Wednesday, March 25, 2009

UTSA almost shocks the world!

The UTSA Women's Basketball team almost made history. No #15 seed has ever beaten a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the Lady Roadrunners came extremely close. The eventual loss in overtime was a great showing on the national stage and should do wonders for recruiting. The main topic of discussion by the announcers was the play of UTSA guards, Monica Gibbs and Amber Gregg.

Gregg finished with 23 points and Gibbs ended up with 16. Coach Fran Franshilla spent a considerable amount of time talking about how strong the two guards were with dribble penetration. The UTSA backcourt wreaked havoc on the Baylor defense by constantly attacking. Franschilla mentioned a very obvious strategy in guarding Southland Conference Player of the Year, Gibbs. He repeatedly encouraged the Bears defense to force Gibbs to her right hand. Any UTSA basketball fan or observer will know that Gibbs favors her left hand. Franschilla continuously praised Gibbs and her ability,but questioned the Baylor strategy of not forcing Gibbs to her right . Here are a few thoughts on that:

-Gibbs Can Play- Monica Gibbs can play. Every Division 1 coaching staff in the country has numerous assistant coaches on its staff. These coaches are responsible for providing scouting reports of future and potential opponents. Video, TIVO, Internet Streamlining, and many technological advances ensure that there are no secrets at that level. You can be sure that the Baylor coaching staff had thoroughly scouted the Lady Roadrunners and their strategy included forcing Gibbs to her right hand. The problem with that plan is that, Gibbs has spent more time working on her left hand than the Bears defense has spent on forcing her right. To say Gibbs is athletic is an understatement. At 5'10, she jumps center and wins tips on a frequent basis. She reportedly runs in the 50 second range in the 400 meters and has been rumored to dunk on occasions. I do not know if that is true but I saw how the easily she blew by the Baylor guards and imposed her will. Admittedly, she did not have the best shooting night but if a few more of her forays to the basket were finished, the Bears season would have been over. Every NBA team during the late 80's and early 90's knew that Michael Jordan favored his right hand when driving. They also knew that he loved to get to the elbows and elevate for his jumper. This so-called knowledge did little to help them stop Jordan. Great players impose their will and Gibbs showed the basketball world that she is a great college basketball player.

-Rae Rippetoe-Blair can coach- For those of you who do not know, Leon Barmore (assistant Women's Basketball Coach at Baylor) is a coaching legend. He still holds the NCAA record for best winning percentage and is a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Baylor Coach, Kim Mulkey was unfortunately hospitalized for the game against UTSA and Barmore took over. Mulkey, also a member of the Womens' Basketball Hall of Fame, left her team in the hands of a legend. Coach Rippetoe-Blair had her team ready for the upset. Coach Blair ran her usual sets of high pick and roles to help free Gibbs but also ran the Dribble Drive Motion. The DDM, made famous by the Memphis Men's Basketball team, was originated by Vance Walberg and capitalizes off of players that can put the ball on the floor and create. Coach Blair incorporated this offense to use the strengths of Gibbs and Greggs to get to the basket. One of the philosophies of the offense is , 3's or dunks. The offense is designed to open up the driving lanes for finishes at the rim or wide open 3 pointers. UTSA sophomore sharpshooter, Jordan Starks, excelled in this game because of her ability to hit from deep and Coach Blair putting her in a position to succeed. The ironic thing is that Commentator/Coach Franschilla has a version of the DDM himself and yet I barely heard a mention of how well UTSA ran this offense to almost upset Baylor. Coach Blair, Southland Conference Coach of the Year, and her staff did a great job in preparing her kids. On that night, she matched wits with a legend and more than held her own. Blair did a wonderful job of adjusting her system to fit her players. She does not have a dominant post, no disrespect to Onika Anderson, she adopted a system that suited her players. Some may say, what is the big deal about that? Some coaches refuse to tweak their system to highlight the strengths of the players that they have. They are system coaches. Coach Blair's name will probably be on the lips of more than a few AD's this April.

-The dribble is a great equalizer- Dribble penetration allows good players to compete with great ones. No one can claim that Steve Nash is athletic or physically gifted in regards to basketball. Of course he is big, strong and fast when compared to the average man but in NBA terms, he is quite the opposite. His hand eye coordination and basketball IQ is among the best but, it is his mastery of dribbling that allows him to shine. Nash can see plays develop before they actually happen partly because of his ability to anticipate. His anticipation skills are a direct result of him being able to dribble effectively. Nash is a master of multi-tasking. Great ball handlers can concentrate on other things around them because the dribbling of the basketball has become second nature to them . Dribbling is almost an afterthought to Nash and this allows him to focus on player movement, defensive strategy and other important facets of the game. Good ball handlers are like running backs in football. They get from point A to point B by using the dribble. They attack, advance, and dictate the game with their ability to put pressure on the defense through the dribble. The UTSA guards and coaching system showed the nation that effective dribbling can help Davids slay Goliaths. Unfortunately, the Lady Roadrunners needed a few more stones.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

"They stole my player" :(

There is nothing more ignorant in the Club Ball scene than the belief in "stealing players". For those of you that are new to this lazy excuse, I will expand.

Suzie Q plays for Team#1. She eventually has a change of heart and decides to join Team#2. All hell breaks loose as Team#1 cries foul and starts bad mouthing Team#2 and Suzie Q. Of course Suzie Q's parents are also described as traitors and a disgrace to the human race.

The problems with this train of thought follows:

1. No team OWNS any players-

Youth basketball players are not slaves or indentured servants. Clubs can not own them. They can not sign a legally binding contracts that restricts their participation with a different team until they are adults. A young player changed their mind and you want them flogged for it! A parent did what they felt was best for their child and they should be grouped with Benedict Arnold! Get a grip on reality . Unless you have groomed this kid since the inception of their basketball playing days, you have piggy backed off of someone too. Any elite player in the high school ages has played for other coaches before you. That 6'0 freshman that you claim, is not yours to claim. Thank her parents for her genetic make up that made you seem like a genius for discovering her. Never mind that any fool can discover a tall teenager and figure that they might be successful on the basketball court one day. Next time you are updating your resume, keep in mind that your employer owns you and your new company will be considered thieves if you decide to leave. How ridiculous is that?

2. Step your game up in order to keep the players that you want

Why is Angelina Jolie called a home wrecker. Maybe Jennifer Aniston should have stepped her game up and not LOST her man to someone who was obviously more suitable for him. I know that I am getting carried away with this analogy but you get my point. Club Coaches act as though they are jilted lovers when a player is "stolen". That player was not stolen(neither was Brad), they LEFT on their own free will. They apparently felt that the grass was greener on the other side.

3. Healthy competition is the American Way-

This beautiful country thrives because of opportunity. Opportunity results from competition. Consider how much the average citizen would pay for a car if only one car manufacturer was allowed to produce cars. This monopoly would benefit few at the expense of many. Healthy competition provides incentive for business owners(Club Coaches/Directors) to make a product that is helpful to many. More than one manufacturer means more jobs. With more jobs we have more prosperity.

The club coaches that claim that another team stole their players are akin to the old robber barons who tried to monopolize free enterprise. Everyone claims that they are in Club Basketball for the girls. If Clubs are truly in it for the girls, they should promote the entire sport of girls basketball and stop with the nonsense. So what, your former player chose to play elsewhere. How about this, try to remember that this young girl is being a productive member of society. She is trying to advance her standing in life through this great game we all love. She is being physically active in a community that is increasingly obese. She is staying away from the ills of society like drugs and teen pregnancy.

And that evil coach/club that stole your player. Never mind that they spend enormous amounts of time with our future. They are grooming the leaders of tomorrow to lead, build, produce and contribute to our social security. The majority of them have good intentions, just like you. Even if they are in it for the wrong reasons(money, fame, influence, ego), they still have a positive effect on many young lives.

(A side note about Dirty Macks:

"Dirty Mack" is a slang term referring to the practice of hating the competition so much that you are all they speak about. When you are recruiting (stealing ;-) a player from a different club, you should not concentrate on the negative attributes of their current club, but focus on the positive attributes of yours. A dirty mack will say " He is not half the man that I am" or " She is not as pretty as me" or " He is a dumb such and such". Coaches and Directors should up sell their clubs with factual attributes like the number of games played against elite competition, shoe affiliations, college alumni or practice facilities. To recruit a player or parent by spreading rumors and innuendo is just plain dirty. Coaches and Directors should have enough competence and confidence to recruit or keep a player without bashing the competition. You can always tell which coaches are the "Dirty Macks" because their players repeat their ignorant rants.)

No sane person likes to lose and no coach wants to lose players. However, the truth is that the players were never ours to begin with. We all have been placed in their lives to have a positive effect on them for the short amount of time that they are in our care. We all go about it in different ways and the beauty is that the players can take a little from all of us and build upon it to become great coaches and leaders themselves. By constantly bad mouthing fellow coaches and former players, we are teaching these kids that animosity and hating is the way leaders function. As coaches, we are in the business of kids. We do not buy, sell and lose them. We influence them, right or wrong. You either build character or groom haters. Which one are you doing?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Have Game? MUST Travel!

Steele is the only team from the San Antonio area playing in the State Tournament this year. Steele will travel to Austin this weekend and the drive will be short compared to the lengths that their stars have traveled. Meighan Simmons, Olivia Patterson and Taylor Calvert have played all over the country in the pursuit of being the best. Their trips have taken them to Atlanta, South Carolina, Oregon, North Carolina, and Las Vegas. They have visited the hot spots of Texas to find elite competition is places like Dallas, Houston and College Station. These young ladies are making a simple fact known; you must go and play the best to be the best.

San Antonio's girls basketball community must realize a few things. The first is that in this information society, knowing is half of the battle. For instance, I had a former professional player and current coach email and call me about this dynamic girl from Houston. This girl could DUNK. Of course I was already knew about this dunking sensation and have been aware of her for over two years. In fact, I have seen her dunk in a game against Meighan Simmons. I sat in the same stands with Olivia Patterson and watched this young lady take off from the middle of the key and throw it down with two hands. Even though I was rooting for the team that Simmons was playing on, I was happy to see the evolution of the girls game in person. Taylor Calvert had the opportunity to experience this phenom too. She traveled to Dallas and her team was treated the same way. Calvert, Simmons and Patterson KNOW what it is like to play against the best and will share the court with her this weekend. They KNOW and are well informed of what it takes to become elite players. They KNOW this because they travel and Britney Griner has shown them what it is like to play the best.

Another thing that San Antonio girls basketball must realize is that we do not produce the most athletic kids here. Now, we have some very fine athletes in this city but the fact is that other parts of the country tend to produce more athletic players. I will not venture further into the reasons why but I will say that our girls must travel to play better athletes. Basketball is a game that is ruled by great athletes. The girls basketball scene is a little more kind to the nonathletic when compared to the boys game but the girls game is also changing.

I witnessed this first hand during a recent playoff game. A San Antonio team ran up against a team of very athletic young ladies from another part of the state. This local team has a player that is very successful in San Antonio. This player plays locally in the summer and collects trophies. She is a very confident kid and a good kid from what I have observed.BUT, this kid was out of her element in the playoff game that I attended. She had 8 turnovers in the first quarter! She finished the game with 15 turnovers by my count and 17 turnovers by my colleagues count. 15 TURNOVERS!!! I am not attempting to bash the kid. The point is that she has thrived in the San Antonio community but her local success gave her false securities. The athletes from the opposing team dominated her. I sat with a younger player who is accustomed to playing up and traveling. This young player was yelling things like " Come on-------, don't stop your dribble" and " Why are you forcing that pass" and " Use your left hand and attack". This young player was describing the actions of an overwhelmed player. Why was this player overwhelmed? She was overwhelmed and playing scared because she was not used to the type of athlete she was now facing. Not only was she not familiar with this type of athlete, she was not prepared to face them. This type of athlete can stay in front of you and make you use combination dribbles with both hands to free yourself. Her coach has used the pick and roll for her in San Antonio with success but it did not work in this game. The defense would switch and the bigger defender was stronger and fast enough to also contain her. Her lay ups were blocked or changed by the opposing Bigs and her defensive ability was not effective in containing her competition. I was not surprised by this outcome since her and her teammates chose to stay in San Antonio and play in local events last summer. They got better compared to San Antonio kids but failed to catch up to kids in other parts of the state and country.

Lets look at some more examples:

Lets look 3 of the Class 5A finalists in the State tournament.

Nimitz- Features the the dunking sensation Britney Griner

Cy-Fair- Features Chiney Ogumike(#3 player in 2010) and Cassie Peoples( sophomoreUT Commit)

Pflugerville- Kaylan Martin(UTSA bound) and Nneka Enemkpali ( BCS talent sophomore)

These three teams feature players that play all over the country and are kids that are accustomed to playing against the best on a constant basis. These players dominate High School because the compete against each other during the summer.

Lets look at some recent San Antonio success stories:

-Chelsea McMeans is a very skilled post player from LaVernia. McMeans was not on the Division 1 radar until last summer. McMeans suited up for TeamXpress and earned Division 1 interest from schools across the country. McMeans chose to attend Lipscomb University on a full basketball scholarship

- Alicia Houston did not earn a whole bunch of minutes for her Reagan Rattler team last year. She was obviously talented but I sat and watched her sit on numerous occasions. Houston did not get discouraged and joined the Lady Rohawks. Houston was able to showcase her skills and get better facing national competition. She recently earned a full ride to Texas A & M International.

- Stacey Mammel was one of the best shooters in San Antonio last year. The kid has NBA range. Not only does she have range, but she is a consistent shooter. Many in the basketball community did not know about Mammel because she was home-schooled. Mammel played for the South Texas Hoyas and earned a full ride to Concordia University in Minnesota. She benifitted from the Hoyas national schedule.

- Sune Agbuke is known by college coaches across the country. The 6'3 Center plays at Cornerstone. She rarely makes the paper with her accomplishments. However, Sune is in high demand by college coaches. She plays for the SA Comets and made some major noise in Los Angeles last summer. She will earn a full ride to a Division 1 university when she graduates.

These are just a few examples of girls that have learned that traveling to play against better competition works.

Let's look at some of the better teams in San Antonio:

Wagner- Features LenNique Brown(TeamXpress), Michelle Rodriguez(Lady Rohawks)

Madison-Features CeCe Harper(Lady Rohawks) and Monica Engleman(Lady Rohawks-Kansas)

Steele- Features Meighan Simmons(TeamXpress), Taylor Calvert(Lady Rohawks) and Olivia Patterson(TeamXpress)

Reagan- Features Jessica Kuster(Heat), Alexis Williams(TeamXpress-Cameron University) and Alicia Houston(Lady Rohawks-TAMI)

All four of these teams maintained a spot in the city's Top 10 rankings, with two of them (Wagner and Madison) holding down the top spot all year. These schools have wonderful coaches but these coaches understand that you can not win the Kentucky Derby with nags. More importantly, these players and their parents understand that when pursuing success on the basketball court, leaving San Antonio to play the best is the way best way to go.