Monday, August 30, 2010

Hoopgurlz Ranking/Ratings for local Players

HoopGurlz updated player rankings for the 2011 and 2012 classes. While no area 2011 players are nationally ranked in Top 100, many local stars were rated and ranked in Texas. The player rankings/rating follow:

Sune Agbuke- Rated 90 ( ranked #37 Forward in nation) ShesBallin City rank #1

Erica Donovan- Rated 90 (ranked #26 Wing in nation) ShesBallin City rank # 2

Danielle Blagg- Rated 90 ( ranked #37 Forward in nation) ShesBallin rank # 4

Ebony Watkins- Rated 90 (ranked # 36 Guard in nation) ShesBallin rank #5

Asha Hampton-Finch- Rated 87 ( ranked # 76 Forward in nation) ShesBallin # 9

Alison Salmon- Rated 74 ( ranked #106 pg in nation)

* Why Arielle Roberson has not been graded is a mystery. Getting graded by the HoopGurlz staff seems to be a matter of playing in front of them on a few occasasions. For Instance, Alison Salmon played in front of them in the Deep South Classic and received her ratings. Arielle played a national schedule with her club team(TeamXpress) this summer and played in front of the HoopGurlz staff often.


Sabrina Berry- HoopGurlz Top 100 ( ranked #35 Wing in nation) ShesBallin #22


McKenzie Calvert- Rated 92, HoopGurlz Top 100 ( Highest grade in city as freshman!)

Recee' Caldwell- Rated 90, HoopGurlz Top 100

The following is the grading system for HoopGurlz:

Scouts Inc. High School Grading System

98-100: High-major plus prospect Player demonstrates rare abilities. She should have an immediate impact at a national program and be a potential Olympian and/or an impact player in the WNBA early in her career. If girls were allowed early entry in the WNBA this player would be considered for a top 10 draft pick.

94-97: High-major prospect
Player has the potential to significantly contribute as a freshman for most national programs and should make an immediate impact. She could be a three- or four-year starter and have an opportunity for all-league honors.

90-93: High-major minus prospect
Player has the potential to significantly contribute to a national program as a freshman. She could be a four-year contributor with an opportunity to start over the course of her career.

87-89: Mid-major minus prospect
Player could contribute for three or four years at a high-major program or have a significant impact as a freshman at a mid-major program.

83-86: Mid-major prospect
Player should be a solid contributor and two- or three-year starter at a mid-major program.

80-82: Mid-major minus prospect
Player could be a three- or four-year contributor with an opportunity to eventually start at a mid-major program.

77-79: Low-major plus prospect
Player could contribute at a mid-major school but should be a significant contributor as a freshman at a low-major program.

73-76: Low-major prospect
Player should be a solid contributor and two- or three-year starter at a low-major program.

70-72: Low-major minus prospect
Player could be a three- or four-year contributor with an opportunity to eventually start at a low-major program.

65-69: Marginal Division I prospect
Player has some of the tools to play at the D-I level but may contribute as a role player.

Here is a review of how the most celebrated class (2010) in recent San Antonio history rated:

Meighan Simmons- Rated 95 (Tennessee)
Stephanie Whittman-Rated 90(Kansas St.)
CeCe Harper- Rated 90 (Kansas)
Jessica Kuster -Rated 89 (Rice)
Len'Nique Bown- Rated 86 (USC)
Cheyenne Berry- Rated 81 (SFA)
Kiante Ageous- Rated 79(Arizona)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gannon Baker Camp!

The San Antonio area was well represented at the Gannon Baker camp this past weekend. The event was held at the Texas A & M campus in College Station. My updates on many of the camp happenings can be viewed at Shes Ballin Twitter. Some local news:

Local Players: Recee' Caldwell (Johnson HS) , Nikki Nolan ( MacArthur), Ebony Easter (O'Conner), Kyra Lambert (Dolby MS), Monica Perez ( Madison)

With over 100 kids at the event, I noticed a total of 6 players from the SA area. The camp started off as strictly an invite event but morphed into an open clinic. With this fact, it would have been great to see more SA area players in such a great event.

Other Players of Note: Moriah Jefferson(#3 player in 2012) , Courtney Walker (2012 Oklahoma commit), Rachel Mitchell( #16 player in 2011/Texas A&M commit), Ronisha Major( #56 player in 2011/Texas commit), Courtney Williams(#20 player in 2012/Texas A&M commit). Jessica Jackson ( Top 15 player in 2013), Coutyce Knox(Top 100 player in 2012), Sylvana Okde( Top 100 player in 2012), Imani Wright ( Top 100 player in 2012), AJ Alix(Top 100 player in (2013), Brianna Turner(Top 5 player in 2014), Brooke McCarty(Top 10 player in 2014).

This is just a partial list of the superior talent at the event. This was THE place to see where kids stand in terms of skill and talent.

Gannon Baker: Gannon is the "go to" man for Nike developmental camps and clinics. For those of you who have not seen Baker, he is a sight to see. His energy is unmatched. He trains high school, college and pro players such as Amare Stoudemire. He spent Sunday's lunch break training a few boys including J-Mychal Reese(#28 player in 2012).

Observations- With all the great talent, it was obvious what kids consistently work on their games. To see so many elite kids with such bad understanding of simple basketball moves/actions was eye opening. I lost count of how many times I witnessed elite players jumping off of the wrong foot in drills not out of craftiness, a la Steve Nash, but out of lack of refinement. While the athleticism was off the charts, the need for more skills clinics was very evident. Speaking with an ESPN Hoopgurlz analyst, I asked the difference between college players and pros to which he replied, " great skills, strength and shooting". He went on the explain that most everyone at the D1 level is fast or fast enough to neutralize each others speed . He went on to say that it is the players that are physically strong, can shoot extremely well and are supremely skilled that become pros. I immediately thought about players like Becky Hammon and Sue Bird. They may not be track stars that can touch the rim but supreme skill sets allow them to thrive at the pro level. Camps and instructors like Gannon Baker help instill the requisite skills that these players need. It's scary to see how good Moriah Jefferson is compared to others. She is the rare kid who is track star fast and skills to match. She will be a pro!


-Ebony Easter had the opportunity to face the basket and exhibit her guard skills. She played very well at times. She hit numerous open 3's in some of the big scrimmages vs. great competition. Held more than her own vs. some great players.

-2015 Kyra Lambert fears no one. Her athleticism allows her to play up vs. elite competition and her skill set is advanced for her age. She represented well when she was assertive. She needed to be more selfish at times. She showed why she is considered one of the best young guards in the state, if not nation in her class.

- Recee' Caldwell- Still 13 years old, she is solidifying herself as one of the best guards in the nation irregardless of class. An elite 3 point shooter, she fell in love with her mid-range game instead of taking what the defense gave her at times. Her new found ability to get her shot off at will has left her trying to balance between running a team and knowing when to produce points.

Nikki Nolan- I fell in love with this kid! I heard how hard the small guard for MacArthur competes but her passion is infective. She is nasty defensively. What she lacks in size and speed, she makes up for in intelligence and effort. When grouped with more publicized and talented players, SHE WAS THE LEADER! I left the camp a real fan of hers.

All in all, it was a great event with talent galore. Hopefeully, San Antonio players/parents will increasingly support events such as this. It was a great opportunity to play against some of the best players in the nation while learning from one of the best trainers in the world.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Refs Handicapping the Game!

During my summer travels, I am constantly reminded of how the ineptitude of local refs is limiting the growth of girls basketball in San Antonio. For various reasons, local event operators have a reduced pool of basketball refs that truly know and have played the game.

Having played the game in a competitive environment may not be a prerequisite to being a great official. The word "govern" can be defined as, "bring into conformity of rules or principles or usage". How can a referee understand the intent of certain basketball actions if they have never been subjected to the action/situation? How can they fully comprehend the "principles" of the rules if they have not been governed by them?

For instance, I have seen athleticism stymied in the city at the youth level by ineffective referees. Jumping is one of the most important aspects of the game. Learning to jump and land appropriately can not be emphasized enough, especially in girls youth basketball where the boogie monster goes by the name of Torn ACL. Local refs do not do their part to help teach this vital part of the game because they frequently DO NOT protect leapers. Too many times I witnessed athletic kids leave their feet only to be undercut by opposing players. When living or traveling in other parts of the state/country, the game is played (officiated) differently in many ways, particularly in encouraging leaping. If a person has never been in the air, totally vulnerable to cheap shots, they can never fully understand why an undercut is a different type of foul.

It can be argued that a blocking foul is the same as a pushing foul. They are both violations of the rules. Some would say that all rules should be enforced by the book. The problem with that mindset is that a foul call is more subjective than any other call in the game. A travel is a travel. At least it should be. However, a foul is not always a foul. One foul that must always be a foul is the "low bridge" that takes out the legs of players while in the air. I blame this lack of enforcement in making a number of San Antonio players "land dwellers". Players and coaches that consistently teach this practice should receive increased discipline. Not only is it very dangerous to the well being of the players, it cripples our ATHLETES. No sane person enjoys pain and as a player, few things compare to jumping as high as you can and landing on your back or hip as a result of being low bridged. Until you have had your wrists hurting for weeks due to having to break a fall from being undercut, you can not understand why this foul is more than a typical foul. Like laws that designate some violations as misdemeanors and some as felonies, UNDERCUTTING IS A FELONY and the judges(refs) must protect the citizens(players) and the community(the Game) by punishing the practitioners accordingly. If not, the game suffers.

A few other misinterpretations of refs in the city:

Continuing Education- The game continues to evolve and so should the knowledge of refs. A properly executed Hesitation Move, where the ball never comes to a discontinued dribble nor does the palm face the sky, is not a "Carry"(palming) violation. When done properly, a Pro Hop is nothing more than an exaggerated jump stop and is not a travel violation. And forget Euro Steps, this move seems to be to hard for a lot of local refs to comprehend. One of the most FUNDAMENTAL moves that is whistled as a violation locally is the OPEN STEP. We really need a referring clinic to teach some refs that an Open Step is legal and very fundamental as long as the ball is dribbled before the pivot foot is moved. Re-screening is legal! The discouragement of leaping has led some local refs into viewing clean Blocked Shots as fouls. As difficult as it may seem to some, it is legal to block shots girls basketball!

It is a disservice to our young aspiring ball players that their development is being hindered by local refs that do not live the game. Our players visit other cities and states and like all great players, they learn moves from their peers to add to their own games. They then subsequently try to apply the great things that they are learning only to be told that it's illegal. As we try and catch the more recognized cities in the state in regards to producing college bound players, it is going to take a community to help raise our future college stars and the local refs are a major part of our community.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Alexis defends my rankings!

I published my annual ranking for this year a couple of hours ago and my email and text messages have been continuous. I will reiterate that all rankings are opinions and disagreements are expected. What I love is that the spirit and enthusiasm behind the comments shows that girls basketball is growing in the city. San Antonio fans are starting to care more about girls basketball and this can only be a great thing. To illustrate rankings, I will briefly bring up Alexis "The Great."

Almost one year ago, the late DFW founder , Marques Jackson was discussing with me and a couple other coaches his great stable of guards in his organization. While we laughed and enjoyed asking him stories about the guards that he has had, he changed his jovial banter when one name was mentioned. He smiled at the Odyssey Simms tales and delighted in talking about Moriah Jefferson. A grin as big as the sun stayed glued to his face as he mentioned so many great guards until I asked about Alexis Jones. Coach Jackson immediately stopped smiling. He looked me right in my eyes and stated, "Alexis is the best. As ESPN called her, she IS Alexis the Great".

The last time I saw Alexis was a few years ago. She was an 8th grader playing on the same team with Odyssey Simms(Baylor), Lauren Flores(Texas/Houston) and Britney Griner(Baylor). She was putting on a complete show. I could not believe that she was just a rising freshman.

Everyone I have spoken to about Alexis has the same opinion. The kid is head and shoulders above the rest. A college coach that scouts for the WNBA swears that she can play in the League right now. I questioned this as hype until a former WNBA great and current Division 1 coach agreed that she can not only play in the WNBA right now, but she is an all-star to boot!

Alexis was cut last summer by the 16u USA team. All she did was come back and get cut by the 17u team this year. The kicker is that she was asked to stick around to try out for the 18u Team and not only made the team, but played a vital role in us capturing the Gold.

This summer Alexis truly did the incredible. Jones led her HIGH SCHOOL team to the tournament title(Premier Super 64) of one of the most competitive events in the nation. She followed that up a few weeks later by leading her team to the championship game of what has been called THE most competitive summer event(Battle on the Bayou). Please sit back and digest that. She led a team with ,at most, one other Division 1 player to wins over teams that will send entire rosters to Division 1 institutions! For those of you that will counter that NIKE Nationals was the most competitive event of the summer, let me remind you of this. Two of the Final Four teams in NN both played in the Battle on the Bayou. The same Battle on the Bayou that Jones led her team to a title game that was eventually forfeited. Please recall that Nike national champ, Tennessee Flight(however they were missing two stars to USA teams) attended the Premier Super 64 event that Jones and her high school team won. Now I will get to the point and how she puts rankings in perspective.

Jones is ranked no higher than #5 in all the major services. How can this kid be that good and ranked no higher than the third guard by most services. I have asked a dozen or so college coaches who they would take at the guard position and ALL have yet to name anybody other than Jones. How can this young lady have an almost cult-like following among club coaches, club directors, current college players( one current college D1 player sent me a text from the New Orleans event while viewing Jones and said that she is the best high school guard that she has ever seen) and not be the #1 kid, let alone the #1 guard in the country in the ranking services. Again, it all depends on who you are asking and whose opinion really counts.

Jones also helps me validate my rankings. I have received some feed back in terms of certain kids deserving to be higher than I have them. Maybe so but here is my reasoning. The best players WIN! While we can blame high school coaches and systems for holding some kids back, reaching the playoffs is not all that difficult in most districts in the city. If a player is truly great, shouldn't she lead her high school team to the playoffs? After all, Alexis the Great has shown us the way!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Last season Top 25 Review

As I prepare to release my new Top 25 in the city, here is a review from last year and update in their whereabouts.

1.Meighan Simmons (Tennessee)
2.CeCe Harper (Kansas)
2.LenNique Brown (USC)
4.Sune Agbuke (2011-Baylor commit)
5.Erica Donavan (2011)
6.Jessica Kuster (Rice)
7.Stephanie Whittman (Kansas State)
8.Jackie Edwards-Woods( Saint Mary Commit/Attending Juco)
9.Kiante Ageous (Arizona)
10.Chyenne Berry (SFA)
11.Arielle Roberson (2011)
12.Julissa Garret (unknown)
13.Kathryn Galindo (Saint Mary)
14.Daniell Blagg (2011)
15.Michelle Rodriquez (UT Arlington)
16.Alexis Govan (2011)
17.Ciara Mclee (Jacksonville St.)
18.Taylor Calvert (2011)
19.Arlene Cisneros (unknown)
20.Asha Hampton-Finch (2011)
21.Shana Holmes (2011)
22.Victoria Willems (William and Mary)
23.Niaga Mitchell-Cole (2012)
24.Olivia Patterson (Southern Illinois)
25.Marquisha Sparks(Blinn College)

In review:

-16 Seniors on the list

- 11 Division One Players

- 14 College Bound Seniors

- List did not include college bounds seniors:

Hillary Lumpkin(Saint Anselm), Cierra Booker(Dillard College), Brandy Hurd(Dillard College), Julie Knouse(Incarnate Word), Liz Briones(Catholic University), Genise Pressley(Concordia), Lauren Elliot(Southwestern), Chelsey Solis( Texas A&M Kingsville), Haley Capestany( Texas A&M Kingville), Nicole Kindred( OLLU), Maretta Stubbs(OLLU), Jordan Callazo(Panola JC)

- At least 26 Seniors playing in college this upcoming season

Top 25 Players in the City!!!

1. Sune Agbuke -Cornerstone/Lady Rohawks(2011)- Sune is the most dominate player in the city. The Baylor commit improved this year while playing in an open post offense for the Lady Rohawks. Many observers were very surprised at seeing the 6'4 post playing facing the basket. Agbuke used the past season to become a more vocal leader and assertive. She showed that she was a lot more agile than thought to be. She controls the game with her shot blocking and rebounding ability. She is a space eater with a tremendous touch around the basket. Watching her hit a few three pointers in early May was very impressive and illustrated her progress.

2. Erica Donovan-Jay/TeamXpress(2011)- Donovan is another player that improved in the club season. Her TeamXpress club lacked a true elite point guard to compensate for it's very competitive schedule to Donovan's benefit. Erica faced some of the best guards in the country while shouldering the burden of handling the pressure of leading a Top 15 team. She is poised to lead her team back to a potential state trip. Her performance last high school season versus Wagner in the Regional Final was legendary. She is easily the toughest player in the city. She dominates high school games on both ends with her physical style of play. Donovan can play.

3. Arielle Roberson-Wagner/TeamXpress(2011)- The 6 foot lefty for the T-Birds still has tremendous upside. She is poised for a breakout year as the head of the T-Bird attack. She is one of the best rebounders and defensive players in the city. She expanded her game this summer to play more on the perimeter and her feisty competitiveness makes her a major obstacle for opposing teams to overcome.

4. Danielle Blagg-Smithson Valley/ South Texas Hoyas(2011)- Blagg status sky rocketed this summer on a national level. The 6 foot wing has a strong sturdy frame and great athleticism. She is one of the few players in the city with a strong mid-range game as she elevates and shoots like a boy. Her handle has gotten increasingly tighter. Her strong body and great leaping ability allows her to finish in traffic while absorbing contact. When going well, Blagg can hold her own against anybody in this city.

5. Ebony Watkins-Wagner/Lady Rohawks(2011)- No player increased her status as much as the 6 foot guard for the T-Birds. She is hands down the best slasher in the city. Her sleek frame allows her to touch paint constantly and her handle leaves many with sore ankles. The floater is a main weapon but her 3-Ball has vastly improved. Watkins has a quirkiness about her that keeps defenders guessing on her next move. Playing the point with her summer club has helped her decision making ability.

6(tie). Niaga Mitchell-Cole-Roosevelt-Lady Rohawks(2012)- Niaga is one of the best defenders in the city. She can play either guard positions with ease. Her handle, athleticism and body allow her to penetrate at will. She can stretch the defense with a decent 3-Ball. The only knock on Mitchell-Cole is that she is not selfish enough. Mitchell-Cole seems to be content on being a facilitator at times when she should use her vast skill set to take over games. She is the best player in the Class of 2012 in San Antonio. When it is all said and done, Mitchell- Cole has the ability to be a great one.

6(tie).Alexis Govan-Stevens/TeamXpress(2011)- Govan is the best defender in the city. She can guard 4 positions effectively. She had the opportunity to improve this summer by playing some point guard. While not a true point guard, she got better playing on the perimeter, which will serve her well at the collegiate level. Govan long and wiry frame is deceptively strong. She plays with and edge and backs down from no one. She is a proficient scorer when needed.

7. Shana Holmes-Southwest/South Texas Hoyas(2011)- Holmes gets buckets! She is one of the fastest basketball players in the city. She has the ability to take contact and score despite her diminutive frame. She shoots the long ball and touches paint with the same effectiveness. Hopefully, she can recover from a ACL injury to take her place as one of the greatest scorers in the cities history.

8.Chamaya Turner-Canyon/Next Level(2013)- The state champion in the shot put as a freshman is just as strong on the court. She is a beast! She punishes guards off of the dribble and finishes at the rim against taller defenders. She uses her body extremely well to score. She can hit the open jumper with regularity. If ever there was a young female Charles Barkley in the San Antonio area, it is Turner.

9.Asha Hampton-Finch-Roosevelt/South Texas Hoyas- Hampton-Finch has the quickest second jump in the city. This allows her to utilize her long frame to gobble up rebounds and influence shots on the defensive end. The majority of her points still come from hustle plays but this is an important year for her to establish herself as an elite scorer. Playing in a very controlled system, it is difficult for her to put up eye-catching numbers. Her putting up 8 points and 8 rebounds is the equivalent to putting up 12 and 12 at other places.

10. Destiny Amezquita-Jay/Lady Mustangs(2013)- Destiny is one of the brightest young players in the city. She can shoot it consistently from 25 feet. Her handle is tight enough to keep over aggressive defenders at bay but her strength is her major weapon. She is power forward strong with elite guard skills. What she may lack in lateral speed, she more than makes up for with I.Q. and toughness. When it is all said and done, Amezquita will average at least 25 points a game in a high school season. Let's hope that she fully recovers from a recent knee injury so she can fulfill her promise.

11.Taylor Calvert-Steele/DFW Washington(2011)- It is finally Calvert's time to be the one. She transitioned from the post to the wing last summer and exhibited an ability to knock down the open three. Her handle has improved and she has always been a tenacious defender. Calvert moved this summer to one of the Top 20 teams in the nation for summer ball and played with a high school All-American and a few other major D1 prospects. Playing with all this talent either raised her level to compete with the best or robbed her of the opportunity to carry a team . This season will see which was the case as she has to play a major role in keeping the Steele Knights as one of the cities best.

12.Erica Hernandez-Floresville/South Texas Hoyas(2012)- The sweet shooting guard for Floresville had a monster summer that included two D1 offers. Hernandez can score in a variety of ways. She can hit the open three and put it on the floor to get in the paint with ease. She is a scorer in the point guard body. She happens to play for one of the best high school coaches around and her ability is allowed to shine.

13.Elena Gumbs-Steele/TeamXpress(2012)- The quickest guard in the city is poised for a big year. The undersized point guard has a scorers mentality and will have plenty of opportunities to score this season. With the graduation of Meighan Simmons, Gumbs will inherit a bulk of those shots for the Steele Knights. Her defensive ability and high school system will allow her to lead the city in steals and score a lot of points in the process.

14. Shaneesha Clayton- Holmes/Sophia Young Elite(2011)- If Gumbs is the quickest guard in the city, Clayton is the quickest guard in the city with the ball in her hands. Her yo-yo handle leaves defenders grasping for air while trying to stay in front of her. She lives in the paint and finishes well in traffic. She has yet to show a consistent three ball but teams still have a tough time keeping her out of the paint.

15. Leslie Vorpahl-Churchill/SA Heat(2013)- I love smart and savvy point guards and Vorpahl fits the bill. Her skill set is very refined. She is one of the few players in the city to understand the importance of changing speed to attack defenders. Her handle is tight which allows her to make plays with her great vision and knack for setting up scorers. Vorpahl has not played a varsity game due to school of choice last season. She will show the city why she must be considered as one of the best we have to offer. She is that good! She reminds me of one of my favorite San Antonio former high school guards, Liz Boyd.

16. Chatavia Boone-Fudge-Southwest/SA Rebels(2011)- "Baby" is anything but that on the court. The 6'0 power forward owns the boards and is not afraid of contact. Her go to move is a drop step that utilizes her strong build. Her offensive scoring ability is limited to 12 feet or so but she makes up for her lack of range with good foot speed. Southwest has a dynamic 1-2 punch with her and the scoring machine, Shana Holmes

17.Brooke Allemand- Champion/SA Finest(2013)- The best spot up shooter in the city will open a lot of eyes this season. As a freshman, she led the city in three point percentage while playing off of the ball. She will be the head of a potent Dribble Drive Motion attack for Champion this season. She will be able to exhibit her tight handle and proficient mid-range runner. She capped off an impressive summer campaign by lighting up zones across the nation. For Champion to hope to duplicate last years success, Allemand will have to facilitate as well as score.

18. Ebony Easter- O'Conner/TeamXpress(2012)- Easter gets it done. She has played out of position in both high school and club ball. At 5'09, she has been played in the post but has been very effective in the process. She has great instincts and scores well over bigger defenders. She can knock down the 15 footer with regularity and can put it on the floor going right. This will hopefully be the season that she steps away from the basket and is allowed to grow into her college position as a guard. She reminds me of her club teammate, Alexis Govan in terms of development.

19. Kiarra Taylor-Jay/Lady Rohawks(2011)- After being one of the best on-ball defenders in the city for the last couple of seasons, KiKi found her niche as a scorer this summer. After a season with the South Texas Hoyas and a brief stint with TeamXpress, Taylor found the right fit with the Lady Rohawks. The constant pressing, open post and free shooting offense allowed Taylor to blossom. I viewed a few games this summer where she hit more than 5 three point baskets against major opponents. Her increased range has helped establish her as a scoring threat to go along with being a good defensive player.

20.Karissa Cantu-MacArthur/SA Heat(2011)- An unfortunate ACL injury sidelined Cantu for her last summer season. However, the very polished lead guard is set for a major comeback. She has a flair for the game with nifty passes and adept ball handling. She scores baskets in transition as well as being able to stretch the defense by knocking down open threes.

21. Sabrina Berry- Reagan/Austin Elite(2012)- She is better than a hand full of kids that I have rated higher than her. She was stuck playing JV last season due to transfer rules. Berry has a wingspan that does not stop and a first step to match. She plays a lot bigger than her 5'11 height. If she continues her terrific summer play, the Rattlers will have a tremendous season. She should be a Top 10 player come December when she has solidified her status on the Varsity level.

22.Victoria Villareal-Incarnate Word(2012)- The lefty shooter can play! Injuries have kept this strong guard out of the spotlight as one of the cities best. This season can be the year that she takes her rightful place.

23. Raven Reyes- Jay/South Texas Hoyas(2012)- "Rae Rae" is space eater. She controls the board with her 6-2 and very solid frame. Reyes has come a long way in terms of development and still has a long way to go. She has gotten more polished on the offensive end and has developed a solid go to move with the jump hook.

24. Mo Zuniga- Antonian/SA Roadrunners(2011)- Zuniga is as calm and collected at the point guard position as it gets in the city. She is more of a scorer than a set up guard but she does both well. She is one of the few kids who can knock down the 3 ball off of the dribble.

25(tie). Marissa Rodriguez-Reagan/SA Roadrunners(2011)- Rodriguez has gotten better every year. Playing for one of the best high school coaches in the city, she has grown as a facilitator. She has become a good leader to go along with her nice shooting range.

25(tie). Laquisha "LB" Brown- Judson/SA Finest 2013)- One of the most athletic kids in the city. The Dennis Rodman of the group. She out rebounds bigger opponents with great instincts, leaping ability and timing. She can score in the post and has extended her range to 15 feet on her jumper. As she continues to sharpen her handle, she will be a star.

Knocking On the Door:

-Two players that are easily in the Top 10 players in the city but not on the list are Recee'Caldwell(Johnson/SA Finest) and McKenzie Calvert(Steele/DFW Washington). Both 2014 guards have put in work on a national level and are regarded as two of the best in their respective class by numerous ranking/scouting sources. Both Calvert and Caldwell have gotten the better of numerous girls in the city Top 10 in head to head battles. Caldwell single-handedly outscored 5 of these Top 25 players while leading her very young club team to a victory over them this past spring. I would be very surprised if Calvert was not the leading scorer for the Steele Knights this season. Calvert, a Baylor commit, is a freak of an athlete and will feast on defenders this upcoming season. If petty jealousy and high school politics do not hold these two back, the sky is the limit. I did not rank them because they have yet to play in high school just as I did not rank Amezquita, Vorpahl and Turner going into their freshman seasons.

-Another young player that will shine this season is Wendy Knight(Reagan/SA Finest/2014). The big strong guard is a legitimate Division 1 player already. Knight can do it all, inside and outside.

-Aleeya Harris-(Jay/South Texas Hoyas)2013- Very athletic young post. Blocks a ton of shots and is a physical presence. May eventually choose volleyball over basketball.

-Ashley Bryand-(Smithson Valley/SA Heat)-Big strong forward with good touch around the basket.

-Ashley Ross- (Wagner/South Texas Hoyas)- Will open a lot of eyes this season. As physically gifted as an athlete as any in the city.

-Alison Salmon-(Smithson Valley/South Texas Hoyas)- If she can finally put it all together, Salmon will be a Top 25 kid. She can shoot as good as any in the city and can defend effectively.

-Carly Truesdale- (Churchill)- Effective young scorer with a good feel for the game.

-Claudia Gayton-(East Central)- Can flat out shoot it.

Get Tough!!!

ESPN Hoopgurlz featured a great article on East Coast guard, Bria Smith. The article chronicled her journey becoming one of the best players in the nation. Mentioned in the article was her longtime trainer and hoops whisperer, Jerry Powell. I have been aware of Powell's training prowess for some time. He is a respected trainer of every level, male and female. A good majority of so called trainers are glorified work out coaches. They run players through a series of physically demanding exercises and claim that they are training. While they may be training the physical body, they fail to DEVELOP skill set and sharpen the MENTAL mind. Powell is apparently a true trainer. He uses hundreds of specific drills that he has come up with over the years to teach beginning and accomplished players.

In a YouTube clip featuring Powell, he goes on to discuss his philosophy. " If my momma was in front of me and trying to stop me, I will run her the (expletive) over!". This over the top style earns Powell many detractors but his results are undeniable. Elite guards such as Bria Hartley(UCONN) and Bria Smith(Virginia) have been training with him since the fourth grade! The female Pistol Pete, Samantha Prahalis(Ohio State) and Kentucky freshman Jenifer O'Neil came to him to transform their games. The common characteristic in Powell's trainees is toughness. Powell and his vulgar vocabulary and extreme expectations are as legendary as the players he helps produce.

After watching some of Powell's methods, I then popped in an instructional DVD featuring Purdue men's coach, Matt Painter. The all-access video gives watchers a sneak peak into his Division 1 program. An hour or so in the video, Coach Painter is riding a post player pretty good. He yanked the Big out of a defensive drill and simply stated that he was going to sit on the bench like the previous year if he did not get his act together. A few drills later, the Big finished a team drill with an emphatic rebound. Coach Painter clapped a total of three times. The assistant coaches and other players cheered for the Big. However, the Big was apparently enjoying the ovation a little too much as his teammates continued to shower him with love. Coach Painter then exploded and said, " Lets not have a (expletive) parade for doing something that you are supposed to do. You are on scholarship, you are supposed to do that"!

This comment immediately took me back to an all-access Geno Auriemma DVD. In one of these tapes, Geno tells Maya Moore(the best player in the nation) that she is "the dumbest defensive player he has ever coached". My mind then drifted to a televised USA National team event that Geno lead this past summer. Sylvia Fowles( arguably the best Big in the world) was shooting free throws which prompted Auriemma to comment that her shot was "the ugliest shot ever".

Examples of coaches and trainers making negative comments or gestures to players are too plentiful to document. I have read many accounts of hollering coaches and trainers being bad for girls/women's basketball. Maybe so, but I would say that negativity is a major part of basketball on every level.

The story is as old as the game itself. Suzie Q is told that she is number one on a team's recruitment list. She is promised that the coaching staff will not recruit anymore players at her position. Of course as soon as she signs that Letter of Intent, she realizes that the truth is a matter of interpretation many of times. Suzie Q finds out that the same coach that told her she is number one and the only one, has told the same thing to 5 other girls. She now realizes that she must compete against 5 other players for the minutes that she was guaranteed.

Or how about this one.

Susie Q was recruited by a coach that told her that she would always be there for her. Suzie turns down dozens of other schools and chooses the stability of the loyal coach. One year later, after finally getting acclimated to college life, Suzie is told that her current coach is leaving for greener pastures. Oh well, life goes on. Then the new coach comes in and explains to Suzie that she does fit into the programs future plans. She protests that she can adapt and help the new coach win. The new coach makes in very evident that Suzie services are no longer needed and she will see no playing time. She is encouraged to find somewhere else to play as she does not fit the new regime's plans.

Or this one.

Suzie was all world in high school. She was recruited to become all world at the collegiate level. The honeymoon lasts about two weeks as she realizes that she made a huge mistake. Everything the freshman does is wrong. The things that were cherished as a high school player are seemingly the things that are preventing her from climbing out of the coaches dog house. Her explosiveness in now being called impatient. Her creativity is now being called undisciplined. Her individual ability and initiative that made her a high school great are now being classified as lacking in basketball I.Q. Expectantly, her confidence takes a beating while sitting on the bench. She is away from home and the thing that has always rewarded her is now her biggest agitation. What is she supposed to do? GET TOUGH!!!

All these scenarios happen hundreds if not thousands of times a year at every level of the game. Mental toughness is probably the most important but overlooked aspect to the game. While I am not advocating cursing at kids, I am saying that in the long run, only the mentally strong will survive.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ratings and Rankings!

San Antonio has seen a dramatic increase in national exposure over the past few years. Many of the players that have received national acclaim have at some point been ranked or rated by different basketball entities. What do these rankings mean and are they significant in terms of recruitment? The answer is a resounding yes and here is why.

Recognition- When speaking with a club director of one of the most prestigious clubs in the nation, he gave me interesting insight. He explained to me that playing in exposure events is not the secret of being heavily recruited. He went on to detail how getting respected recruiting services to rank a kid in the top 250 is a sure way to create major college attention. He went on to say that with between 1000-1200 or so Division 1 scholarships being given out on a yearly basis, it is understandable that the Top 25% of the players will have multiple options come decision time. Most respected recruiting services rank close to a 1000 players in each class.

Some may conclude that if all it takes to get heavily recruited is to get ranked highly by one of these services, it is easy to manipulate the system. While this may have some truth, the respected ranking and recruiting services must have integrity to remain credible. Consistently ranking kids for the sake of club affiliation or some other bias would eventually erode credibility among colleges. Most ranking services sell their reports to colleges coaches seeking to keep an eye on national prospects. If a particular ranking service repeatedly manipulated its player rankings, colleges would stop trusting its integrity. While the nature of ranking players is in essence biased, most services are very close in terms of ranking the top players.

San Antonio is an increasing hot city in terms of girls basketball because of recent and current players that have been and are ranked. No where was this more evident than with Tennessee player Meighan Simmons. At some point, Meighan Simmons was ranked in the Top 15 by Hoopgurlz, Blue Star, and All-Star Girls Report. This recognition of being one of the nation's best players helped catapult her to great levels nationally. Of course her ability as a player demanded this recognition but the rankings helped solidify her status as a national star.

In a recent conversation with a writer from one of the main girls basketball publications, I asked him why one of the best shooters in the state of Texas was not garnering more college attention. He explained that she had yet to play in front of the recruiting services and it is the recruiting services who tell the college coaches who they should be paying attention to. The old saying of "If you are good, they will find you" is probably true but being ranked will help more of them find you. Is a gold nugget worth anything while still in the ground? Yes it is but its true value goes unrewarded until its discovered. Ranking services can help players get discovered by colleges that value them. The key is to be worth something first.

Smithson Valley star Danielle Blagg is spending this weekend with her parents and club coach narrowing her school choices down to a dozen. The group spent a marathon session of Friday night into the early morning reducing a list that numbered in the thirties. Every knowing person in the San Antonio basketball community had to figure that Blagg would have numerous offers come her senior year but her status as an elite prospect went off of the charts this past season. Part of the reason for her skyrocketing status was due to fit. Blagg switched clubs and became the "go to" player and the results were tremendous. With her new found star status and a schedule of major events, Blagg went from being unrated on Hoopgurlz to being rated as a 90. This is the same rating that San Antonio star Erica Donovan received by Hoopgulz. This is the second highest rating of San Antonio kids, behind Sune Agbuke's 92. While the rating did not make Blagg a great player, it certainly help spread the word among the schools on a national level. Blagg has improved her ranking in a number of major ranking services and obviously colleges have come to pay attention.

(A side note: Blagg was given a very favorable rating in the Dan Olsen Report(very respected among college coaches) but not ranked within the Top 300 players nationally(Erica Donovan is ranked #125). Even though she was not ranked in the Top 300, she still has over of 30 firm Division 1 offers. This represents close to 10% of Division 1 programs wanting Blagg to play for them. This illustrates how heavily recruited the Top 25-50% of the players nationally can be.)

San Antonio will continue to makes waves nationally for years to come. The players in the city are increasing playing, training, traveling and getting exposed at an earlier age. The result will be an influx of great young stars getting rated and rank by the national services. All-Star Girls Report, one of the nations most respected services, recently ranked two of the brightest young stars in the city TOP 10 NATIONALLY! 2014 players, Recee' Caldwell and McKenzie Calvert were ranked #5 and #10 respectively by ASGR. While they both have a very long way to go as basketball players, they are doing their part to keep the spotlight on San Antonio for years to come.