Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cornerstone's Big Win!

Just when I blogged that Smithson Valley is ready to peak, they lose to Cornerstone last night 58-63.

Or should I rephrase and say that Cornerstone BEAT Smithson Valley last night 63-58.

Cornerstone Coach "Ice" Reed was pretty optimistic about this upcoming season in a conversation early in the fall. Looks like he knew something that most did not. The small private school beating a Top 10 team in the city is a great accomplishment.

Baylor commit, Sune Agbuke finished with 20 points in the big win.

Kuster showing out!!

Rice freshman and former Reagan star, Jessica Kuster is playing out of her mind for the Rice Owls. Kuster is averaging 10.5 points(2nd on team) and 8.3 rebounds(1st of team).

Kuster went off in the month of December by averaging 18.75 points and 9.5 rebounds to lead her team in scoring and boards. She gave Long Beach State 31 points on 13 for 16 shooting during that stretch.

The very athletic Kuster is also averaging 1 steal and 1.8 blocks.

Her stat line looks like this:

10.5 points 8.3 boards 1.8 blocks and 1 steal while playing 23 minutes per game

For those that may recall, Kuster originally committed to the University of Texas-Arlington. She later decided to switch to Rice. So far, she is proving that she made a great decision and chose the right fit.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Peak Time!

Here are some teams and players that are seemingly peaking at the right time:

Roosevelt- The defensive clinic that Roosevelt put on last Friday night vs Reagan was impressive. Roosevelt played primarily man defense and held the Rattlers to close to 20 points under their season average. The athleticism and intensity of the Roosevelt defense held Reagan leading scorers to a total of 4 points. Niaga Mitchell- Cole is a lock down defender and can rely on disciplined weak side help when being aggressive. With big wins over Jay, Churchill, and Reagan in the last month, Roosevelt may be peaking at the right time.

Jay- Just when Jay looked vulnerable, they beat district rival Stevens to reassert their standing. Now they get A LOT better with the return of Destiny Amezquita. Destiny is a TOP 10 kid in the city and that still may be too low. Very few players in the city has the complete triple threat offensive arsenal like Amezquita. She has NBA range, a super strong body and handle to drive and great vision as a passer. She had 17 points in a her season debut last week. With her return, the rich just got richer.

Smithson Valley- The Rangers are experienced and have four players that can score double figures on a nightly basis. They have veteran point guard play in Alison Salmon. Lauren Jay and Ashley Bryand are double double players in the post and Danielle Blagg is playing like a Division 1 signee should. Blagg had 28 points a couple weeks ago vs Champion and is shooting the ball well. In a city where final scores can be in the mid-30's, SV's ability to limit turnovers with veteran guard play and point production from multiple players bodes well for their district aspirations. Another benefit that SV has going for them is the fact that they have dropped to 4A. This veteran group has played the last few years in one of the most challenging 5A districts in the city, 26-5A.

Southwest- Shana Holmes is back and Southwest can not be ignored. Holmes gave Steele 26 points in a win last week and is still rusty from being out with an ACL injury. "Baby" Boone-Fudge is averaging 16 points and double figures in boards to complete a potent inside outside attack with Holmes. Southwest coach, Bill Avey, does a great job at letting his kids go. A healthy Holmes is the best scorer in the city and Avey is smart enough to let her do what she does best! This is a team that very few will want to play come February.

(Avey Side note: Bill Avey does a great job at instilling "pecking order" in his kids. When Holmes was out with the injury, players such as Tiffani Rodriguez helped fill the void and stepped up big. However, when his scoring machine came back, Avey made sure that his squad understood who would take a bulk of the shots and not surprisingly, the wins have followed. Avey has struggled through a few seasons and with the arrival of Holmes last season, he knows that great players are few and far between for most coaches in the city. What Avey is doing is very common in football around the city. When you have Malcolm Brown in your back field, give Malcolm Brown the ball!)

Giving Season!

In the season of giving, here is a short list of SOME of the best givers in the city:

Lauren Rubio- The South San lefty is arguably the best passer in the city. She understands that a good pass leads to a good shot. She has incredible touch on her passes and a flair for the no look.

Karissa Cantu- The MacArthur PG enjoys setting up her teammates as much as any kid in the city.

Chymaya Turner- The reigning state Shot Put queen is an extremely good passer. She is often the focal point of opposing defenses and her teammates benefit from her generosity.

Leslie Vorpahl- The super soph is probably the best in the city at knowing her personnel. She realizes that some players are always open for a reason! Vorpahl does a great job at passing the ball to teammates in an area that they can succeed.

Jackie Anderson- The much improved guard for Antonian is becoming a terrific facilitator. She does a increasingly good job of leading her passes by throwing to open areas and prompting teammates to move to the ball.

Alexis Copeland- Another sophomore guard for O'Conner with good vision and touch. The lefty passes off of the dribble extremely well.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Quick Quips!

-In an article from ESPN Hoopgurlz, the nationally respected St Mary's of California head coach, Tom Gonsalves, is chronicled. The article goes on to detail the success of the St Mary's program despite losing two high school All-Americans from last year's team. The article goes on to state the following:

"It's understandable that others didn't see this coming, but Gonsalves maybe should have. For a given group, his 32-minutes-of-hell, freewheeling style is anywhere from six to eight years in the making. The club teams that feed into the St. Mary's program start running the frenetic defensive traps and taking 500 shots a day in the fifth grade."

- Speaking of coaches that get it, Judson Coach, Triva Corrales gets it! A high school and club coach told me an encouraging account of Coach Corrales recently.

Apparently, Corrales had a conversation with a father of one of her players. This father went to Corrales to complain that she was playing "post" players at the guard position. His daughter is a guard and the playing of "post" players at the guard was a concern of his. The "post" players in question were in the 5'9 range. While this may be a suitable height for post players in some parts of San Antonio, it is hardly the size needed in the post to be an elite team. It is definitely not the appropriate size for playing the post at the next level.

Coach Corrales reportedly went on to explain to the father that these 5'9 "post" players have the ability to play after high school and that she would not put them in the post and sacrifice their future as basketball players. That is HUGE!!! Not only does she understand the X's and O's, she can see the forest by making sure she remembers to nurture the trees.

- Roosevelt is the best defensive team in the city. They held Jay to 17 points under(39) their average in a win a couple of weeks ago. They held Steele to 11 points under(45) their average in a close loss. Friday night vs Churchill, they held the opposition to 28 points, or 25 points below their season average.(Churchill was missing two starters and lost Leslie Vorpahl early to an ankle injury). Coach Rob Rheinberger does a great job at teaching helpside principles. His man defense looks like a zone with the way the weakside clogs the paint in order to help. However, the teaching, length and athleticism of his defense are not the main reason for its success. The main reason for Roosevelt's stingy defense is its OFFENSE!

In Fridays game vs Churchill, both teams combined to score 5 points in the second quarter. Churchill won the second quarter by scoring 3 points to Roosevelt's 2! The main reason for the lack of point production was Roosevelt's offensive strategy. On consecutive possessions, the Rough Riders passed the ball 11 times before hoisting a three point attempt. Churchill was not playing an aggressive zone. In fact, the 2-3 zone used by Churchill barely moved and almost dared Roosevelt to shoot. The constant ball reversal did little to break down the Churchill defense and allow for penetration of the gaps or uncontested three point shots. The three point shots that resulted from the numerous swing passes around the perimeter could have been shot on the first pass. The strategy left many scratching their heads.

Analyzing the Roosevelt offensive philosophy deeper, the brilliance of it comes to mind. Keeping the ball out of the hands of the opposition is as old as the game itself. However, very few teams can do it as effectively as the Roosevelt. They do a great job at stagnating the momentum of the opposition by making sure that they do not touch the ball often. John Jay and it's high scoring offense can not score if they do not have the ball. While this may not be pretty, it has been somewhat successful. Rheinberger capitalizes off of the lack of shot clock in Texas. He is playing by the rules. This type of basketball was prevalent in the late 90's in the NBA. The game became so physical that a lot of teams used every second of the shot clock and final scores would be in the 80's. David Stern realized that this type of basketball was killing the popularity and excitement of the game and enacted rules to counter the continuance of this style of basketball. The high school game does not have David Stern to police the brand of ball in the city of San Antonio so Coach Rheinberger is doing his best Jeff Van Gundy impression and doing very well with it.

- The Meighan Simmons Effect- Why am I still talking about Meighan Simmons? Because everybody else is! Her effect on this city is very evident:

The Steele Lady Knights are 9-6. They have played a tough schedule but not having Simmons is the main culprit in the losses. They averaged over 70 points a game last season. They are averaging 25 points less this season. The missing 25 points per game is about what Simmons averaged last year. I underestimated the Simmons effect on the current Steele team and thought that they would still score in droves. So far, I was very wrong.

The father of one of the best young players in the country sent a text to me during the Tennessee vs Stanford game that read, " M.Simmons Representing S.A. big time!" This father lives in what most consider a basketball hotbed for talent. His text illustrates how important Simmons current accomplishments are still having on the city. Her success screams that SA can not be ignored.

For instance, last Tuesday, Texas A&M and Texas Tech were at the Johnson HS gym. The main reason for their visit was to see freshman, Recee' Caldwell. However, consider the context of the visits. Caldwell can surely go and if she remains focused, the sky is the limit. But, of the two schools that were playing, Johnson and Brennan, neither school has a reputation for success nor overwhelming talent. Brennan is a brand new school and Johnson is only a few years older. Johnson current record of 15 wins is almost double last years total output of 8 wins. I find it hard to believe that these Big 12 schools(Oklahoma St. viewed Johnson's Friday loss to Reagan) would have been making personal high school game visits to view a freshman 5 years ago. Simmons has shown that the city has some players that can make a major impact nationally and should be recruited as heavy as more recognized talent hotbeds.

Simmons has the youth of the city energized. Seeing so many kids at the Texas vs Tennessee game screaming her name was a thing of beauty. She has became a symbol of success for many of the aspiring young girls in the city. Simmons has also converted the nonbelievers. Sitting in the stands and listening to so many haters criticize Simmons over the last few years was nauseating. Watching these naysayers now jump on the Simmons bandwagon is very satisfying. As Kanye raps, "Hater Parents make Hater Kids" and the love for Simmons is stopping that generation curse:)!!!!

- Stephanie Whittman, former Alamo Heights star is coming home tonight to face UTSA.

- How did Reagan celebrate the first district win of the year? By watching film early the next day. Coach Terry Barton made his squad get up early Saturday morning to study game film of the previous night's win over Johnson. While this is the norm for most elite schools across the nation, it is encouraging to hear of a SA coach preparing his kids for the next level where chopping film is such an integral part of the game.

In a visit to Devine last week, I was a bit envious. I toured the weight room of the football team and it was a sight to see. The size of the building and equipment that the football players in this small town have access to was amazing. What was really impressive was the sound system and film projection area that the weight room included. I know that this is Texas and boys but I wished for a short amount of time that girls basketball was taken as seriously and supported like football. However, I know that is a silly notion. Back to reality.

- A friend of Abileine Wylie head coach, Tri Danley relayed interesting insight from the successful coach. Coach Danley's squad was the 3A State Runner -Up last season and features the ultra-talented scoring machine, Peyton Little. Little has already committed to the Univ of Texas. Coach Danley is a respected X & O guy but apparently understands that he needs to allow his star to be a star and not mar her brillance with too many structured sets. He also tells those that will listen that his team "wears the Gunn out EVERY PRACTICE". For those that do not know, the Gunn is a shooting machine and allows for players to shoot hundreds of shots in rapid succession. Apparently, the Gunn is set up on half of the court and in use almost the entire practice. There is no wonder that his team was in Austin last year and Little can shoot with anybody in the nation.

- UTSA is hosting the Christmas Classic Monday and Tuesday night. The event features UTSA, Kansas St, Middle Tennessee St and St Bonaventure.

- Besides Oklahoma St, Texas A&M and Texas Tech visiting, Rice, North Texas, UTA and UTSA have all been seen repeatedly in local gyms over the last couple of weeks. Their presence validates the Field of Dreams quote, "If you build it, they will come". SA is definitely building!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quick Hitters!

- I stand corrected. Wagner showed all of us that they are top in the city with a big win over Churchill last weekend. Arielle Roberson is having a huge year by averaging over 22 a game so far. Coach Camacho's crew is adjusting to not having a true veteran point guard and are still getting it done. Freshman Corrina Mochado will be a star one day for the Thunderbird attack.

- Speaking of Wagner, Ebony Watkins has the nastiest cross over dribble in the city. She constantly yanked defenders during the Lonestar event. Ebony does a terrific job at moving the defender with her upper body lean. When the defender reacts to her lean, she pulls a violent crossover below the knee level of the defender. This lean and low cross leaves most defenders reaching and off balance.

- Roosevelt beat Jay Tuesday night in a close game. That very talented group lost a tough game to Jay in the Lonestar event last week. Niaga Mitchell-Cole took over the game with 11 huge points in the fourth quarter of that game before fouling out. Niaga walked off of the court and fought tears. It was a beautiful sight to see. Passion is gorgeous!

- Speaking of Passion, or lack there of, why are so many kids laughing on the court when down by double digits? I saw a game between two TOP 10 teams and one was getting drubbed. The losing team had a starter on the bench playing "Patty Cake" with a teammate! More on that later.

- SA Great and Tennessee leading scoring, Meighan Simmons, will visit Austin this weekend. The scoring machine will play at UT at 12pm on Sunday. I heard the perfect nickname for Simmons last week. Her former club coach named her "Speedy" for obvious reasons. However, I like the name that another former club coach called her last week; "Machine Gun Simmons"! I love it because it illustrates an important fact; the basket is always 10 feet. Meighan has shot the ball close to 3000 times in high school. She has MADE over a 1000 baskets. Her fast start should be a surprise to no one. The game is the game. The basket is 10 feet in Tennessee just like in Cibolo. "Machine Gun" Simmons gets buckets!!!

-Speaking of buckets, Shana Holmes is back! The Southwest scoring machine was cleared earlier this week from an ACL injury and had 19 points in her season debut. The city scoring leaders better step up or prepare to drop a slot in the rankings because Shana scores with the best of them. Teamed with Chatavia "Baby" Boone-Fudge, Southwest just became a real threat on the city's landscape.

- While Shana may be a natural scorer, her baby sister is showing that scoring is a family affair. Aaliyah Holmes dropped 40 in her season opener a couple of weeks ago for Scobee Middle School and is averaging 31! The 7th grader is definitely one of the brightest young stars in the city. Holmes "2.0" plays for her dad and his Lady Hoops club. The Lady Hoops team is one of the better 2016 teams in the state of Texas.

- In email correspondence with one of the better basketball young minds around, Brian McCormick mentioned that his players warm up by playing Tag. Apparently, Tag is no only a game for kids. It has great benefits from a dynamic warm up stand point. McCormick goes on to say that Tag "trains almost every basic movement skill:agility, quickness, evading, bending, faking etc." When you recall that the majority of ACL injuries for young women basketball players are non-contact and a good portion happens when abrupt stopping or cutting, it is no wonder how beneficial Tag can be to young players. I have longed used Dribble Tag for my young players in order to help teach ball handling skills but now understand that Tag may be more imporatnt for older players.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

High School Coach on Leadership

A successful local high school coach sent the following on Leadership:

"One aspect of being a good leader is pulling out the best that others have to offer. For a point guard it can be getting the ball to teammates in spots where they can be effective and certainly not in spots where they might get into trouble. Steve Nash, Magic Johnson and Mark Jackson are obvious examples. On the court is important but off the court is also a factor. Players that are role players on the court can be leaders if they have a certain charisma. These leaders are still most effective if they bring the best out of people. Some players may tend to have a bad attitude. Leaders make sure the team is unified in purpose and selfish or destructive attitudes stay hidden, or, really effective leaders can get people to buy in to the team purpose in such a way that bad attitudes change. We see this at the professional level all the time. Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest (with the Pacers) could be destructive without effective leadership like that of Phil Jackson.

Everyone brings something to the table. Coaches take the best of what their players have to offer and try to cover up their weaknesses. That can sometimes be difficult because players must sometimes be forced to improve on their weaknesses in game situations. I personally like players to focus on these weaknesses during the off season when player development is a priority. If a player is trying to incorporate a new skill they must first perform that skill consistently in practice and then transition to performing it in a game. By district play, I make a decision on what skills I want players to execute in games....

Coaches are trying to bring out the best in their team. One way to make the team better is to create more skills in your players so you have more skills to pull out.(My highlight)

In contrast to core players, role players bring what they do best to the table. Role players are role players for a reason. While they have particular skills, they also have deficiencies. For a team to function at a high level these deficiencies need to stay hidden until they become strengths. Like I said earlier, role players can be leaders. These players understand more than others what their strengths and weaknesses are. Bruce Bowen played lights out D and made corner threes. He didn’t attack the basket or take a lot of mid-range jumpers. Derek Fisher is the unquestioned leader of the Lakers but on the court he is a role player partly because he doesn’t try to do more than he can. Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks….proves my point. "

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More Thoughts and Observations!!

This blog has been hinting at what should have been obvious to all; District 26-5A is the toughest in the city this year. Here is the evidence:

  • With Churchill's defeat of the John Jay last night, they must be considered the best team in the city. Wagner may rise to #1 in the SA Express rankings but Churchill probably should get the nod. Churchill has defeated 4 of the Top 10 teams in SA Express rankings(Jay, Stevens, Reagan, Steele)

  • 30% of the Top 10 are 26-5A teams(Churchill, Reagan, Roosevelt).

  • MacArthur beat Top 10 Stevens last week. Stevens was an extremely tired team but the fact remains that Mac beat them. Johnson High School lost by seven points to Top 10 New Braunfels without Recee' Caldwell, who is averaging 21 points and 5 assists for Johnson.

- One of the best high school coaches in the city recently shared with me that the city has come a very long way in terms of progress since the mid 90's. He went on to talk about how advanced the kids are compared to then. He spoke of a freshman that he currently has that is "the most complete" freshman that he has ever coached. This assessment of the cities improvement mirrors a conversation that I had with SA great and current UTSA asst coach, Tai Dillard. Coach Dillard talked of how more quality kids are coming out of the city in terms of being able to compete in college. These two opinions serve as a direct rebuttal to the "AAU is the worst thing to happen to Basketball" comment that a local high school told local referees recently. That comment is absurd!

Take the success of Churchill for instance. The bulk of the Churchill point production is a direct result of the SA Heat. Leslie Vorpahl, Danni Espinoza and Carlie Truesdale all have played for the SA Heat for a number of years. In a quote by Jordan Holub to the SA Express, “New season, new coach, new team,” Holub said. “We're going to state. That's what we want.” While the coach and the season may be new, the players are not. In October of this year, I watched the above mentioned SA Heat players play against a TeamXpress team that featured Krystal Forthan(LSU), Brianna Bogard( East Tennessee State), Elena Gumbs(Steele HS/D1 guard), Darreal Youngblood( 6'4 Top 150 player for 2012), Jasmine Sborov(Colarado), and Arielle Roberson( Still considering multiple D1 offers). The Churchill kids will not face a team in the entire state that can come close to the talent level of that TeamXpress team. When the Churchill team was down by double digits against Jay, they did not panic. They had no need to panic. They knew that they have faced stiffer competition than what local or state high school teams can produce. Where Erica Donovan is the Sun for her extremely good high school team, she is just one of many stars on her club team. This puts the no-fear factor in perspective.

This reminds me of a comment from a local high school coach who stated that he was surprised at the start of Recee' Cadwell this season. This coach stated that he thought Recee', being a freshman, would be intimidated by Stevens star Alexis Govan(Western Kentucky). My reply was a resounding "Are you serious"?! Though Caldwell is only 14, she has played with and against Meighan Simmons(Tennessee), Cassie Peoples(Texas), Tyler Scaithe(#1 pg 2013), Jada Terry(2013 Texas commit), Moriah Jefferson(#1 player in 2012 in multiple services) and Courtney Williams(Texas A&M commit) to name few, since she was 11 years old. All the above mentioned players are ranked in the top of their classes nationally!

- In another example of that absurd comment, let's look at the best players for the Top 3 teams in city according to SA Express:

1. Jay- Donovan(TeamXpress), Destiny Amezquita(Lady Mustangs), KiKi Taylor(Lady Rohawks)

2. Wagner-Roberson(TeamXpress), Eboni Watkins( Lady Rohawks)

3. Churchill- Vorpahl, Espinoza, Truesdale (SA Heat), Holub(?)

Last year 2010 class sent close to 30 kids on to play in college at all levels. EVERY one of those kids at some point played club(AAU) ball.

- Moving on, Jay is still the team to beat in the city. The Lady Mustangs were beaten last year during tournaments by Wagner, only to beat the Lady Thunderbirds to go to Austin. Mike Floyd does a good job and having his team peak at the right time. The Lady Mustangs are missing one of the very best players in the city in Destiny Amezquita. When she returns to full form, Jay SHOULD be unbeatable locally. Especially if 2013 post, Aleeya Harris continues to play like she did last night. The ultra gifted Harris had 17 points . Jay has 3 six-footers(Harris, Vanessa Orr and Raven Reyes) that all can produce in their own way. Harris is athletic, strong and blocks a lot of shots. Orr can hit the open 15 footer and is a solid rebounder. The 6'2 Reyes is a rebounding machine and effective space eater. Getting 20 points and 20 boards from these three will make it even tougher for SA teams to unseat Jay at the Austin table.

- Arielle Roberson is leading the city in scoring at over 24 points per game.

- Bob Springer's Texas Basketball Magazine is out and features some local kids on the all-state teams:

1st Team- Elena Gumbs(Steele/2012) and Erica Donovan(Jay)

2nd Team- Arielle Roberson(Wagner) and Shana Holmes( Southwest)

3rd Team- Ebony Easter(O'Connor)

It is always good for SA area kids to get state wide recognition but I questioned the accuracy of this publication last year when it named Meighan Simmons 3rd Team All-State. Of course we all know what the McDonald All-American Simmons went on to achieve. The publication spells Ebony Easter name as (Eboy) and has Donovan attending Taft and being 5'7.