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.