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.