Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meighan Simmons at Nike Skills Academy!

San Antonio's Meighan Simmons is at the Nike Skills Academy this week. The following is taken from Hoopgurlz:

"I think it's the best camp I've ever been to," said Chiney Ogwumike of Cypress, Texas, the No. 2 prospect in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred for 2010. "It's something you always choose to do if the opportunity arises. I would never even think of missing this camp."

The list of attendees is amazing. Please stay tuned for live updates from the camp.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Heat Helping SA Kids get in school!

I must mention the administration of the SA Heat. Heat General Manager, Jim Noland, emailed me at the request of Heat Director, Koby Cantu about San Antonio power forwards needing a school to go to. Apparently, a Division 2 college is looking for a capable power forward and the school reached out to the Heat in an effort to find one. Jim Noland then emailed numerous club coaches to notify them about the available scholarship.

This cooperation in getting kids into school is what the city needs. The lines of club affiliation are definite but the goal of all clubs should be helping these young ladies use basketball to educate themselves. The Heat apparently understands the bigger picture. Their 2009 power forward already had her college future lined up, so they reached out to help another.

To the Heat, have a great July and rep SA well. Great Job!!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ladies First!

The 3rd Annual "Ladies First" event is now in the books. Over 60 teams in various divisions made the event a very competitive one. Some Happenings follow:

  • TeamXpress swept the event. All three teams went undefeated and captured the championship in their respective divisions. TeamXpress Black had the opportunity to play some local teams and confirm it's dominance over San Antonio teams.They beat Cy-Fair Comets and the SA Lady Mustangs on their way the the Ship. They also had a rematch with the Lady Rohawks and it turned out to be much more competitive than the last game. ( I have been accused of giving TeamXpress too much time on this blog. I find it comical that some complain that their players and program are mentioned so frequently on here. If some clubs resent the attention that I give them, please give me a reason to get them off of my mind. Please send more kids to college than them. Please recruit and have more elite players than them. Please get your girls in national publications and rankings like them. Better yet, BEAT THEM!!! Until these things happen, try to recognize game and go easy on the envy.)

  • The first time this year these two teams met, it was a massacre. I questioned whether CeCe Harper, sitting out with an injury, would have made up the 50 points her Lady Rohawks lost by. I reasoned that she could not make up the 50 point difference by herself and I was right. Barely! The Lady Rohawks lost this time by 10 or so points and it was reported by many that this game was worth the price of admission. By most accounts, CeCe put on a show on her way to 29 points. I entered the gym immediately after the game it was still buzzing. All I kept hearing from fans and unaffiliated club coaches was that CeCe and LenNique Brown(20 points) had a personal duel and stood out above the rest. Frequent readers know how much I love LenNique's game and feel that these two are hands down the best point guards in city. But when I asked about Meighan Simmons, the report I continuously received was that she had an off game. I found out later that she only had 30 points(25 by one set of books) in the game! Sarcasm aside, since when does a player have 30 points in a club game featuring nothing but eventual college players and it's an off game? I wrote about the downside of Simmons constantly being overseen by us( Halle Berry) and we fail to continue to appreciate her accomplishments. I also later found out that Erica Donovan had 20 points for TeamXpress and Arielle Roberson played very well(12 points). Again, it came down to the fact that TeamXpress has more bullets than the Lady Rohawks to fight with. That is not bashing kids, it is a fact.( see Express News Super Team. Meighan Simmons was named player of the year and is joined by Brown and Donovan on the Super Team. Harper is the only current Lady Rohawk on the Super Team)

  • Schertz Jaguars left no doubt as to who is the best 2013 team in the city. I anticipated a match up with SA Finest in this event and got what I wanted to see. I wrote that viewers should bring popcorn when these to two met. It turned out to be not much of a show. The one sided affair was over before it began. The Jags were attacking from the tip off. Their usually subdued coach was animated to say the least. He had reason to be. The SA Finest coach called the tournament director and asked to play the Jags after both teams were eliminated from the championship contention by losses to the two DFW Elite teams. The DFW Elite teams refused to play each other in the late scheduled championship and went home. That left room for the two second place teams in their respective pools, SA Finest and The Jags, to lock up. The twenty point thrashing that the Jags gave the Finest should remind the Finest coach to be careful of what you ask for; you just might get it!

  • Speaking of the DFW, Dallas area guards are on a different level than the guards in most parts of the country when it comes to defense. The pressure and intensity that their guards put on the ball for the entire game is almost unfair. In my brief stay in Texas, I have observed that Houston has the bigs(Britner Griner, Kelsey Bone) but Dallas has the guards(Odyssey Sims, Alexis Jones). I am not trying to over simplify things but the guards that I saw at a recent Dallas event started shaping my opinion as to who has the best guards. Now here is the question, what does best imply? In a recent Q&A with a Division 1 college coach, she stated that the main thing she looks for in guards is their ability to "lock up" on the defensive end. If that is what you are looking for, Dallas is where she should pitch a tent and camp at any number of schools in that area. They "lock up" in that DFW area. But, here is an interesting thing that I have observed. I watched Jasmine Dixon grow up in Southern California. She was always bigger, stronger and faster than her competition and she led the Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits to national prominence. However, many in the basketball community wondered how she would do in an environment where everyone was as big and as fast as she was. She went to Rutgers and left in the beginning of the the season. Another All-American that dominated high school with athleticism, Dallas area and DFW Elite alum Brooklyn Pope, also went to Rutgers and played very little as a freshman. She too just transferred. The Big East is full of players that are very athletic. The players that thrive in the Big East are those athletic kids that are also skilled. I have never seen DFW Elite teams run one single set. I just wrote about the problem with running too many sets but, how about no sets? Do their players READ and REACT to the game well enough to instill basketball IQ or will they get to the next level and discover that they are just great athletes. Time will tell if the Dallas area is preparing their guards well enough to thrive in college, but as for now, they are making a strong case for being the best.

  • Houston Elite also chose not to play in the Championship due to the late schedule. Coach Howard Randall brought out his big guns for this event. He won the semifinal over Texas Top Prospects(another Dallas area team with tremendous guard play) behind the play of the #18 ranked player in nation, Karla Gilbert. Gilbert was joined by fellow Texas A&M commit, Rachel Mitchell. Mitchell, the 6'5 rising junior, excited the crowd in pregames while trying unsuccessfully to throw one down. The most impressive sight was that of Houston Elite point guard, Courtney Williams. The 6'0 point guard is problem for all defenders. She has a great handle and good mid range game. She has tremendous upside for a rising sophomore. Williams was one of just 34 players invited to try out for the USA u16 team. She did not make it but an invitation is an accomplishment.

  • All roads will go through Jay on the High School scene this upcoming year. The Lady Mustangs are made up of mostly Jay players and they kept games respectable even though they did not beat any elite teams. They lost to TeamXpress Black by 12 points. Whether Black took them lightly or not, the Lady Mustangs should get some respect. Especially considering that the best Jay player, Super Teamer Erica Donovan, was playing for TeamXpress Black. Wagner Coach, Tina Comacho and Thunder bird stars, LenNique Brown and Arielle Roberson, will have something to say about who will be the team to beat next year.

  • Overall, the event was a successful one. Any event of this size is going to have some problems, but the competition was good. Getting good teams from the Dallas and Houston area is always a good thing for San Antonio basketball.

I had a moment of clarity this event. It confirmed something that I first realized at a soccer event a few weeks ago. I know nothing about soccer. I went to a game to support a kid that I am close with and saw an interesting thing. The parents that talk the most crap, have the kids that do the least. This soccer game had parents that were bashing other kids and bragging about how good their team was but their kids were riding the coattails of more productive kids. I saw this phenomenon at the Ladies First event too. The parents of the kids that were actually performing and playing well, typically cheered but did not talk crap. However, the parents that were doing most of the yapping about how good their team was and how bad the competition is, daughters did very little. What is my point? I do not have one. Just reflecting on something that makes me wonder. I wonder what would happen if these parents spent more time making sure their child was developed instead of popping off at the mouth, how good would their child be? HMMMMM?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Use Club Ball, Don't let it Use You!!

The following excerpts are taken from a great article on Hoopgurlz by Glen Nelson about Sharpshooting Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Lewis is argumentatively the best player in the class of 2011. Her journey is one that showed many of us the right way elite players should approach club ball. Lewis' stepfather, Khairi Ali, is her trainer, advisor and most importantly, her Dad. His plan has always been to expose Kaleena to the elite club ball circuit and then return to the gym to master her game. The excerpts follow:

That is the kind of mind that concocted a plan in which Mosqueda-Lewis, still a sophomore at nationally ranked Mater Dei, would dramatically cut down her club-ball play -- one spring event, another summer event to qualify to play at Nike Nationals and Nike Nationals itself. What's more, Mosqueda-Lewis no longer would play locally, but for the Tennessee Flight. In the meantime, she would work out with Ali and focus her efforts on the USA Basketball U16 national team, which she made earlier this month.

For those of you who do not know much about Mosqueda-Lewis, she is considered by many to be the best shooter in the nation. The 6'0 2011 wing burst onto the national scene as an 8th grader when she hit seven three pointers in one half of the very prestigious Oregon End Of The Trail while playing for West Coast Elite. Mosqueda-Lewis was already a known entity on the West Coast but that performance made the nation take note. Mosqueda-Lewis did it the right way.

She joined a West Coast Elite team that featured Kelsey Bone(South Carolina), Ashely Gayle(Texas), Italee Lucas(UNC), Monique Oliver(Rutgers), Lindy La Rocque(Stanford), and Brianna Gilbreath(USC). Mosqueda-Lewis used the West Coast Elite platform to expose her talents to the world. She played against some of the best players in the nation in practice and in games. She saw the work that she needed to continue to do in order to be considered the best. She used West Coast Elite in the same way West Coast Elite used her, but Kaleena made sure that the club ball scene did not exploit her.

Club ball is great! It affords the best young players in the nation the opportunity to play against each other. This elevated competition is a major reason why the game is progressing so fast. A review of the 16u USA National Team will show how much the game is changing. Only 2 players out of 12 are under 6'0. This super sizing of the game is partly due to club ball. A 6'0 kid like Lewis would have been forced to be a post player in the past as opposed to the 6'0 shooting machine that she is.( See the 5'8 post players in some San Antonio High Schools).However, one of the problems with club ball is that some clubs do not have their best players interest in mind.

-Why would Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis play 40 games in the summer? Does she still need the exposure? No, she can call ANY college coach in the country and announce she is coming and they will MAKE room for her on their roster.

-Doesn't she need to continue to play against the best? Yes, but at what expense. For her to continue to be considered the best, she must prepare like the best. Preparing to be the best means practicing until she can not practice anymore.

-As for the competition argument, UCLA and USC have open runs with current and former college players on a daily basis. For instance, I just found a local open run that featured current and former players from at least 6 different colleges. I counted 8 Division 1 players(and one pro) at a game last night. This run would have provided ANY local kid with great competition that she could have used to hone her game. Imagine the college players in Kaleena's backyard. Mosqueda-Lewis father continues:

"There's nothing to prove," Ali reasons. "It's just about her getting better. I don't have to have people like me. She doesn't need colleges to see her more. She's out of the limelight but, to be honest, the limelight has not been all positive."

Mr. Ali has it right. He is making sure his daughter stays in the gym and away from all of the drama. I have found that the club scene is full of haters. They bash kids when ever given the opportunity. Mosqueda-Lewis has proven that she can play at the very highest level of college basketball and her father understands that playing in local events for the sake of playing is not worth the risk on injury that accompanies overuse of the body. He also understands Kaleena is a big fish so why showcase her in small ponds.

When Isiah Thomas was inducted into the Hall Of Fame, he said " I used the game and did not let the game use me". Some were appalled at his comments. But, consider that Isiah Thomas helped invigorate the NBA and gave life to the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are worth over $400 million today and were worth close to $200 million when Isiah retired. The late great Piston owner, Bill Davidson bought the team for $8 million in 1974. Even considering inflation, Bill Davidson's rate of return on Isiah Thomas was incredible. He used Isiah to increase his remarkable wealth and Isiah used the Pistons in the same manner.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is doing much of the same. West Coast Elite was a great team without her. She used their prestige to announce herself on the national stage.(Even though, any elite club in the nation would have took her in a split second). She excelled while playing along side All Americans and her game matured. West Coast also benefited greatly from Kaleena. Simply put, college coaches follow players. Coaches fly all over the country to view certain teams because of the players a team has. Kaleena was worth her weight in gold to West Coast Elite, later West Coast Premier, and is worth even more to Tennessee Flight. Elite players attract other elite players, and college coaches pay(outrageously priced coaching packets) to see elite players.

Kaleena is providing the blueprint for those who refuse to let the game use them, as they use the game to better themselves.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CeCe problem solving in June

Cece Harper has a problem to resolve. There is no news in having problems since we all deal with them on a daily basis but CeCe's problem will have an enormous effect on her future. Her problem is what some would consider a "Good Problem". Her problem stems from the fact that she is very sought after as a basketball player and to date, she has received over 30 offers from Division 1 schools. When most teenagers are worried about what outfit to wear or what so-and-so said about them, CeCe is trying to decide the most important decision of her young life. The month of June will have a great impact on helping her decide where she will take her talents to and play college basketball.

The Harper family will rack up frequent flier miles as CeCe makes visits to the University of Kansas, Kansas St. University, University of Central Florida and the University of Miami. She has already taken trips to Louisiana Tech, North Texas and University of Texas at Arlington, as well as others.

CeCe may not decide on her college destination in June but this month will definitely help shape her decision. Only if we could all have such "problems".

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Love for Nike and Gannon Baker!

SA Comets Elite parent/administrator Jeff Willems sent the following comments regarding the Nike Regional Camp.

"This was simply the best basketball skills event I have personally ever seen. Gannon Baker and his staff are amazing with their high octane approach to everything. Not only do they demonstrate the drills at full speed, they explain in great detail what the player should be learning by doing it in the first place. I have never seen Sune work harder. Not only was the light bulb flickering to on, she actually was maturing before our eyes. It was just a wonderful experience. If you ever get the chance to attend one of these events.... don't hesitate. The quality is top of the line."

For those of you who do not know, Gannon Baker is arguably the best skill set trainer in America. Ever since I attended a Gannon Baker training session four years ago, I have been a follower of his practices. Most so called trainers can not demonstrate what they attempt to teach. Gannon is not that type of trainer. His energetic workouts are amazing. His "Baker Speed" ambidextrous demonstrations are impressive and informative. He teaches fine points of particular moves in simple rhymes to help players remember the steps. Rhymes such as "IF They Reach, You Teach" is one of his many sayings that emphasizes the need for offensive players to use counter dribbles to punish defenders who gamble and reach for steals.

Nike has also added former NBA pro, Dee Brown to its Regional Academies. This is another reason why Nike is widely considered the best among shoe companies that sponsor club basketball teams. Their involvement in developing players and putting on quality events is well known.

As mentioned in a previous Blog, Sune and Jeff Willems are members of a sponsored club aligned with the Cy-Fair Texans/ Mike T White. Sune's inclusion into the Nike camp was reportedly facilitated by Cedric LeFluer. LeFluer is the father of TCU standout, TK LaFluer and is the Director of the Cy-Fair Texans. His apparent assistance in helping one of his affiliated clubs player participate in a rivals' skill camp is amazing. This cooperation is what the game should be about; THE GIRLS!!!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sune getting National Love!

Cornerstone Christian and SA Comets Elite post player, Sune Agbuke was recently featured on Hoopgurlz. Agbuke attended the Dallas version on the Nike Regional Skills Academy and caught some eyes with her impressive size.

What is just as impressive as her performance, was her inclusion in the Camp. The Nike Regional Camps are usually attended by girls playing for Nike affiliated clubs. As mentioned earlier, Agbuke plays for the SA Comets Elite, which is a Cy Fair Texans/Mike T. White sponsored program.

Monday, June 1, 2009

TeamXpress unChallenged

The TeamXpress Challenge concluded yesterday and I was a little disappointed. Even though some local teams performed well, the main attraction between the two top Elite Clubs in San Antonio turned out to be nothing but an old school spanking.

TeamXpress Black faced the Lady Rohawks on the main floor at the small Sam Houston High School gym. The bleachers were full and fans were jammed in doorways and corners to view the much anticipated game. The atmosphere almost matched the scene of last year's game during the 'Ladies First' event at Alamo City Christian Center.

Last years scene was the most exciting crowd and game that I have witnessed since moving to San Antonio. That game featured three Division 1 and two Division 2 players starting for the Lady Rohawks. TeamXpress started four Division 1 and one Division 2 kid on their starting roster. I described TeamXpress as a BMW 740 due to the way they performed and executed. I called the Lady Rohawks a Porsche Carrera because of the speed and aggressive style they displayed.

The entire gym was expecting the same excitement as last year but found out that this years Porshe Carrera never got out Parking gear. TeamXpress became a Monster truck and the ran over the Lady Rohawks. Repeatedly!

The final score was 64-13! That is not a typo. That was the actual score. The clock was running at 7 minutes. I have never witnessed a game between two Elite teams where the clock ran due to a 20 point lead seven minutes into the game. As a fan of good basketball, I felt cheated. I made sure to get my front row seat so I could enjoy a game that celebrated San Antonio's girls basketball with athleticism, skill and passion. I knew that I was going to be engulfed by overzealous fans cheering emphatically. I spotted at least four High School coaches who came to take in the scene too. Apparently, TeamXpress did not get the memo that we all came to view a good heavy weight battle as they ended the bout faster than 1986 Mike Tyson fight. They did not want to share the limelight and ensured that everyone who was in that gym knew they were running this show.

I choose not to opine negatively about kids so I will say that TeamXpress flipped the switch. Usually it is the Lady Rohawks who apply full court pressure until their opponents fold. This time, it was TeamXpress who pressured the Lady Rohawks into a lay up drill. When the Lady Rohawks tried to pressure TeamXpress, they gave up baseball passes that turned into wide open lay ups. TeamXpress is known for its half court execution but they rarely needed to run a play due to constant transition opportunities they caused. Simply put, it was a thrashing.

Now let us ponder. How much of a difference would CeCe Harper have made? Regular readers know how much I love CeCe's game and the passion that she brings to the game surely would have made a difference. But, would she have made a 50 point difference? Probably not. Among the rumblings I heard were that some fans were upset that the Lady Rohawks seniors did not play. I do not know the tournament rules but look at it this way. Monica Engleman(Kansas), Felicia Jacobs(St. Mary's) and Alicia Houston( Midwestern St) would have made an impact for the Lady Rohawks. But, so would have TeamXpress Seniors Lyndsey Cloman(Oklahama), Kyra Crosby(West Virginia) and Sabreena Denure(UTA).

(A Side Note:

This practice of playing signed and committed seniors is new to me. No where in other parts of the country is it common practice to play signed and committed seniors in club games. The intriguing thing is exposure events. I read that Kelsey Bone, McDonald's All American and South Carolina 2009 commit played at an exposure event in Las Vegas in April. WHY!?!? Why is she and her Houston Elite club taking valuable looks from college coaches away from her club teammates. College coaches attend these events to find NEW prospects, not see old ones. This violates the spirit of club ball in my opinion. Club ball is about getting kids better through Elite competition and providing exposure for its players. It should not be about winning trophies at the expense of the younger girls on the roster.)

Moving on, I am deeper in love with LenNique Brown's game. Last years TeamXpress vs Lady Rohawk game was when I first became captivated by LenNique. She can GO!!!!

The only bright spot for the Lady Rohawks was the few minutes of excitement that McKenzie Calvert played. The 2014 guard is fearless and showed glimpses of how bright a future she will have.

Other event happenings:

- The Lady Mustangs played very well and lost in overtime to the eventual Varsity Division Champs, Houston Wildcats. Julissa Garrett's left hand is getting stronger and she scored in bunches. Eighth grader, Destiny Ameziquita held her own against High School juniors by effectively managing games at the point guard.

- Kiara Rivera led the South Texas Hoyas Gray team to a couple of victories this weekend. Rivera is a 5'10 freshman from Wagner. I first saw Rivera last year and her potential was evident. She is athletic and has a great body of a power forward. She has since developed a face up game and is putting the ball on the floor with success. To see her snatch rebounds, outlet , and run the court to finish with lay ups was Karl Malone-ish.

-TeamXpress Gold(SA Finest) ran through the competition to a 3-0 record. They beat teams by a combined total of 161-41. This team faced the Houston Wildcats in the Ship' and won 49-28. Rising Boerne Champion freshman Heather Hormuth, went on a personal 8-0 run with jump shots, a reverse lay up and an impressive put back in traffic to initiate the running clock on the Wildcats. Hormuth will be joined at Champion next year by the ultra quick and exciting point guard, Brooke Allemand. Allemand had a great event by breaking defenders down off of the dribble and running her teams' offense. This team will go back to playing up in the Lady Rohawk "Ladies First" event to face the best freshman team in the city, Schertz Jaguars. Bring your popcorn!

-Cassie Peoples was in the house. San Antonio born and UT commit, Peoples was in town for her little brothers game at a local gym. Peoples is still recovering from a broken leg that she suffered during the high school season. Peoples entered the gym wearing jeans but left wearing UT shorts. It was good to see a player of her caliber shed her outfit and shoot jumpers during timeouts of the last game. Her work ethic is legendary as I admired her hitting nothing but the bottom of the net in her shooting exhibitions. The event also saw UT senior and All Time three point leader, AJ Abrams in the house. I would have loved to see those two shoot it out!