Monday, March 1, 2010

Young Legends! Hard to Follow!

In a recent conversation with UTSA asst. coach, Tai Dillard, I asked her for her opinion on how San Antonio has changed in terms of basketball over the last 10 years. The former UT standout and Sam Houston alum simply stated that current basketball in the city is "much better". She went on to count, on one hand, the Division 1 players from her graduating year. The evidence of how far the girls basketball scene has come was very evident this weekend and was highlighted by the young legends that have put San Antonio on the lips of college recruiters and ranking services across the nation.

Len'Nique Brown put on a show against Jay. In my previous blog, I failed to fully describe the performance that Brown had vs Jay on Saturday. Brown, the smallest kid on the floor, was brilliant. She finished with 25 points and played the entire game. Something was obviously aching Brown as she limped into the fourth quarter to put it all on the line. She hits threes, she made crucial steals, and she sliced through defenders for her patented runners. In a game that was extremely physical, Brown made a huge three point play by jumping into the fouling defender for a huge bucket plus the foul. The performance has become routine for Wagner fans over the last 4 years. Nique has become a legend.

I spoke with four different club coaches at the elementary school level on Saturday. It just so happened that when speaking to all of the coaches, they brought their players(daughters) to see Nique! Nique has inspired the next generation of San Antonio point guards just the way her big brother inspired her.

To see the impact of Nique on this cities basketball players, the end of the game tells the whole story. After the buzzer sounded and Jay had officially won, Nique broke out in tears and wanted to be alone. She attempted to walk to a secluded spot and cry. A school administrator embraced her and comforted her but did not allow her to walk away. Then it happened. The entire Jay team, feeling elated and better than ever, walked the entire length of the floor to pays respect to Nique. Young Jay star, Destiny Amezquita, politely asked Len'Nique's big brother if she could take a picture with her. She did not want to interrupt the Len'Nique while she was agonizing over the defeat but Destiny went on to explain that she "looks up to Nique so much". This is the kind of presence and influence that the "little guard that could" has on girls basketball in this city.

CeCe Harper was not at any of the three regional playoff games on Friday night. Despite all her efforts, her team failed to make the playoffs for the first time in her high school career. CeCe averaged a career high in points this year but came up a little short in leading a young and inexperienced Maverick team to the playoffs. While CeCe hates losing and understandably wanted to playing on Friday night, she did the next best thing; she worked like crazy to be prepared for the new chapter in her life.

The new chapter is Kansas University and the glory of Big 12 basketball. The KU commit will enjoy some of the best amenities in women's basketball next year. She will play in a conference that is widely considered the best in the nation. She is getting ready to make her progression to the big time by going back; back to the gym to add new skills and sharpen up on old ones.

Friday night, while most high schools seniors are socializing in some way, CeCe was in a small church gym filled with tables and chairs. On one side of the court, young ball players went through a clinic. CeCe was on the other side running a series of demanding drills. Wearing a Kansas shirt as a reminder of why she was there, CeCe worked out until she was drenched. She made her basketball cuts as if she was being closely guarded by Big 12 defenders. She perfected dribble combinations as if she was playing live of TV. While she was not playing in front of a national audience, she had plenty of eyes on her. Two young promising players, already getting correspondence from college coaches, worked hard to shag her rebounds. They were quickly replaced by a 9 and 10 year old who delighted that they were allowed to participate in CeCe's workout. These two young ballers competed to see who could throw CeCe Harper the best pass. They competed to see which one could make her notice them! During a break, CeCe walked up behind one of the youngsters and slapped the ball away. The smile on this kids face told the story. She turned to her mother, who along with 10 or so other parents sat and watched CeCe's entire work out, and gave the biggest grin. It said, " Hey mom, CeCe Harper just played with me! "

Madison Coach, Tracy Hastings has over 350 wins in 16 years as a head coach. Close to 1/3 of those wins have come over the last 4 years, the CeCe Harper years! This is another young legend that will be surely missed.

Meighan Simmons is leading her team to state for the third year in a row. She has been her usual self in the post season by scoring at will. This season has been the most decorated in SA history. Signing with her dream school, becoming the city's all time leading scorer, District Co-Champs, McDonald's All-American and another trip to Austin makes this season remarkable in every way.

Her legend is firmly established and I find it interesting to see how her status has become tabloid-ish. You can find blogs about her father! You can read the comments of jealous parents on the SA sports sites complaining; they cry that she is still in the game when the game is already decided as if there is a YMCA mercy rule .They complain that she is too animated on the court. They measure their child's stature in Meighan comparisons like, " My daughter scored 10 points on her when they were in diapers!" I guess this is when you know that you have made it, when adults bash you, a kid, on public sites.

Simmons has amassed over 3200 points. Records are made to broken but this one will last for a long time. I will address in a later blog why I feel this record my be unreachable for future players. What is not up for debate is Meighans status as a San Antonio legend.

These three players have impacted San Antonio in ways that they can not fully comprehend. These girls have inspired little Niques, little CeCes and little Meighans across this city. What these three have done is help plant the seeds of greatness into the soil of girls basketball. And while greatness will undoutedbly grow, these three are tough acts to follow.