong with basketball in recent times.  Why? Let's use Richard Williams again.

What separates the accomplishments of Richard Williams and Archie Manning? Both of the men are helicopter dads. Manning's influence over his GROWN sons is remarkable. He, like John Elway's father, basically told his GROWN son to refuse to play for the NFL team that was slotted to choose him. GROWN Eli Manning complied with Poppa and refused to play for the San Diego Chargers, forcing a trade to the New York Giants. Manipulator, Handler, Middle Man? None of these negative labels or connotations were attributed to old Archie. Why and how is he different than Richard Williams?

What Richard Williams accomplished was easily more remarkable in terms of beating the odds and achieving the American dream. Yes he is loud, opinionated, rude and goes against the grain. He actually believed that young black women could excel at tennis in Compton, during a time where their neighborhood was more violent than the middle east? Who would have thunk it? A visionary, that's who. Williams is a man that overcame a very brutal upbringing in the segregated south of Louisiana to teach himself to read. Teach himself to run a successful business. Teach himself to teach tennis. And teach his daughters to be remarkably successful women. To give it more perspective, Richard Williams could not legally attend Ole Miss with Archie Manning due to Jim Crow. Archie did not have to compete with athletes like Richard Williams to achieve his greatness. So Un-American right? So why is Richard Williams a villain? And why is AAU? Both are flawed but what is not?

The argument that uneducated, unqualified, uncertified club coaches are leading our basketball players the wrong way is a flimsy one.  The argument goes, a degree makes you a qualified coach? Tell that to Angelo Dundee, Cus D'Amato, the fathers of Mozart and Beethoven, just  to name a few. Oh yeah, I forgot that a degree means that the certified and meticulously vetted professionals always have the best interest of children in mind. Please Google "teacher sex with student" and get  135,000 results! ( In my opinion, great teachers that mold our youth for success are the most important people in our society, next to good parents. Thanks to all the great teachers out there) The argument continues that a degree makes you a better leader. Since when? Men named Lincoln and Washington did OK without a degree. A few other pretty effective leaders named Moses, Muhammad and my favorite, Yeshua Ben Yosef, led a few people effectively in their day.  Yeshua's followers grew from 12 people to billions after his death. That's a leader!!! He was sentenced to death for partly being an uncertified teacher, condemned by the supposedly "qualified". That said, certification and degree qualifications are not a requirement of effective leadership, so again, why all the fuss about AAU basketball? Time to stop verbally tap dancing and speak on the real reason for making villains of AAU basketball ; money and race.

A local volleyball club is building their own multi-million dollar facility WITHOUT a loan! Volleyball fees are at least 5 times the cost of AAU basketball. No one ever questions if volleyball club directors are "in it for the right reasons". Soccer has costs similar to volleyball. And Baseball, fuhgeddaboudit!  Here is a legitimate question, why is baseball so expensive in America? The basics are a piece of land, a stick, a ball and some gloves. Why are the poor third world countries able to produce so many major league baseball players if the game is so expensive to play? Here is a fact;  4 out of the Top 6 home run leaders of all-time are African American. Many are wondering, why aren't  Blacks playing baseball today, in comparison to the past. Blacks ARE playing baseball today. It's the Blacks that speak Spanish and hail from Latin countries that are populated by many African-Caribbeans that are the objects of MLB general managers affections. How and why can these very poor players thrive in a game if the cost of playing the game is so expensive? Volleyball, soccer and baseball should not be so expensive to play. Is it a coincidence that they also happen to be non-revenue generating sports in the multi-billion dollar money making machine called college athletics?  That is why AAU basketball is the villain. The athletes that make up AAU basketball are some of the biggest revenue generators that fuel mega industries such as athletic apparel sales, television revenue, gambling etc. In order for the cash cows to continue producing milk money unimpeded, they cannot continue to be controlled by unqualified, uncertified, uneducated people. All code words for, The Brothas!

The club I co-founded has helped 21 female players reach the next level in our first three graduating classes,  8 of them non- African American. At least half of the players currently in the organization are not Black. The race card is not being played.  The game is the game. It is a wonderful avenue to travel for athletes wishing to create a better spot for themselves in this wonderful society. The avenue of basketball, some of it traveled on the roads of AAU basketball, is not perfect. However it does help many young men and women get what some of them do not have at home and/or in their communities; an avenue to success and upward mobility.

 My Grandpa now lives on a gold lined avenue in the Upper Room.  He does not have to worry about the modern day Freeway Rick Ross ruling his streets with crime and despair anymore. And Freeway Rick has served his time and is looking for a new avenue to the American dream. Even as a harshly seasoned ex-gangster, his writings project a vulnerable innocence wishing that the very flawed AAU coach named Richard Williams could have done for him what he did for his own children. Maybe with a certification, Richard Williams could have led the budding crack kingpin to salvation. Maybe not...... Then again, if he had Kobe Bryant's talent and played AAU basketball, some benevolent altruistic entity would have surely saved him from the grips of his unqualified AAU coach and Freeway would not have become the scourge of his community. Maybe not....... Or just maybe, Richard Williams would have given him a little extra attention knowing that there was a pot of gold at the end of his rainbow jump shot. ....Who knows as this is all hypothetical. What is real is the multimillionaire college coach working the phones, looking for the next Kobe or Shaq, while wishing that he did not have to deal with Richard Williams and his ilk. If only they could be eliminated from the process, the game would be pure again...... Maybe not .

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Greener Pastures

With transfers at an all-time high, the blame game is played by many. Is it the schools fault or are the prospects the reason for discontent?  How about concluding that some decisions are just bad fits for student athletes and the schools. Here are a couple of local kids that found greener pastures by transferring to different schools.

Len'Nique Brown- The former Wagner PG is playing 29.7 minutes a game, starting all 10 games for NC State. Brown played her freshman year at USC before joining the Wolfpack. Le'Nique is averaging 9.4 points and 3 assists a game. The Wolfpack are 7-3 on the season.

Cassie Peoples- What many people don't realize is that peoples is a SA product. She was raised in SA until 7th/8th grade. Peoples initially suited up for the University of Texas. She is currently the starting PG for the University of Florida. She is leading the team in scoring (10.6) and assists (4.0). She is playing 27.7 minutes a game.

Erica Donovan- Donovan lead John Jay to the state semis during her senior season. She initially signed on to play at NC State, transferring after her freshman season. Donovan leads her Bowling Green quad in scoring (14.6 ), rebounding (8.3 ), and FG %(45%) while playing 30 minutes a game.

Transfers are a part of the business of college sports. The three players mentioned are examples of transfers working out for both sides. Texas is currently in the Top 10 in the country, USC had the #15 recruiting class in 2014 and NC State was a Top 20 team in 2013-14. Both players and the programs have moved on for the better.