With the first day of practice arriving, the preseason Top 10 Teams will be noted. Today's blog covers teams 1 through 5.
1. John Jay
Jay will be the team to beat this season due to their experience and culture. The Lady Mustangs expect to be the best in the city and their approach reflects this mindset. Coach Mike Floyd does the best job in the city at establishing pecking order. The Jay players know who the boss is on and off of the court. The ball will be in the hands of scoring machine Destiny Amezquita . Destiny will bring her trademark range and play making ability to bear this season as she is fully recovered from an ACL injury. One of the most improved players in the city and a “hot” kid is Aleeya Harris. Harris will have a breakout year for the Mustangs. Add 6’3 rebounding machine and space eater, Raven Reyes to the mix and the Mustangs have a physically strong team. Sophomore Antania Newton will show why she entered high school with such a great reputation. The bully ball toughness of the Lady Mustangs was at its best with NC State player Erica Donovan in the fold, however, that same tenacity and toughness is still ingrained in the current team.
Talent wins, ask Phil Jackson! Steele has 3 of the Top 20 players in the city in Elena Gumbs, McKenzie Calvert and Freshman Kyra Lambert. Kari Wallace has balanced the incredible amount of talent that she has inherited the last few years with great success. If another top freshman in the city, Bri Millett fits into Coach Wallace’s plans, this would give Steele four D1 players on the same team. That SHOULD spell success. Gumbs does not have the pressure of playing for a scholarship as she is already slated for Rice. Calvert is committed to Baylor and Lambert should have her pick of schools when all is said and done. If these players can play together and Coach Wallace has the system to keep all of this talent pacified, Steele could find their way to Austin. The lack of size in the middle should not hurt much in the area as few teams have post players that can score effectively in the post.
Wagner must always be in the discussion for top in the city honors. The Thunderbirds are fresh off of another trip to Austin. They return 5 major contributors from that Final Four team; Corinna Moncada, Adriane Davis, Aundrea Davis, Kiarra Rivera and Ashley Ross. Ross is a Top 10 talent in the city, regardless of class. She is unfortunately out for the first portion of the season due to injury. When Ross returns, Wagner will play its trademark pressure defense and wear teams down. Coach Tina Camacho has not lost a district game in 4 years and can strategize with the best that the city has to offer. Camacho does a great job off mixing up her defenses in the flow off the game to keep teams off balance. The culture of Wagner girl’s basketball promotes success. Camacho instills an ethic that encourages her players to go beyond. The constant attacking of the Davis twins, coupled with the tough inside play of Kiarra Rivera will prove to be a tough out. Moncada is a fearless defender and gives the Thunderbirds four capable ball handlers against pressure. The loss of Arielle Roberson (Colorado) and Eboni Watkins(UTA) will surely hurt but Wagner does not rebuild, they reload.
Terry Barton is one of the better X & O’s coaches in the city and has the talent this year to match. Many think that the Rattlers will be the top team in the city. Reagan has three D1 players in Sabrina Berry (UTSA), Moriah Mack and Wendy Knight. All three players scored in double digits last season. This balance allows Coach Barton to solve junk defenses employed by some teams to slow down star players. Three proficient scorers prove very difficult to defend. The ability of all three players to attack off the dribble makes Reagan a nightmare matchup for most. Post player Corrigan Tibbs is much improved and should average double digits in rebounds. Point guard Tessa Ramirez should step into the void left by Marissa Rodriguez and provide scoring and leadership. In a city where 50 points is enough to win basketball games on a consistent basis, Reagan’s big three gives them a leg up on most teams in the city. Come play off time, no local coach is going to want to see Reagan on their schedule.
The “Wulf” howled and prowled his way to an outstanding season last year. Coach Cal Wulfburg was masterful in his strategies and sideline politicking in his inaugural season. No coach lobbied officials and made them compete against each other for his favor like Wulfsburg. The way he employed his “1-3 Denial” defense had many opposing coaches baffled. He put the play making decisions in the hands of the purest point guard in the city, Leslie Vorpahl. Vorpahl is a coach’s dream with her ability to make others better. She will have to score a lot more this season with the move of Carly Truesdale. Jordan Holub is back and is a very proficient high school scorer. Dani Espinoza should make up for Truesdale’s missing shots (points) by averaging a double double in her senior year. Churchill will not have the same firepower as last season but that may be a blessing in disguise. Look for The Wulf to unleash Vorpahl for a monster year. Ironically, his team has gotten easier to defend with the loss of Truesdale. His own Box and 1 like tactics may know be used against him to disable his attack. Look for Vorpahl to face constant double teams and rack up the minutes going into play offs. How she holds up for 35 games will determine the success of the Chargers come February.