Friday, October 30, 2009

What is a Level Playing Field?

The following two arguments were taken from a message board in a different state. However, the points are valid and can be applied locally:

High profile high school basketball programs today are too often lacking integrity. Kids work hard day after day after day with the "promise" of a fair chance to play. But the truth is very different from reality. In an ideal world, kids grow up and go to their neighborhood high school where they try to earn a spot on their varsity team. It probably still goes on in some of the lower profile programs, but it's not that way at all in the higher profile programs. High profile programs are driven by money, power and politics. Deals are done "under the table" all the time.

Promises are made and promises are broken. Recruitment of players is the order of the day. The idea seems to be that if you recruit well enough you really don't have to teach the kids the concepts of the game, let alone coach. You can just sit back and let them simply do what they do.

High school basketball has become big business. It has become the spring board for coaches looking for bigger and better opportunities. The only problem is that the coaches know only too well that the only way to get to the bigger and better opportunities is by having a winning program, so the cycle continues. It's not about developing a player. It's not about developing young men. It's not about what's fair. It's not about what's right. It's about what will propel a coach to whatever his next goal is, and hey, if a kid or two or ten or even twenty happens to get sacrificed along the way, they just look at it as collateral damage.

High school basketball needs help. It needs leadership that actually cares about the kids. It needs leadership that isn't swayed by the typical things that can compromise a person's integrity ....It needs leadership that is committed to a level playing field. Finding leadership that can rise above the distractions is a pretty tall order but the kids deserve nothing less.

A reader followed with this thought provoking response:

However, why would kids go to their neighborhood school in an "ideal world?" In my ideal world, kids and parents would have the choice, freedom and accessibility to the school that best meets the needs of their child. I coach a player who is deaf who takes the bus over an hour to attend a school that has a program for deaf students. Should this player be forced to attend the neighborhood school that lacks many of these resources because it would make the basketball team more fair?

If it is fair for the student who is deaf to attend a school with a program for deaf students, why should a basketball player be forced to his neighborhood school even if the neighborhood coach is not invested in the program or the development of his players? If the player has an opportunity to attend a different school with a great coach, why is that a bad thing? I coach a player who attends the school because its math department is superior to the neighborhood school. Should we short-change this student the opportunity to take more advanced math courses with better teachers to ensure the fairness on the basketball court? Why is it okay for a student who is deaf or a great math student to attend a school that meets their needs, but when a basketball player makes the same decision, everyone complains about fairness and equality?

That being said, there are certainly problems
with different aspects of the development system. Many people make promises that they cannot possibly back up and many parents and players develop an Entitlement Affliction and like to be liked. But, if you look at the entire spectrum of high school basketball, you're really talking about less than 5% of the whole.

The problem is that we spend so much time worrying about that 5%, punishing the 5%, investigating the 5%, etc. that we take away resources (financial and time) from the other 95%. Why not worry less about the 5% and spend more time worrying about improving the 95%?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

All-Century Team!

A few local players are nominated for the All-Century Team. You can write in your votes if your pick is not mentioned. Local players that are mentioned in the voting are:

Meighan Simmons, Schertz Steele (guard)

Clarissa Davis, San Antonio Jay (forward)

Tai Dillard, San Antonio Sam Houston (inaccurately classified as a forward)

Annissa Hastings, San Antonio Sam Houston (forward)

Lisa King, San Antonio Marshall (forward)

Click here to vote!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Clay Kallam Going Hard on Development!

The following is the entire article from Clay Kallam on his Full Court Press site. I was going to cut and past portions of the article and add commentary but I felt the need to make sure his entire column was read. I have often written about the need for development over chasing wins but his piece sums it up. However, the question is this. Should development be the focus of big time basketball or winning? College coaches get paid a lot of money to do what? WIN!

When Shyra Ely finished her college career at Tennessee, she was a very suspect prospect. Sure, she was the first pick in the second round of the 2005 draft, but such notables as Kendra Wecker and Dionnah Jackson were chosen ahead of her. Why, despite her collegiate achievements?

What was missing?

At 6-1, Ely had been a post player her whole career, and as a left-handed post player, she took full advantage of most defenders’ mysterious inability to realize that left-handers go left. (This is true at all levels, for about 90 percent of defenders. I recently saw Alana Beard go left to the basket against Sacramento—hadn’t anyone noticed that’s basically what she does?) Unfortunately, Ely’s athleticism and sinister behavior were enough for her to succeed in college—but once she got to the WNBA, she found more defenders firmly planted on her left hand, much taller defenders blocking her shots in the paint, and no one treating her perimeter game with anything but disdain.

Not surprisingly, Ely failed to set the WNBA on fire. She struggled to score, and given her size, she wasn’t a factor on the boards or on defense.

But Ely figured it out. Now, in 2009, she can go right as well as left, and more important, she can make three-pointers. All of a sudden, Ely is a very tough cover. She is very good to her strong hand, but those who overplay are now punished—and unwary post defenders who sag off will watch a three settle into the net.

When Jasmine Dixon finished her high school career at Long Beach Poly, she was a fearsome 5-11 power forward. She was way too strong for anyone her size, and much too quick for anyone taller.

But high school is not college, and summer basketball isn’t either. Dixon, despite being a McDonald’s All-American, didn’t make it through USA Basketball tryouts and quickly transferred after a frustrating freshman season at Rutgers. She discovered that 5-11 players don’t thrive in the paint at the BCS level, and that her lack of perimeter skills (shooting, ball-handling, defense) meant she couldn’t play the three.

It may be that Dixon will figure it out during her red-shirt year at UCLA, just as Ely did in Europe. But both of them, like the girl who’s 5-7 in sixth grade and plays the post but doesn’t grow and has to learn to be a guard in high school, were poorly served by their coaches and advisors.

Yes, Pat Summitt has an obligation to win at Tennessee, but she also has an obligation to Ely to help her further her career. Dixon’s coaches during the summer and in high school naturally want to win, but they also need to consider how their actions impact Dixon’s future. And those rec league coaches who take the “tall” girl and consign her to learning post moves and never let her handle the ball are, in most cases, severely hampering the player’s chances to shine in high school.

And, of course Dixon and Ely, like the numerous taller-than-the-other-girls sixth-grade posts, want to win, just as their coaches do. They will happily go to their strengths, over and over again, and enjoy the praise and benefits of success.

But that’s why there are coaches. Coaches who are supposed to be as concerned with the development of the players in their charge as with winning games must step in—and in fact, the two go hand in hand. If Ely had been encouraged to use her right hand and shoot threes from the moment she arrived in Knoxville, how much more effective would she have been for the Volunteers when she was a senior? And if Dixon had used her athletic skills and learned to handle the ball as well as she could, how much better would Poly have been when she was a senior?

And how much more fun would each of them had as a player? And how much better prepared would they have been for the next step in their careers?

Brian McCormick, a trenchant critic of the status quo in women’s basketball and amateur sports, calls it “Peak by Friday” coaching. The only thing that matters to these coaches, and these programs, is what a young woman can do for them in the next game. As for her and her future? Well, that’s up to her, and the coaches hope they figure it out without letting any of this skill development stuff interfere with immediate success.

But it shouldn’t be up to the player to improve on their own. Coaches shouldn’t be all about winning this Friday. If athletics has any value, any place in our educational systems, it should be that it helps young people learn and grow, both inside their specialty and outside it. Pat Summitt, a brilliant coach who does many, many things very well, does deserve criticism in my view for not preparing her players for a pro career. They are pretty much the same players when they leave Knoxville as when they arrive—though obviously, stronger, smarter and more experienced. But they don’t enhance their games, for the most part, and the player Summitt recruits is very similar to the player Summitt graduates (another thing she does exceptionally well).

Summitt, of course, is far from alone at the collegiate level. There are very few coaches who consciously develop talent, but considering the fact that a young woman can make a million dollars playing professionally over the course of her career (with most of that money coming from Europe), it is more than disappointing that coaches don’t focus on helping the young women they are supposed to teach develop the skills they’ll need to get the most of their careers.

High school and club coaches lack Summitt’s talent, resources and skill, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any responsibility to help their players. They need to balance the needs of the player with the needs of the program, and the answer isn’t always to sacrifice the player’s future on the altar of winning a couple more games in some midseason or July tournament.

Families and young players can’t be expected to understand the ramifications of decisions made by coaches—but coaches understand, and they need to take more responsibility for the development of players, and take less interest in their winning percentage. If they don’t, they’re cheating the young women who are entrusting them with their careers, and they are cheating themselves of the opportunity to give something back to the players they claim to care so much about

Monday, October 26, 2009

UTSA 3-Peat?

While UTSA is trying to win its third consecutive South Land ConferenceTournament title and go dancing again, the Lady Runners have some big shoes to fill. Besides losing SLC Player of the Year, Monica Gibbs, the Lady Runners will also have to replace 3 additional starters and 50 plus points a game from last years team. A progress report follows:

Judy Jones- Judy will be the best freshman in the SLC. Jones looks more the part of the track star that she was in high school with her lean and delicate frame. Add that to the scholarly looking glasses that she sometimes plays in and you may find yourself wondering if the kid can play. But, do not judge this book by its cover. The kid can GO! She has mannish athletic ability. While the classic step-though move is used predominately by women, Jones completes the up-and-under like guys. She leaves her feat and figures the rest out in the air. Her elevation from 15 feet is unfair. Her handle is strong enough to allow her to slash and her jumper must be respected. She will make the most impact on the boards and by causing havoc in passing lanes. Game Stat Prediction: 14 points, 8 boards, 2.5 steals and 1 block. She will vertically jump up and hang on the rim a few times for intimidation purposes this year too!

Amber Gregg- Gregg is the lone returning starter from last years team. Gregg averaged close to 12 points a game last year and finished the season with a huge performance against Sweet 16 bound ranked Baylor. Gregg reportedly had some off season knee surgery but looks to be back on track. Gregg uses her keen basketball IQ and tenacity to make up for her small stature. The junior guard is one of the best shooters in the conference and is primed to have a great year. The loss of the other shooting specialist from last year, Jordan Starks, will ensure that Greggs will have ample opportunities to bust opposing zones. Greggs handle is strong enough to warrant respect and guarding her too close is a tall task. Game Stat Prediction: 14 points, 3 assists, 1.5 steals, 100 made 3's

Whitney York- York started every game as a freshman and averaged close to 10 points a game. She spent all but 8 games out last year with a knee injury but she is back in a big way. NO ONE is the SLC can stay in front of York. Her lefty crossover is a thing of beauty as she lives in the paint. She finishes with soft floaters or finds open teammates with ease. York will be a nightmare to guard in the Lady Runners Dribble Drive Offense and numerous Pick and Roll sets. If her small frame holds up, she will score a bunch of points from the free throw line. York is a great on ball defender as well. Game Stat Prediction: 15 points, 5 assists, 2 steals

UTSA will have to rely heavily on these three players if they are going to dance again. Returning York and adding Jones effectively replaced the great contributions of Gibbs. But, the rebounding production and inside physical presence of Onika Anderson will be greatly missed. The current roster is not imposing on the inside. Early injuries to Cori Cooper leaves a void on the block. Kelsey Ansley, Valencia Cottom and Shantel Nwanguma will probably hold down the block by committee. Wacthing the progress of 6'5 freshman Corrie Focier, will be enjoyable. The legit Big has a long way to go but will undoubtedbly get there.

Others to watch: Jermani Malone(fr), Whitney Wright(fr) and Asleigh Franklin(fr)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Elite Dad with a History Lesson

I received this email from the father of one of the best point guards and players in the city. Emphasis in parenthesis are his. The email follows:

The class of 2010 is a special one indeed. As mentioned in some of the earlier BLOGS, this is the deepest DI committed class in recent memory. I also want to be clear, if you don't play D1 basketball it doesn't mean you are not a good player as this is a common belief. I must say that many of your blogs have had a lot truth as it pertains to what it takes to be an elite player and the plight of girls basketball in San Antonio relative to our counterparts in the northern and southern portions of our state. If I may, I would like to tell a brief story on how I personally have experienced the evolution of girls basketball in San Antonio over the past eight years.

As a military family, shortly after our arrival to Ft Sam Houston in early 2002 I immediately enrolled my son and daughter into the Youth Center on the installation. My daughter who was 10 years old at the time had exceptional skills but had never been a member of any organized teams. So I quickly enrolled her into the youth basketball program on post.... A day after I was called and asked to coach a one of the teams. I told them I would be more than happy to as long as I could coach my daughter's team and they obliged....Subsequently I began to collect several talented players who had obvious potential for greatness at 11 and 12 years of age. They were so good that we were beating teams two grades ahead of them. One day after a victory, a team dad pulled me aside a suggested that I start an AAU team so the girls could play on a competitive level. Initially some parents were apprehensive, but most of them were all for it. So that summer I solicited the help of a man named Tom Brown who had just moved into town from Houston. He had a wealth of knowledge and set me on the right track to start my own team. Keep in mind at this time there were only two major girls competitive basketball teams in S.A., Texas Breakers and Hidden Talent. So with excitement, I started the Lady Cougars 12U AAU basketball team. This was a very special team. All of the girls worked hard, were very competitive and had a desire to win (IMPORTANT). I want to point out one thing, 99 percent of the girls on the team had parents who worked with them individually outside of our normal practices (IMPORTANT)....My primary focus in practice were fundamental ie.. footwork, passing, dribbling, and shooting.) Nothing sophisticated (IMPORTANT). For the next three summers we were one of two of the most competitive teams in S.A., the other being the S.A Rimrockers (notable players Monica Englemann, 09' (Kansas d1), Courtney Peay 09' (Nyack College), LeNique Brown D1 ?). The San Antonio basketball seen was growing and so was interest in my players.(No one steals your players, they leave.) (IMPORTANT) I was sad to see my team break-up but I knew it would eventually come to an end. The Lady Cougars also boasted a roster of big time players you might know such as Alishia Flowers 09' (UCF, D1), Alicia Houston 09' (Midwestern State, D1), Meighan Simmons (Tennessee, D1), Kira Chester 09' (Shriner, D3) Michelle Rodriguez (D1?), and Olivia Patterson (D1?).

There were other girls involved with our program but I don't have any current info as of late. The point of the story is this, from an early age these girls had noticeable talents and gifts. Basketball loyalist back then were saying that this class (2010) was a very special group. The common thread in all these girls was their WILLINGNESS to compete at a high level, their desire to WIN and the WILLINGNESS of their coaches to seek greater competition even it meant leaving the city of S.A. (Hint).

I felt the need to post the email for some obvious reasons:

1. Early Specialization- This topic is a popular among many so called basketball experts. They claim that early specialization prohibits growth in other areas and promotes burnout. They also claim that early specialization leads to overuse injuries. Some of these claims maybe somewhat valid. I will touch on them in later blogs but the fact remains that these above mentioned girls were elite for their age at 11 years old and they continue to be so today. While undoubtedly some elite 11 year olds were casualties of the game over the last 7 years, the kids that persevered are realizing their hoops dreams.

I happen to live next door to a great kid. This kid is polite, respectful and annoys me to no end. The reason for the annoyance is his constant practicing of his trumpet. Day after day, night after night, this boy plays that trumpet. His butchering of the theme song from Rocky makes me dislike the movie! The Pink Panther anthem has never sounded so bad. But, he persists. Everyday for hours, he persists. He has gotten a lot better and I now can tell that his passion leads him. However, if he was a girls basketball player, his parents would be accused of putting too much pressure on him. Or living vicariously through him. Or exposing him to burnout and carpel tunnel induced by playing his trumpet too much.

2. Elite Competition/Environment- This parents email highlights the need to surround yourself with others with like gifts and aspirations. The formation of a club team was a great step in the realization of these young ladies hoop dreams. Potential is loaded word. An overused saying among college and professional coaches is the one that goes," Potential is what gets coaches fired". That is debatable at best. Tony Parker had accomplished very little upon his arrival in the NBA but his potential and environment allowed him to blossom into one of the best players in the league. The same can be said for Kobe Bryant. Back to the subject, this dad and his counterparts saw that these young girls had the potential to shine and all they needed was the right soil to grow.

One of the byproducts of elite competition is elite expectations. These kids were placed among a culture of basketball achievers and underachieving was not an option. This is how you change a culture and encourage excellence. Back to my trumpet playing neighbor. His band has players that are more polished than others. While many band members participate, only the best ones go to competitions against bands from across the city. Also, the elite trumpet players get to play more difficult musical pieces and have solos. Why should Jr High and High School basketball be any different? The blog from a frustrated dad a few days ago illustrates the hypocrisy of these school institutions in regards to girls basketball. Here is a thought. Go to the High Schools of Smithson Valley, Madison, or Judson and tell the football coach that his Jr High quarterback can only play half of the game in order to be fair to the other players. These elite high school coaches understand that those elite Jr High quarterbacks are their future. They were not born elite. They worked to get that way and it is unproductive to punish them for being elite and having elite work ethic. The ENVIRONMENT fosters the results!

3. Parental Support/Discipline- Again, the example provides more support to show that active parental involvement is almost a necessity in producing elite players. I wrote a Blog about fathers who had raised multiple college players called Deliberate Dads. In this Blog, I championed the dads who deserved some kudos. However, others can be just as instrumental in the development of elite players. Lisa Leslie is a great example. Leslie was raised in a home without her father and it was a father of her friend and teammate who played the vital role in her life. Point being, no elite player becomes so without a mentor to show them the PROCESS of becoming elite.

Part of parental support is instilling discipline. Admittedly, there is thin line between instilling discipline and being overbearing. The exact point in which one becomes the other is up to debate. However, no child is born with the discipline to become elite at anything. Behind every elite trumpet player is a parent, teacher or mentor instilling the importance of practice.

My trumpet playing neighbor walks with his head high. His mother's car is draped with stickers and decals trumpeting the success of her little trumpet boy. His place among his band and his ability compared to other players in the city is reportedly respectable. One might say elite. It is hard for to me believe that that racket I hear CONSTANTLY can be called elite but what is outstanding is the dedication of such a young child to pursue his dream. Early Specialization? Probably. Elite Environment and Support? Definitely!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NCAA Regulation?

The NCAA has proposed sweeping changes that will have a great impact on Club ball. The initiatives would initially be geared toward the boys side but will be eventually adopted for girls basketball. I will publish and comment on a few of the different entities involved, along with some pros and cons in the near future. Excerpts of the new proposals follow:

The Division I Board of Directors will consider a set of recruiting restrictions in men’s basketball that would curb compensatory relationships with people associated with prospects and suspend coaches who violate those rules.....

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive, who along with a group of other conference commissioners will present the package to the Board, said the reforms will draw a “bright line” between what is and is not permissible.

“It has become evident that more individuals have inserted themselves into the recruiting process other than the families of the prospects in a way that is contrary to the spirit of the legislation,” he said. “These proposed changes make the spirit of the legislation the letter of the legislation in a way that has not been done in the past.”

“This is an attempt to ‘bright-line’ practices that are acceptable and consistent with what we’re trying to accomplish in pre-collegiate basketball,” Delany said. “If you starve the system of money, prospects will be free to make decisions on the basis of the right educational and athletics considerations, rather than because there’s a third-party adult who is influencing him as a result of benefits received.”(Big Ten Commisioner, Jim Delany)

The initial recommendations would affect:

-Employment relating to non-coaching staff positions
-Employment at camps and clinics
-Payment of consulting fees
-Subscriptions to recruiting services with limited value
-Donations to non-profits
-1-900 numbers for telephone contact with a recruit

If the Board approves the initial recommendations, proposals would be introduced in the 2009-10 legislative cycle that would target:

-Non-coaching staff hiring practices by prohibiting institutions from hiring as non-coaching personnel individuals associated with prospects two years before or after the prospect’s actual or anticipated enrollment. The legislation is intended to offer coaches a choice between recruiting the prospect and hiring the person associated with the prospect.

-Institutional camp/clinic employment by allowing institutions to hire only its own staff members or enrolled students at its camps and clinics.

-Institutional camp operation by allowing recruiting during institutional camps, and stating that prospects do not have to leave the locale to begin an unofficial visit.

-Non-Scholastic events on campus by prohibiting Division I institutions from hosting, sponsoring or conducting non-scholastic men’s basketball events on campus or in facilities regularly used by the institution.

-Payment of consulting fees by prohibiting fees to individuals associated with a prospect.

If approved through the structure, the effective date for all the proposals would be May 1, 2010.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Elite Dad comments on "Cultural Short Comings"

The father of one of the best middle school players in the city sent the following email in response to the Cultural Short Comings Blog. His child travels to Dallas and Houston regularly and is widely considered one of the best middle school players in the state. She routinely plays up in competition. His comments reflect those of many parents and coaches. How can we try to catch up and in his case, keep his daughter among the elite players for her age in the state, if the local culture prohibits excellence? His thoughts follow:

Just last week after my daughters(name omitted) volleyball team got the beat down from their rival, she commented to her middle school coach that she could not wait for basketball season because she’s going to score 100 on them. Her coach told her that she would not allow her to score that much and in fact she will be limited to 20 pts per game this year. This is the same coaching staff that made her shoot left handed in the 2nd half of games last year thinking she could not shoot left handed. But because she was just as effective going left as she was going right that soon turned into don’t shoot at all in the 2nd half.

You have players putting in tons of time and effort in the gym, only to be held back by the Cultural Short Comings of “fill in the blank” ISD. This attitude disgusts me to no end because come their junior and senior years we will drive to the Frank Erwin Center and serve little Katy, Adriana, and Destiny up to Dallas and expect them to compete….and that’s only if we get them passed Austin / Pflugerville.

You’ve got the whole SA caravan rolling up to the Frank Erwin Center, taking theirs seats in the “Somebody’s Gotta Rep Region IV” section holding up signs of encouragement and screaming to the girls to Go Get‘em! Then Desoto, Plano, Mansfield, Rockwall, Dunbar and the like hit the floor for pre-game warm-ups…….GAME OVER!

While in middle school why not allow little Destiny, Katy, and Adriana to play their game? I believe in doing so they inspire both their teammates and opponents to raise their own games.

Now I’m not saying allowing a girl to score 100 points in a middle school game is the solution, well actually I am. Heck, let her play the way she’s been trained to play, besides we all know she can’t actually score 100. Would we ask a goalie to put her hands at her side in soccer, instruct an outside hitter to intentionally spike it into the net, or tell the cross country runner to allow the pack to catch her at the finish? NO we would not!

So lets not make the basketball player do things on the court that are completely opposite of what she’s been conditioned to do through hours and hours of physical drills and mental training. You can’t play a season with watered down game then try to raise it the day before you go to take on Dallas. It just don’t work like that.

Cultural Short Comings

At a recent exposure event, I struck up a conversation with a former college coach. This coach was familiar with the entire state of Texas since he regularly recruited the state for players. During the discussion , he expressed his admiration for Dallas area basketball. I then asked him to send me his opinion as to the differences between Dallas and South/Central Texas Girls Basketball. He assessment follows:

"As a former college recruiter I have had the privilege of observing practices and games all over the United States. There are vast differences in style of play, and the way the game is approached from region to region, and even city to city. In my time as a recruiter it was easy to see the disparity in the basketball played in the DFW area, as opposed to the rest of the state. I think that it is far too easy to chalk this up to merely a gap in the depth of talent. Instead, I think that it is much more of an institutional and mindset problem. Here are some examples: In the highly competitive schools in the DFW area it is not uncommon to see a campus with college level facilities. The schools have beautiful competition gyms, practice facilities, locker rooms, weight rooms, film rooms, etc. This might not seem like a big deal, but when schools are willing to put that amount of time and money into their athletics it is evident in all aspects of the athletics department. The athletics departments are willing to hire a greater number of PE/Health teachers, thus making it more appealing to teach & coach at the high school level. Because of this the coaching jobs are in much greater demand (and with great coaches applying), and the leash is shorter for poor coaching performance. Because of this coaches are far more demanding of themselves and of their players. The coaches demands on the players are quite obvious when you enter a practice. Coaches don’t tolerate a lack of effort and execution. They understand that it is a sink or swim business, and if they don’t DEMAND the most from their athletes, then they will sink as individuals and a team. The coaches are also far more demanding of themselves. There is a constant hunger to gain new ideas and to become better as coaches. This is shown quite clearly by attendance to coaching clinics. Coaching clinics that are held in the DFW area consistently have great turnouts, where as those held in San Antonio and Houston suffer from a lack of numbers.

Another institutional shortcoming with regards to the game of basketball comes from DFW area kids starting to play competitively at a much younger age. Not only are there far more opportunities to play, but these opportunities are taken much more serious. Even Middle School programs are taken serious. The coaches for middle schools are knowledgeable, driven, and in most cases, picked by the high school varsity coach. This allows for consistency in what is being taught, as well as a sense of accountability for the middle school coaches to make players better. This is a great contrast to middle school programs in other areas of the state where youth sports continues to feel like intramurals.

Unfortunately, these are not the only two factors that have allowed DFW to dominate girls basketball in the state in the past. Another contributing factor is a tendency to shy away from competition. In the DFW area, practices are held with numerous teams in attendance. The Varsity girls get beat up by boys in the school, then they beat up the JV girls, then the JV girls beat up the freshman girls. In each rung of this ladder there is not a concession of acceptance to remain where you are. All players and all teams are scratching and clawing to climb that ladder and move a head of those who are now on top. Somewhere along the line the rest of the state has gotten away from that mentality. It has become acceptable for parents and kids to either say ‘Oh yea, Suzie Q. is the best player here because she has been given chances that others don’t get,’ or just to pick apart the flaws in her game without ever setting foot on the court. Instead of this method, it’s time to start going back to the court to ‘prove’ who’s best. And if it doesn’t happen to be you, fight and scratch in the gym until it is. If it is you, go out and find somebody who you can’t beat, then fight and scratch to take them down. This is the only way that basketball in the state will catch up with the basketball in the DFW Area."

As in most cases, there will be exceptions to the rule. This coach was offering an unbiased opinion. He is not from Dallas in fact, I learned that he was born and raised in a different part of the country. I think we all benefit from learning from the successful practices of others. While this current 2010 class is one of the deepest in terms of talent and college bound players in the history of this city, we still have a long way to go.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Meighan Simmons is Committed!

Meighan Simmons has decided not to prolong the decision and choose a school. The University of Tennessee will be the future home of the high scoring guard from Steele. Simmons can now concentrate on capturing the elusive state title and becoming the all-time leader in points for the San Antonio area.

Congrats to the Simmons family!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hooked on a Thunderbird and California Dreamin!

The campus at Wagner has been a must stop for a dozen or so schools this past month but yesterday's guest caused a little bit of a stir. University of Texas Coach, Gail Goestenkors was reportedly on campus to watch Arielle Roberson practice. Coach G can get a little help in recruiting Arielle from a member of the Roberson family. Big Sister, Amber, plays volley ball for the Horns. Also in the Horns favor, Roberson played club ball for Texas Exes, Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil and Anissa Hastings. The word is out about the kid that they call "Smiley"; she is no joke!

Smithson Valley standout Danielle Blagg with be visiting the Golden State this weekend. Pepperdine University has invited the athletic wing to view the opening days of official practice. While the Malibu beaches are a major recruiting tool for many kids, the academic reputation of the school is also very appealing. Blagg has had a couple of other great academic schools show interest lately. SMU, Rice and NC State, all were on campus the past month.

Blagg has a way of making a good impression on coaches. NC State assistant coach, Richard Barron became aware of Blagg at the Baylor camp last year. He went on to join the NC State staff this season and took his liking of Danielle's game with him. A similar thing happened a couple of years ago. Former UTSA and current assistant coach for UCF, Courtney Locke, became familiar with Blagg when she was still local. It was no surprise to learn that UCF was visiting Blagg as early as last year on her high school campus.

A couple of good things to take from her experiences is that, college camps are a great way of allowing college coaches to get to know your entire game . Local players Lyndsey Cloman(Oklahoma) and Monica Engleman(Kansas) received their offers while attending Elite Camps for their respective schools. Also, please keep in mind that assistant coaches are valuable resources in recruiting. They often take new jobs at different schools and the contacts and their opinions of players go with them. While Blagg may have not earned the affections of Baylor with her camp participation, she obviously impressed a camp coach enough to warrant his interest at his new school.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From Mule to Wildcat! and Davey Crockett?

Stephanie Whitman, the super strong combo guard for Alamo Heights, has reportedly committed to Kansas St. University. Whittman was ranked in the Top 50 players nationally by Hoopgurlz before suffering a knee injury last fall.
Whittman apparently chose the Wildcats over UTSA and NC State.

Davey Crockett earned his stripes in Tennessee before coming to San Antonio to fight for the Alamo. The question is, will Meighan Simmons go the reverse route by repping the Alamo City before going on to become a Volunteer in Tennessee? Word is that her decision between Tennessee and LSU is coming sooner than reported earlier. I am fighting the inclination to speculate but here is the case:

LSU- Has been on her from the beginning. They saw the young fawn and told her how beautiful she was as a freshman. Her bright future was obvious to all who took the time to look but LSU did just that, took the time to look and SHOW her how interested they were. Reportedly, they have made school visits since her freshman year. They have a successful program led by a coach who is a Hall of Famer and has won 4 titles in the WNBA. Who better can show her the steps she needs to become a pro than the guy who coached former WNBA MVP's Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes?

Tennessee- The school that almost every girls basketball player wishes to attend during their formative basketball years( Unless they are UCONN loyalists). Tennessee is the almost perfect hunk that Simmons has admired from afar. The Candace Parker(her basketball idol) element is hard to ignore but add that to the fact that UT has sent at least 30 players to the WNBA. Never mind that Patt Summit is the greatest winner in college basketball history, playing in front of 15,000 plus fans on a night basis is tough to turn down.

Which guy will she take to the prom? The successfully attractive gentleman(LSU) that has asked her out for years or Mr. Everything(UT) that has been the object of her affection since her childhood. Another good problem to have I suppose. Stay Tuned!

Mrs. Harper Speaks!

Lorraine Harper is not only the mother of arguably the best player in San Antonio, CeCe, she is also a coach, administrator, team mom, event planner, and fundraiser for the SA Lady Rohawks. Mrs. Harper sent the following email:

Let me start by saying that I am an avid reader to your blog and just as others in the area, there are some things we all agree on, and disagree on. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure as you stated earlier, “the better the kids get, the messier this all becomes”. In saying that, I applaud what you are doing to help get San Antonio girls basketball out there for the world of coaches to see, for that has never been done before in this city. I personally know of a lot of college coaches that read your blog and often use it as a recruiting tool for SA. In the recent months, I have been told by several coaches and club directors that San Antonio’s talent is really growing in an area once under recruited. In saying this, I feel that it is the CeCe’s, Meighan’s(Simmons), and LenNique’s(Brown) that may be the household names when it comes to SA girls basketball, but it is every player in town that stands to gain from it. I use the three of them because for years there has always been comparisons amongst the three as to who is best? There is no right or wrong answer for any individual, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Now if you are speaking of San Antonio, San Antonio is beautiful and when I say that, I mean in the sense that the ugly duckling once considered not talent worthy is becoming the beautiful swan. I am not the typical writer/journalist.....but I am sure that you get my point. We in San Antonio need to come together and celebrate, NOT HATE! I for one was glad that you turned off the comments blog on your site for I thought that it was shedding some light on the girls basketball scene here that folks do not need to see. What they need to see and know, is that each and every club director, administrator, and parent is out there working to get our kids a good education for in the end, that is all that matters. I say that education is what matters for I was long following a young lady by the name of Tierra Rodgers (I am sure you are familiar with her being that she is a California kid). Tierra was a kid that had so much going for her and then all of a sudden was hit by double tragedies so young in her life that drastically changed her whole course. Although God blessed Tierra with so much basketball talent, he also took it away (read her story and know that god has a plan for each of us)

I use her as an example with all the hoopla about kids not getting a major DIV I school in comparison to a kid just wanting and wishing that they could have the opportunity to play again, whether it be a DIV II, III, NAIA, or JUCO. Tierra’s story should be one of inspiration to everyone not just basketball players in general, because it could all be taken from you in an instance. Just the other day, we had a kid visit a DIV III school (that won the DIV III Championship in 2007) and to see the look on this kid’s face just to be able to possibly have the opportunity to play in college was overwhelming. I point this out, for we all would love for our kid to go to the Duke’s, Kentucky’s, Tennessee’s, etc, but there are goals outside of basketball that we all have to be thankful for, and that is being healthy enough to even be able to continue playing this game we all love so dearly. In closing, lets all call this thing that is happening in San Antonio a blessing, not so much one is disguise for we all want the world to know that we stand behind our kids, and we stand united although we don’t always agree on the same things. Keep doing the positive things that you are doing and in the end, it will all work out. Lastly, we have no problem getting the word out to coaches about the growing talent in SA and every coach I talk to, I personally ensure that they know of the growing young talent such as the Recee’(Caldwell), McKenzie(Calvert), and Kyra’s(Lambert) of our city so that we can keep them hunting our grounds.

God Bless San Antonio

We are off the Lawrence for the late Night in the Phog this weekend, how exciting! If it were not for God enabling our daughter to continue playing this game after two knee surgeries, we feel strongly that we have prepared her for life after the ball stops bouncing. Lets All Give Thanks to God for Blessing our Kids with this talent and call it “God Gives and God Takes”.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Area Happenings!

The following are some quick hits of the local scene:

Jessica Kuster- Word has it that the Reagan Big is set to sign with Rice next month. She supposedly had reconsidered her commitment to UT-Arlington and will attend Rice.

Stephanie Whittman- The combo guard for Alamo Heights recently visited Kansas St. for an Official. UTSA and and NC State are also said to be in the mix.

Cheyenne Berry- The Lytle guard is said to be taking an official visit to Stephen F. Austin in the near future. The LadyJacks came for a home visit a couple of weeks ago. Last week, South Alabama came to Lytle for a visit while Mercer has just jumped on board as a suitor.

LenNique Brown- Wagner PG Brown had reportedly added Pitt to her long line of pursuers. She is rumored to have two visits set up for Michigan St. and Pitt in the near future. She has had NC State, UTSA, SMU, and South Alabama at school over the few weeks with a few of them visiting her home.

Chelsea Solis- The Wagner guard has committed to Texas A & M Kingsville.

Ashley Perez- The Lytle Big is said to be visiting Angelo State in the near future.

Olivia Patterson- The Steele point guard has had at least one Division 1 school on campus to observe her in practice. She is also entertaining numerous offers from NAIA programs.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another McCormick Blog

Brian McCormick goes on the discuss the differences between Memorization vs Creative Learning:

"I watched a group and saw them run pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll, so I stopped them and asked what they were trying to create out of a pick-and-roll situation. The group was well-schooled, as they quickly responded with common teaching points like “go shoulder to shoulder on the screen” and “roll to the basket” and “lay-ups.” So, they knew the goal (to score with an easy shot), and they knew some of the specific points to execute the skill, but they had no idea what they were trying to create or how they were trying to score.

The next day, I read a blog titled “How to Learn Without Memorizing.” It occurred to me that coaches have moved more and more to a memorization-style of coaching as opposed to creative learning. As the blog says:

A few years ago, I noticed that smart people seemed to learn differently than most other people…I think part of this difference in success comes down to strategy. While most people were trying to memorize, smart people were coming up with creative connections between ideas. These connections made the ideas easier to remember, so less memorizing was required. Additionally, the new connections made the ideas easier to understand, so learning itself was faster.

What is route memorization in basketball? Most teams stress a press break rather than teaching basic spacing concepts to defeat a trap anywhere on the floor. Change the press and the team changes its press break. Many teams employ set plays or continuity offenses, and coaches tell players to run the play exactly. Coaches teach moves and expect players to make the move exactly as they teach it.

In today’s game, players receive more coaching than ever, yet every coach appears to focus on specifics and memorization and not general skills or a general approach. I am helping with a team and I am basically running open gym right now, and the players run last season’s offense: it is all they know how to do. They pass and screen the opposite wing every time. They don’t know anything else. They memorized a certain way to play last season, but they did not learn offensive basketball or develop general skills.

With the pick-and-roll, a general response might be “to confuse the defense” or “to draw two defenders to one offensive player to create an open player” or “to create a mismatch on a switch.” The goal is to disorganize the defense. Once the pick-and-roll disorganizes the defense, the offense keeps the ball moving to find the open shot before the defense recovers.

As an example, the Spurs run a pick-and-pop with Tony Parker and Matt Bonner. Tim Duncan mans the left block, and the Spurs put shooters in each corner: Roger Mason Jr. and Manu Ginobili. Bonner sets the screen and pops to the three-point line. If Bonner’s man stays with Parker, and Parker’s defender tries to recover to Parker, Bonner is open. The pick-and-roll action resulted in two defenders going to the ball and Parker simply passes to Bonner for the open shot.

However, some teams rotate quickly. Ginobili’s man in the corner sprints at Bonner. If so, Bonner feeds Ginobili in the corner. The pick-and-roll drew two defenders and forced the defense to rotate and scramble. On the pass to Ginobili, Duncan’s man could run out to the three-point line to contest, leaving Duncan open on the block. Mason’s man could run to Duncan. Now, the pick-and-roll created a mismatch in the post for Duncan or Duncan can skip the ball to the opposite corner to Mason for a wide open three-pointer. Even though the ball touches all five players, the pick-and-pop disorganized the defense, and the offense kept the ball moving until it created a wide open, high percentage shot.

The players had the right idea; ideally, in any situation, you want to shoot a wide open lay-up. However, if the ball handler focuses only on the player rolling to the basket, she may not see the help defender rotating to the roller or notice her mismatch against a big, slow post player at the three-point line. Too many times, if the pass is made to the roller and the defense rotates, the offensive player does not get the immediate lay-up and she backs out or she holds the ball. Why? Because the play was supposed to get a lay-up and it failed. However, if the team plays with a more general understanding, she knows that the rotation means the defense is scrambling and she simply has to find the most open player. It is not a matter of running a play to get one end result, but to create an advantage and take advantage of it in any number of ways.

Before moving to specific instruction and memorization, I believe that we should explain the general objectives or processes and allow the players to explore and discover on their own. Rather than teaching one specific offense or one specific move, give players a couple tools to use and more freedom to make plays on their own. Through exploring and discovering on their own, their awareness will increase – when players are told to do things in a certain way, they ignore the other possibilities, which limit their learning. For instance, the players who pass and screen away on every possession ignore the possibility of cutting to the basket, shallow cutting to the corner, following their pass for a hand-off or other possibilities, while the passer is trained to look for the cutter coming from the opposite wing rather than passing into the post, driving to the basket or passing to the corner.

If our goal is to develop players with greater game awareness and basketball I.Q., we need to start by opening up the game to the players and allowing them to be proactive in their play and decision-making. As they gain experience and comfort with this process (which, for high school players who have never played in this way can take over a year), the coach can add more specifics or situational learning to create advantages for his team based on their strengths."

Friday, October 9, 2009


"When it came down to game time, I had already made that shot". That is a quote from the great Mr. Clutch, Jerry West. This quote was given to me in a phone conversation with UCF assistant coach, Courtney Locke. Coach Locke went on to offer advice and comments about her life and girls basketball. Some interesting tidbits follow:

  • Imagination- Girls need to spend more alone time in the gym using there imagination. They need to be Micheal Jordan or Candice Parker in their minds as they make and take shots. They also need to spend more time playing 1 vs 1 with rules such as limited dribbling. Coach Locke reminisced of the days past when a kid with a ball and an imagination worked on their games. She talked about this being before the time of social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

  • No Offers in Texas- Even though Coach Locke is from San Marcos, she did not have ANY offers from Texas schools. She took the old road and sent tape to universities. One of the tapes she sent landed in the hands of C.Vivian Stringer. Coach Stringer liked what she saw and called numerous Big 12 schools with a question; why was Courtney Locke not being recruited by these schools? The answer was that these schools felt that she was a step too slow. In typical style from the elite developer that she is, Coach Stringer replied that she "could work with that". Locke went on the play four years at Rutgers before joining the UTSA coaching staff.

  • Austin Lady Knights/Elite- Coach Locke went on to describe her days with the Lady Knights as wonderful. She described Coach Martin and Gregg as "good people". They had the best interest of the kids in mind. Coach Locke learned and benefited from playing with this club. She later was fortunate enough to recruit both the daughters of the club coaches, Amber Gregg and Ciara Martin to UTSA.( Both these girls are remarkable young women as well as good ball players. I got to know Amber this summer at the UTSA camp and she is truly bright, passionate about the game and her charisma is infectious). Coach Locke helped return the love by helping Evansville recruit Ciara's younger sister, Kaylan.

  • A Four who can hit the trailing 3- Coach Locke went on to advise me to continue developing young bigs to play away from the basket in addition to post up games. She spoke of the new aged 4 that can hit the 3, take defenders off of the dribble and defend. She went on to call these type of players "Hard to Guard".

Thursday, October 8, 2009


With all the hoopla surrounding which club is the best fit for girls, I advise parents to do what intelligent college recruits do when really seeking the truth; ask the current and former players.

If a kid really wants to know how a coach and a program operates, go and ask the people who have been affected most by the club; the players.

Go and ask Jessica Kuster and Marquisha Sparks about the SA Heat. Sune Agbuke and Victoria Willems can give you the truth about the SA Comets Elite. Try talking to Taylor Calvert and Niaga Michell-Cole about their Lady Rohawk experience. See if Meighan Simmons and LenNique Brown will tell you about the inner workings of TeamXpress. Ask Asha Finch and Michelle Rodriguez if the Hoyas are a good fit?

By seeking the truth from the players that make these clubs tick(contrary to belief of some egomaniac coaches who think they make the players), kids will get an authentic look at what is and what is not. We parents tend to have agendas and may offer a less than genuine depiction of certain clubs. But kids, they have no reason to alter the truth. By in large, they are still uncorrupted by politics and less likely to worry about the perceived repercussions of telling the TRUTH!

Deliberate DADS!

I have started to write this blog numerous times without the clarity to finish it. I questioned what was my point in covering the topic and examined if it would help others in any way. I did not want to offend those that have not been afforded the opportunity to have experienced the examples that will follow but I must write this fact; ELITE DADS are an integral part of producing ELITE GIRLS BASKETBALL players.

While reading Talent is Overrated (a must read) for the third time, I found the support that I needed for my observations of the girls basketball scene. The underlying theme of the book is that through extensive studies and historical examples, we learn that the myth of Talent is precisely that, a myth. We all mention and promote the belief of talent in girls basketball however, girls basketball is no different than any other science, profession or discipline. Girls basketball is governed by the same laws of success and the overwhelming law that can not be ignored is that ,'Deliberate Practice' from an early age spells success on the court.

Author, Geoff Colvin goes on to explain what Deliberate Practice is. His explanation follows.

Deliberate Practice IS:

1. DESIGNED specifically to improve performance
2. It can be repeated a lot
3. Feedback on results is continuously available
4. It’s highly demanding
5. It isn’t much fun

We all have heard how the most brilliant individuals in a particular area have a internal burning desire and unquenchable thirst for greatness. We all probably buy into these superhuman characteristics of these supposedly great people in order to make ourselves feel better for not being so superhuman. It must be natural abilities that allow Tiger Woods to be the first athlete to earn a billion dollars right? Mozart had to be born brilliant in order to compose his Piano Concerto 9 by the age of 21, right? How about Benjamin Franklin and his incredible writing ability? It had to be a supernatural right? WRONG WRONG and WRONG.

The common denominator in the lives and brilliance of Tiger, Mozart and Benjamin Franklin is that all these so called genius were raised by demanding fathers that were expert teachers. These Elite Dads used there mistakes and valuable life lessons to guide, direct and BUILD brilliance!

Tiger's dad wrote, “ I had been properly trained and ready to go. I took over new ground in starting Tiger at an unthinkably early age”. He then would sit the infant Tiger in a high chair and hit golf balls into a net endlessly. He bought Tiger his first golf club at 7 months and had him playing the course before the age of two. Being from Southern California, I had heard the stories of Tigers exploits repeatedly. I have a friend who tells of growing up in the same Orange County neighborhood as Tiger. My friend tells of how Mr. Woods would take Tiger to practice at the golf course EVERYDAY. As all the other kids felt sorry for Tiger while they ran the streets playing and having fun, Tiger and his pops would leave the neighborhood and return hours later, each and every day. The same routine, time and time again. The results of the very deliberate practice is very evident today.

Mozart father was an accomplished musician in his own right and started teaching his child to compose music at the age of three. By the time he had written his best work, at the young age of 21, Mozart has been deliberately practicing for 18 YEARS!

In examining a very high number of Elite girls basketball players, I have observed a high number of fathers who essentially groomed their daughters for success. Some local examples follow:

John Roberson- All John has done is raise 3 Division 1 girls basketball players and one Division 1 boy. While his son was on a visit to Boise St. last week, I watched 20 or so scouts a game put on their best to try and impress his daughter in Frisco. Arielle will have her pick of schools come next year. Her stock is already off of the charts. She has followed in the steps of a sister at Texas Tech, Ashlee, and a sister who plays volleyball at Texas. While Amber chose to accept a full ride for volleyball at UT, she had numerous offers for D1 rides in basketball.

Charlie Harper- Charlie is 3 for 3 and number 4 seems like a lock. Charlie Jr earned a D1 ride out of high school to Grambling. The second son, Charles is entering his sophomore year at Lamar University and the only daughter is the best of them all. CeCe walked in her older brothers path to accept a ride to attend University of Kansas on a full ride next year. She had over 30 offers when she decided on Kansas. As for the baby boy, Chris, he is one of the best 8th graders in the city and is also a star running back in football.

A few more examples:

Dwight Brown- Raised three college caliber basketball players. One son went D1, while the other son is planning to fulfill his potential at a school this year. Baby sister LenNique has had college scouts calling Wagner home for the past couple of weeks as they are making their pitch.

Marcus Peoples- Marcus workouts with the former phenom daughter Cassie, are legendary. The constant drilling and practice has put her in a position to be ranked as the #24 player in the nation by Hoopqurlz and accept a ride to UT as a sophomore.

Wayne Simmons- His daughter Meighan will not hesitate to tell you who taught her to play. Her father and trainer, Wayne can still be found tweaking her game in military base gyms around the city.

Donnie Vorpahl- Coached, trained, raised one of the brightest young prospects in the city in Churchill freshman PG, Leslie.

Danny Ameziquita- Coached, trains and raised one of the best young scorers in the city in daughter Destiny. Danny has helped guide dozens of kids through his Lady Mustang program.

Tim Calvert- Established his own organization to give his daughter and others the opportunity to shine. Daughter Taylor will inevitably play basketball in college and younger sis, McKenzie is already getting college attention as an 8th grader.

These local examples represent some of the best players in the city. While having an elite dad is not the only ingredient in raising a “Talented” basketball player, having one is a distinct advantage. NO child is born with an ingrained desire and discipline to work deliberately on their games. All of these fathers have pushed their kids at some point. A common belief among some parents is that you should not have to push a kid to practice. That is lie! At some point in their academic lives, a parent has instilled deliberate practice in ALL Elite Students. Why would or should athletics be any different. The most common accusation by some in regards to Elite dads is that “He is living vicariously through his kid”. That comment is usually spewed by the parents of kids that have been embarrassed on the court by those "abused and overworked" kids of Elite Dads. Or by the coaches who claim these kids as their own creation. No coach can claim LenNique Brown or Cassie Peoples. These kids were deliberately raised to excel on the court by great families, led by Elite dads. Talent has very little to do with it.

I was in a conversation with Darryl Richardson( another Elite dad who raised college caliber sons) of the Rohawks a year ago. During our discussion, LenNique Brown name came up. Darrel went on to say, “ Nique is a female version of Pooty”. Pooty is the nickname of her older brother, Leonard. He went all the say that all of 'Niques' mannerisms and favorite basketball moves can be traced back to her study of her older brother, Pooty. Now whether it was Pooty , their father or mother, the point is that Nique was constructed from a very early age to shine is basketball. Not by talent but through very deliberate practice. Was it fun the entire time? NO WAY! Anybody that has heard how LenNique's older brothers chew her out DURING the game, when she is not performing up to family standards, would not say that was fun. The scolding by her brothers offers all the ingredients of Geoff Colvins rules of Deliberate Practice; They REPEAT their HIGHLY DEMANDING criticism and offer IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK, that is DESIGNED to improve her performance. FUN probably not! Effective? Just ask her high school coach and the dozens of scouts begging for her services how effective it is.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Central Texas Legit Combine!

The Central Texas Legit Basketball Combine in Jarrell, Texas (20 miles north of Austin) will take place on Saturday, October 24, 2009. The event is for girl basketball players in grades 7 thru 12 and similar to the NBA combine where they participate in a variety of skill tests, but also compete against other athletes in live game action. College scouts will also attend the event! More information and event details can be found on:

Ph: (254) 493-7541
Fax: (254) 231-3239

Lindsey Cloman, the next Robin Roberts?

Click here to see San Antonio's Lindsey Cloman, Oklahoma freshman, working on her career after basketball!

College Coaches Follow Players‏

The following is from an Elite Dad about what college coaches are really looking for:

"I am a frequent reader of your blog, and I think you are putting some great info out there. In my opinion, your blog entries about FIT should apply to the AAU level as well as the college level. You want your kid to look their very best in front of college coaches. After all, that is what is going to get them noticed, and ultimately get them that scholarship everyone is working so hard to achieve. I would like to tell you about my experience over the last two days. This was a great learning opportunity for me. If this info helps one of your readers, it will have been worth my time to write it.

I have always heard the phrase: “College coaches follow players.” What exactly does this mean, and furthermore, is it really true? Let’s start with what does it mean. If your child is already being recruited, it does not matter which exposure event he/she plays in,college coaches will follow him/her. Of course, if your child is not being recruited yet, this does not apply; however, if he/she is on a team with such a player, that provides the opportunity to get noticed.Now, to take that a little further, if your child is the one being recruited, does it really matter what AAU team he/she plays for? This is where my research begins, and we answer the “is it true” part of the opening question.

I figured the only way to get a straight answer on this was to go directly to the source, so I called three NCAA Division I programs. I called one in Texas, one in Arizona, and one in California. I asked all 3 the same two questions:
1) As a college recruiter, do you care what AAU program a kid plays for?

2) If you are recruiting a kid who plays for team A, and that kid moves to team B, and then the coach/director from team A contacts you with negative things to say about the kid, what stock do you put in that.

Regarding question 1, all the coaches I spoke to said no, they do not care what AAU program a kid plays for. I was told by all of them: “We recruit kids, not AAU coaches or programs.” I did have one coach say if a kid played for an AAU team where all the players on the team just run around, that would not be good.

In response to question #2, again, all three coaches responded basically the same: “We know sour grapes when we hear them.” They all said they would not put much stock in such comments; however, there are some “red flag” topics that would get their attention. They said they would always investigate, and draw their own conclusion.

I guess it is pretty safe to say, college coaches recruit kids, not AAU coaches or programs. When looking for an AAU team, parents should consider the right fit for their child, just as they would when considering colleges. If your child is best suited for a more structured, set play, type of offense that is the type of AAU team you should look for. If your child is better suited for an “open floor”system, you should look for that type of team. Again, you want your kid to look their very best in front of college coaches. That is what is going to get them noticed, and ultimately get them that scholarship they have worked so hard for. In closing I would like to add, I think it is very important that parents of athletes get educated about the college recruiting process. It is IMPERATIVE that parents are involved with the process. They MUST have some clue about what is going; after all, it is THEIR child’s future."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October Fest!

The October exposure period was was filled with some local happenings. Some of them follow:

South Texas Hoyas- Played in the Dallas Texas High School Invitational and represented well. They finished 2-2 , with both losses coming by a total of 2 points. The second loss came in sudden death double overtime. The interesting thing is that former TeamXpress players, LenNique Brown, Cheyenne Berry, Ciara(CC) McLee, and Alison Salmon suited up for the Hoyas. Talking to one Dallas area club coach about the play of a few of these players he wrote, "I now see what you are talking about with Nique. The way she played on Sunday showed me that she can easily play in the Big 12". Another coach sent this text, " Chy and CC looked good today. I have never seen them play so well". This coach went on to say that she had not known that Cheyenne could handle the ball so well. BUT, I KNEW IT! I witnessed Cheyenne play for the Lady Rohawks three years ago and she was something! CeCe Harper, Bobbi Taylor(South Alabama), Monica Engleman(Kansas) and Cheyenne were a sight to see. At times, Cheyenne was the most exciting one of the bunch with her no look passes and creative shot making. The buzz from this weekend is that Cheyenne has her swagger back. She apparently got the attention of a D1 in Louisiana, who immediately asked for a visit on Monday. South Alabama also apparently enjoyed her weekend enough to ask for a home visit Tuesday. Ciara McLee also reportedly had two D1 schools(SELA and UNF) asking for home visits as of yesterday due to her monster weekend. This kid has been on Hoopgurlz twice and is one of the best the city has to offer and the AMAZING thing is that McLee had NO D1 suitors apparently going into this past weekend. As for Brown, she just added a major Big East school to her list of pursuers and they are coming down to SA for a visit. FIT FIT FIT!!!! Jordan Collazo played so well that a few schools jumped on her band wagon and Asha Finch has Southland conference schools already babysitting her!

TeamXpress- Played in Frisco at the Premier Basketball Future Stars Showcase. They struggled early against a good Oklahoma Air team by scoring 24 points for the entire game in a double digit loss but rebounded by beating a good team out of Arkansas . Some bright spots were the play of Arielle Roberson and Tierany Henderson. Roberson is increasingly impressive by adding the 20 footer to her already remarkable skill set. Henderson is a major shot blocker at 5'10 with a wingspan that goes on for days. A key pick up to strengthen the back court was Kelly Gramlich from Austin. I have written about Gramlich three point shooting exploits in the past. The kid can light it up and played extremely well in the Xpress system. Pflugerville sophomore guard, Ari Booth showed glimpses of her bright future. What is most impressive about Booth was that she is one of the few girls in the area that shoots at the top of her jump and with an "L", like a boy. In the past, this has limited her range but I saw her hit a couple from deep this weekend. The TeamXpress games were watched by 20 plus scouts during every game.

SA Heat- Played in the Premier Basketball event. The Heat went 3-1 with the only loss coming to Oklahoma Air. Jessica Kuster continues to impress. Word is that the University of Texas- Arlington commit MAY BE reconsidering and changing her mind. The school that she is rumored to be considering was at both of the Heat's games that I watched. I had a good opportunity to finally get a prolonged look at Leslie Vorpahl(not Vorphal). I really liked what I saw. She has great instincts and finishes well for a small guard. She looked like she more than belonged on the court with girls 3 years her senior. Karissa Cantu has a little spice to her game. She takes chances with passes and plays that are exciting when successful. Cantu and Chelsea Solis are an exciting tandem. The Wagner star, Solis was solid and is reportedly getting ready to commit to Texas A & M Kingsville. I noticed something interesting throughout the SA Heat games. Coach Kobe Cantu gave everybody playing time in an exposure event. He subbed 5 girls at a time, even in crucial parts of the game. He truly showcased all of his kids.

SA Finest- They also played in the Premier Basketball event. They went 4-0 while playing in the JV division with the average margin of victory of 20 points. Although the competition was not the greatest, it did not stop a number of schools from sitting in on a few games. The first game against Mansfield Summit JV saw coaches from UTSA, UAB, Oklahoma, Rice, Colorado St. and OLLU. Madison freshman Brianna Jones apparently got the attention of the OLLU staff with her impressive weekend. The 5'9 guard is getting better by the minute. Former TeamXpress guard, Recee' Caldwell rejoined her original squad and teamed with Wendy Knight to put on a show. UTSA, UAB, Colorado St. repeatedly inquired about Caldwell as she literally floored a couple of opposing players with forays to the basket. Knight shot an incredible percentage as she punished smaller guards and blew by bigger players. Also, having strong showings was Jackie Anderson and Avery Queen. Queen, the 6'1 8th grader, was the reason for the Oklahoma coach in attendance.

Lady Rockets- The Judson High School based team was headed by local coach, Luke Fashaw. This team featured TeamXpress senior Paisley Spencer. The lightning quick Spencer played well over the weekend. Spencer played with this collection of Judson talent due to TeamXpress choosing to concentrate on playing a younger group in the event. The Lady Rockets also featured the talented freshman "LB" Brown. Brown has tremendous upside and an aggressive attacking game that will suit her well in her bright future.

Lady Rohawks- Reportedly, Lady Rohawks played very well despite going 1-3. Coach Harper took a group of old and young to the Cy-Fair Texans event. Harper made sure that his uncommitted seniors received the requisite minutes and opportunities to earn some college attention in the event. He started and played his seniors in positions that would showcase them for the next level. His uncommitted girls reportedly added new schools to their list of suitors. Harper then advertised the future with a young group that featured Taylor Calvert, Niaga Mitchell-Cole, two promising Pflugerville sophomores and the exciting youngster, McKenzie Calvert. Taylor Calvert is reportedly getting a lot of attention from prestigious academic institutions such as,Princeton, Rice, and SMU.

SA Comets Elite- The Comets took their huge front line to the Cy-Fair Texans event. They went 0-3 while playing tough teams Houstonians, Cy-Fair Premier and Houston Heat. Baylor was on hand to babysit commit, Sune Agbuke. More than 20 plus scouts were on hand keeping a keen eye on Kathryn Galindo. The Big for Antonian reportedly had a good event. The Comets were without the services of two experienced guards for the event.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Time to Show and Prove!

I found this interesting quote on a Texas message board:

"It's sad to say this, but most of the top girls programs in Dallas, San Antonio and especially Houston are now starting to promote their 2011, 2012, 2013 and even 2014 classes. I've seen some girls who have not made it out of middle school play on top teams out of San Antonio and Houston, and play OVER juniors and seniors this past summer.

Why take a junior or upcoming senior to a summer live event when you know you are going to promote your younger age classes??? Man, that's cold blooded! Even if one was to say "this 2010 kid can't play or is not better than this 2011 kid", I would say "then keep it real with the player and their parents and stop taking their money and send them to another program that you feel will get them more exposure"...The clock is really ticking on the 2010 sleepers to get offers, and for those high school coaches and AAU girls coaches to get on the phone to WORK for them. Who's willing to work??? We shall see."

The above quote is right on point in regards to the "cold blooded" ways in which a lot of clubs operate. A few thoughts follow:

Who will work for them?:

This is a great question. Who is working for the kids who are not major talents. Stars are stars and they are going to go to school regardless of club affiliation. The test of a AAU coaches true connections and hard work is seeing where they help the lesser talented kids in their organization go to school. The following is part of an email from a club director of a local club about Charlie Harper and his Lady Rohawk program:

"I am saying that it is just as hard, or even harder, to get nine seniors signed like Charlie(Harper) did (which you recognized), or to take kids that (name deleted) is not interested in (which a few of us have done), and be competitive with them, and give those kids an opportunity, and belief that maybe they can play college ball."

This email was sent in response to my proclamations that some people were just envious of a certain clubs success. The writer of the above comment signed off of his insightful email with this: "No envy here, just another perspective."

After a lot of thought, I realized that this club director had a great point. It is easy to have success if you always have the most talent. Now, does success beget talent or vice versa. The chicken or the egg? Either way, it is no surprise that the most successful teams have the best players.

For instance, Meighan Simmons was going to a major college before she ever played for TeamXpress. CeCe Harper was destined for a great school while still in middle school and before she suited up for her dad's Lady Rohawks. In fact, it was in middle school that CeCe received her first letter from UConn. These elite players are elite regardless of club affiliation and their talent will eventually shine. Of course FIT can and will play a huge factor in showcasing talent but stars will still be stars. But how successful will our local clubs be in getting the kids that are not on CeCe and Meighans level in to a school. We will soon see!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Centex Skills Academy Part 2

Last weekends skills academy has continued to be a hot topic in the city. A major reason for the continued discussion is the future; the clinic featured some of the best players this city has to offer over the next few years. A quick run down follows:


Chamaya Turner- One word, "BEAST. The 5-9 forward for Canyon is a problem for opponents. I predicted the New Comer of the Year for her district would be another player a few weeks ago but I had it wrong. Turner is a 15 point 10 rebound kid out of the gate! Her size and strength create match up problems for defenders. She can hit the mid range jumper and her low post foot work is advanced enough to allow her to score over taller defenders on the block.

Elexus Allen- A very long athletic freshman at Stevens. Her 5'11 frame and quick feet enable her to be effective on the glass and very active on defense. She is built in the mode of SA great, Annissa Hastings. Hastings is now the asst. coach at Stevens and will surely help the talented Allen realize her vast potential.


Carlie Heineman- Arguably the best shooter in the clinic(and city). Carlie has tightened up her handle enough to allow her to create her own shot. She has been a great spot up shooter for the last couple of years but now she has added ball handling and a very effective runner. Her step back jumper is quite impressive. She had a great weekend!

Recee' Caldwell- Caldwell is legit. Her handle, basketball IQ and three-ball make her easily one of three best players in middle school. The fascinating thing about her clinic was her attention to her future. She has been exclusively working on shooting like a boy this summer. She has made thousands of shots while maintaining an "L" and releasing her shot at the top of her jump. Needless to say, she is struggling to make the transition. Her trade mark step back and three-ball makes her one of the best shooters, regardless of age, in the city. She scrapped the comfort of her old shot and used her new shot over the weekend. The consistency was not there but the willingness to keep the future in mind was impressive.

McKenzie Calvert- Calvert, the scoring machine, was on full display. Her speed, toughness and swagger ensures that she is one of the best three players in middle school. Very few girls can take contact and still finish at this age like Calvert can. Defenders can almost chalk it up as two points when guarding her in the open court. Calvert "gets buckets"!


Kyra Lambert- I have always loved Lambert's game but I am now more smitten. She is not only a great athlete but her skill set is impressive. The most impressive thing about her in the clinic was her willingness to learn. She looks instructors in the eye, asks questions and works on new techniques while waiting her turn. Her handle, explosiveness and court vision make her the other player in the argument for being the best in middle school. However, she is younger than the other two players in the argument. She is 11 months younger than Calvert and 3 months younger than Caldwell.


Lexi Rich- Besides having a great basketball name, Lexi Rich is going to be nice! The young guard already has a good handle and decent jumper. She also has the swagger that goes along with her name and game. She attacked the drills and stationary work with a passion while helping struggling campers with encouragement during the process.

During the clinic, I observed something that I forgot, ballers like to play with fellow ballers! This fact was evident in the clinic. While separating teams for transition drills and scrimmages, some of the players started manipulating the drill lines. Manipulating is the wrong word, they started initiating their own lineups. When it was all said and done, one team featured 5 of the girls mentioned above: Turner, Allen, Caldwell, Calvert and Lambert. Simply put, this group was amazing! They put on a show!The unselfishness, communication, level of intensity and cohesion was something to see.

Then the wrong of San Antonio reared its head. Some of the upperclassman at the event started complaining about mixing the teams up due to an unfair advantage! WOW!!!! One particular upperclassman was pleading for the instructors to break up a team consisting of two freshman, two 8th graders and a 7th grader! Now I admit, this team was a very good one but to claim that a team of kids 3 to 4 years younger should be broken up due to THEM having the advantage is nauseating. This is the type of mindset that we must change in San Antonio. Running from teams, forfeiting games and ducking competition in an effort to salvage self esteem and bragging rights must stop. If this city is ever going to truly challenge areas such as Dallas and Houston for state supremacy in girls basketball, we must raise our young ones to fear none and take on all challengers. When you take that inevitable butt kicking, go back to the drawing board and KEEP IT MOVING! But as the saying goes, "Old Habits Die Hard"!