Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chasing Meighan!!

What Meighan Simmons has meant to the San Antonio area's basketball scene can not be measured. She has motivated young basketball players across the city to strive to achieve more. She has shown the nation that San Antonio's brightest players can play with anybody. The McDonald All-American door has been opened and it is highly probable that more local kids will too be named to this team over the next handful of years. Meighan's positive effect on the city can not be denied, however, her high school brilliance has had some adverse consequences as well.

Bites too Big for the Mouth: Since Meighan's commitment to the legendary program of Tennessee, a number of the kids in the city have chosen schools that were a little over their head in an attempt to "keep up with Meighan". Some mid-major D1 talents chose high majors schools and are having trouble finding playing time. Some players chose small D1 schools over the better fits of D2 schools and are having trouble adjusting their game to the higher level.

Big Time Daddies(Mommas): Another "Meighan Effect" is the prevalence of the number of parents, primarily fathers, in overvaluing the abilities of their daughters. It is amusing to hear many parents coaching from the sideline and exaggerating the exploits of their kids with no real reference point. To hear middle school daddies compare their child to older elite players is ridiculous if they did not see these elite players in middle school. Also, failing to take into account the caliber of competition and coaching is problematic. This also speaks of a lack of perspective when comparing kids and not taking "upside" into account.

I routinely heard a father talk of how his daughter was a great scorer and unstoppable in middle school when projecting her eventual brilliance. This father failed to account for other factors like genetics, environment and personal drive. Without being completely sidetracked, Meighan's first cousin on her mothers side is a veteran NFL player who makes his living with his amazing speed. Meighan's father is 6'4ish with a muscular build, even in his middle aged years. Her brother is a freshman linebacker at Oklahoma State and her baby brother is already closing in on 6"4 as a rising sophomore. Besides these athletic genes, Meighan had an environment that nurtured her amazing talent. Her close knit supportive family had a distinct plan for Meighan's development and stuck with the script. Most importantly, Meighan possesses an overlooked but essential "WILL TO SUCCEED" most players simply do not have. Her self confidence, vision and determination is not normal.

(Side note: Size- I often recall the pronouncements of a local father who had a chip on his shoulder about the size of his daughter. He claimed that everybody discriminated against his child because of her size. He would go on for days about how unfair it was that his daughter was "slept on" by coaches, ranking services and by this site. Never mind that at least two local players,underclassmen in fact, have D1 offers and are the same size as his daughter. What this dad could not see was that he stunted his daughters development by chasing trophies instead of making sure she had a D1 skill set in her formative years.)

Delusional High School Coaches?- In speaking with a D1 coach recently, he/she had been informed of a local high school coach claiming that to have three high major D1 players currently on his roster. This coach is apparently unknowledgeable. He is a good X and O coach in my opinion but his cocoon has him fooled! Any high school coach that does not go to elite club events in the summer will have a tough time at being objective. The coaches that do not visit high major college practices are not informed about the caliber of player that it takes to plays at that level. The problem is again, perspective.

(Another Side Note: A few years ago I spoke of an Oklahoma high school coach I met at a club tournament. I chronicled her success. I find it NO SURPRISE that this coach is now the head coach at Tulsa University. In the same blog, I "discovered" a dynamic young guard named Kamra King. Ms. King is now a freshman at UTSA and looked very good last week in a spirited scrimmage vs SA greats, Jasmine Malone and Sarah Miles)

Take Boerne Champion for instance. Johnathan Tate is one of the brightest young minds in the city. He is one of the few coaches that I consistently see scouting opponents on off days. He is innovative in many ways. A couple of years ago, his brilliance helped his team share a district title with Steele, led by Meighan Simmons. Now, an unknowledgable observer would reason that Tate's Champion team must have had players that were as good as Simmons. WRONG!!! The truth is that Tate's "team" was arguably as good as Steele's team. College coaches make their living "finding" players. Not one senior from that 2010 Steele team is playing college basketball on a scholarship, let alone at the highest level of the game for a a program like Tennessee. Champion's team ran a great system. A great system and the Texas high school rules (lack of shot clock), allow good/great coaches to partially minimize the accomplishments of great players. Coaching schemes are essentially why a kid can play against a Simmons led team and score as much as her, and her high school coach FALSELY believe that his/her player is even in the same breath as Simmons.

This overestimation of high school players by high school coaches lead some to encourage wrong schools choices. A former local high school coach advised her star guard to pass up on the only D1 offer a few years ago because her player "could get a bigger" offer. Luckily this kid secured a late offer from another "small" D1 at an exposure event after her high school senior season. This kind of thinking has been a vice of club coaches in the past but now some high school coaches are joining them in getting caught up "going big".

Club Basketball Marketing: For a club organization to advertise that a former player went to a big time university helps the prestige of that club. For a club coach to speak with the Patt Summitt or Geno Auriemma is very flattering and some get caught up in the hype. A club director claiming that so many former players playing in BCS conferences, helps future recruiting efforts. It implies that a particular club is "big time". The problem with this perception is that some miss the fact that Simmons is different. Her early success at the highest level of college basketball is the exception, not the norm. Also, her former club team, TeamXpress, has had successful kids play at the BCS level before Simmons(Sarah Miles). Great clubs do not make the players, great players make great clubs.

All we have to do is look at Jesica Kuster of Rice as an example. Kuster did not "go big time" to many observers. However, next to Simmons, she had the most successful freshman season of any kid in the city, even though some kids went "bigger". Her high school and club coach can take pride in the fact that they guided her to the right choice, the right fit, and did not get blinded by getting caught up in the (Meighan) moment.

Chasing Trophies: This is a very sore subject. Watching local teams and parents constantly chasing trophies is hurting the game. Watching Meighan score almost at will while shattering the city scoring record has led many parents to believe that this is the only way to succeed. Consequently, these clubs and parents play inferior competition in an attempt of having little Suzy look like a scoring machine. This is a very flawed strategy.

Meighan Simmons played up in competition! My first month in San Antonio, I visited Meighan's club practice in Austin. I found her pretty impressive. She was a freshman still and had been recently named New Comer of the Year for the city. I found it interesting that she was the starting guard on her TeamXpress team and her BACKUP was the #75 ranked player in the nation by ESPN Hoopgurlz. Please reread that last sentence. That should tell you two things; Meighan was a high major talent as freshman and she played up instead of finding an inferior team and competition to make her look good.

This blog is not really about Meighan. It is about how the city may be looking through rose colored glasses when we approach the girls that are coming after her. Yes, we should be pushing the young players that want to be pushed to achieve more than Meighan. The problems occur when we fail to consider how extraordinary she was(is) and how we can get on a slippery slope in the pursuit of achieving her status. The crown is extremely heavy to wear and it simply does not fit the head of the majority of players.