Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lady Hoopin!

San Antonio girls basketball has come a long way over the last few years. This year alone, more than 10 girls from San Antonio and surrounding areas will earn basketball scholarships to universities. The 2010 class will surely match that number, if not more. A reason for this progression is the rise of club basketball.

The last few years of basketball classes have benefited from the exposure that travel ball provides. Exposure to college coaches is only half of the benefit. The other type of exposure that may be just as important is the exposure to basketball players outside the city of San Antonio and Central Texas. SA basketball players need to continue to be exposed to how basketball is played and more importantly, how basketball is viewed in other parts of the country. The SA Lady Hoops share that different state of mind and that is why they are on the right track.

The Lady Hoops are the best 6th grade team in the City. In fact, they may be the best 6th grade team in Central and South Texas. The truth of the matter is that they just left a very competitive event ran by Dallas area Team Ichiban and beat every team they faced by at least double digits. They have experienced the same type of success in Houston too. The main reason for the Lady Hoops success is the mentality that their coach is instilling in them.

I first met Coach Antonio Holmes as he was walking out of a South Side gym. He immediately smiled at me as I lead my team into the hot cramped gym. He was leaving as I was walking in and the gym scoreboard still displayed the thrashing his squad just took. An hour or so later, my results were similar. Among 10 or so coaches in the event, we were the only two coaches that went winless that weekend and lost more than one game by double digits. We were also the only two coaches playing our girl teams in a boys tournament.

The Lady Hoops are a pretty skilled team that has been together for at least a couple of years. Their familiarity with each other has ensured a continuity that is not seen often from a group of 10 and 11 year olds. What they lack in size, they make up for it with aggressive ball hawking defense and a breakneck pace of offense. They shoot the three and attack the basket better than a lot of older teams. They have a backcourt that can probably play with most backcourts in the Nation at their age but it is something else that makes them special; it is their STATE OF MIND that separates them from most of the San Antonio teams, players and coaches.

The Lady Hoops Play! They play boys, they play up, they play in the city and they play out of the city. They play at halftime of games that they are viewing and they play against each other while waiting to play their games. You can find their elementary and middle school players at the games of the best High School players in the city. They are still in love with the game and it shows. They play more games than I would recommend but the point is they play anybody and anywhere.

They Run on the court, NOT AWAY FROM IT! I have heard so many local teams and players claiming success but are scared to play the best competition. I have heard of local teams that have won so called National Championships in events that feature 8 teams. I have heard of so called National Championships won by teams in brackets other than the top bracket of National events. I also know of teams that refuse to face other teams that will beat them convincingly. We even have local teams that play down! I know of coaches playing players down in age in order to win local tournaments. The Lady Hoops understand the spirit of Elite Club Basketball. Coach Holmes has young players that want to play at the highest levels of the game and he is making sure that they fear no one by matching them against the best girls or strong athletic boys. Winning or losing is not the end all, but getting better by playing against better teams and players is.

The Lady Hoops are not the only local team that take on all comers. A few teams in particular, play up on a constant basis and their players will be better for it. The Lady Hoops are trying to be considered an Elite team. Some teams are not intended or capable of being Elite. Those coaches that have these type of teams are doing great things for our youth by providing them with the opportunity to play ball outside of school. They recognize that they have recreational ball players and they schedule practices and opponents to account for this. However, one of the problems with SA Elite basketball is that so many coaches are not preparing their kids to be Elite ball players. The only way that San Antonio will start producing college basketball players in numbers that rival Dallas and Houston, is when parents and coaches start preparing our players with a different state of mind. The Lady Hoops are on the right track and hopefully Coach Holmes will remember that all his current success can be attributed to they mindset that he instilled in his players in hot South Side gyms by getting whipped by boys teams. To get better, Play those that are better.