Thursday, June 3, 2010

Too young to travel!

"In my opinion, middle school players should not be traveling to play basketball games." This was a quote from one of the most respected and influential basketball men in girls basketball. What was ironic about the statement was that the speech was given to the parents of middle school kids at a pretty pricey camp that he was sponsoring. Most of the campers were out of town kids! I have continuously given my opinion on why kids should travel but I want to look further into that philosophy.

ESPN Hoopgurlz just released the Terrific 25 for the class of 2012. This list names the so-called best players in the class of 2012. This was a monumental day for many of the kids. Whether good or bad, the Hoopgurlz rankings have become a point of much pride for aspiring athletes. Truthfully, they are probably more important to these kids parents but that is another topic. The list goes on to name three Texas guards in the Top 20, Moriah Jefferson(#3), Alexis Jones (#5), and Courtney Williams(#20). Two of these players, Jefferson and Jones play for the same club, DFW.

Rewind to last years DFW team and recall that the ESPN 3rd ranked player in the nation was Baylor signee, Odyssey Sims. Fast forward to this past Memorial Day Weekend Nike Summer Showcase in Ohio and see the MVP of the 15u division was DFW freshman, Candace Adams. Adams is certainly is one of the best freshmen in the nation. So what does DFW and their string of successful guards have to do with the statement that young kids should not travel? It proves that young kids should not travel!!! If a city, organization or team has the kind of depth, talent and environment that DFW Elite has, why travel? There MAY be enough talent in weekly practices that would negate a need to leave the city. Of course DFW Elite's philosophy is anything but "stay at home". The first time I saw Adams was in the Lady Rohawks "Ladies First" event last year in San Antonio. She was an 8th grader and on a team of 6 players, playing in the tiny Ed White MS gym. She guarded on ball the entire game w/ one brief substitution. This kind of tenacious defensive pressure, with basically no bench help, was foreign to me; foreign to San Antonio.

If I had not played DFW Elite in this event, when were my middle school girls going to encounter this type of swarming defense. In High School? No Way! A vast majority of local high schools play zone. And even if they did play full court man for the entire game, very few local kids can match the defensive prowess of kids like Adams.

To further my point, TeamXpress is clearly the best "local" team in the city again this year. The current team features one of the best players in the nation in Krystal Forthan. It also includes the # 37 ranked player in the nation along with probably the best two 2011 players in San Antonio, Erica Donovan and Arielle Roberson. But, TeamXpress was beaten badly(running clock in the first half) by a Nike Cy-Fair Shock team on Memorial Day. Why? Defensive pressure on Xpress guards turned the game into a turnover festival. TeamXpress beats every team in the city by double digits this year. They had to go out of town to find those that are better, or who have differnet styles, and different players. Cy-Fair Shock featured two girls who are trying out for the U.S. teams later this month. Cassie Peoples and Sydney Cook are both vying for spots to represent our country on the court later this summer. In furtherance of my argument, both Peoples and Cook have been traveling to play basketball since their preteens days.

In fact, the first time I heard of Cassie Peoples was when she was a 6th grader. Peoples, who is from San Antonio, was in San Diego, California at a "phenom camp"(Also at that camp was a good 7th grader named Odyssey Sims). It's a good thing that her parents did not subscribe to the " middle schoolers should not travel" philosophy. If that was the case, she probably would not be slated to attend the University of Texas on a full ride. She probably would not be ranked in the Top 25 of her class. And as for the other guards mentioned above, I first saw an 8th grade Courtney Williams at an exposure event in College Station; she lives in Houston. I saw Alexis Jones as an 8th grader playing along side Odyssey Sims and Britney Griner in Houston; she lives in the Dallas area.

These girls' parents understood that to limit your child to her immediate surrounding basketball environment will surely limit her future choices. Waiting until high school to see how you stack up against the best may be a little to late if you are trying to be the best.