Wednesday, December 28, 2011

San Antonio: Low-Mid Major City (Part 1)

San Antonio has grown leaps and bounds in the last few years in terms of girls basketball. While the city is located in perhaps the "hottest" state for talent according to many college suitors, San Antonio still trails Dallas and Houston in producing High-Major girls basketball players. SOME theories for the disparity will be noted but first a need to clarify the difference in levels of colleges.

Though distinct definitions for High-Major, Mid-Major and Low-Major are hard to come by, there is pretty much a common consensus on High-Major schools. The automatic qualifiers for the BCS Bowl Championship series are considered High-Major schools. The AQ's are the six power conferences; ACC, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12, Big East and Big Ten. Conference realignment has muddied the waters of which schools are now High-Majors, but that is another subject. These six conferences make up 74 schools, give or take a couple with realignment. These 74 schools are considered High-Major schools.

Mid-Majors are commonly considered to be these nine conferences; Atlantic 10, Colonial Athletic Association, Conference USA, Horizon League, Mid-American, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, West Coast, and Western Athletic Conference.

Low-Majors are considered to be conferences such as Southland, MEAC, Summit, and Ohio Valley. Some Low-Majors would argue that they are Mid-Majors. Again, no true definitions for the separation in the designation of the Low and Mid-Majors exist. Consequently, there is little difference between some Low and Mid-Major women's basketball programs in terms of talent.

The true talent gap exists between High-Major schools and Low-Mid Majors basketball programs. While programs like Gonzaga produce teams that dance with the big girls on a consistent basis,the women's game has a distinct caste system when winning national championships are concerned. The Butler's, VCU's, and George Mason's have shown that the men's side of basketball has closed the talent gap but the disparity is still pretty wide on the women's side.

Here are SOME theories why San Antonio is a city that is better suited to produce Low-Mid Major players in comparison to Houston an DFW Metroplex. Instead of focusing on what San Antonio is not, I will try to focus on the advantages that Houston and the DFW Metroplex have in comparison.

Numbers- The greater Houston area has around 6 million residents. The DFW Metroplex has more than 6 million people. In contrast, the greater San Antonio area has a little more than 2 million people. The Houston and DFW areas are triple the size of San Antonio. The larger two areas are able to choose from a deeper talent pool of available players. Players like Meighan Simmons or Clarissa Davis show that San Antonio's best players can match up against the other areas best, but those areas have more Meighan's and Clarissa's due to the sheer number of available players.

Clubs- Club programs play an integral part of helping produce High-Major talent. The Houston and DFW areas have a thriving club scene. Houston has Nike Cy-Fair Shock, Houston Heat(DFW-Washington), Houston Insiders, Cy-Fair Premier, Cy-Fair Texans, Houstonians, Alodia Eclipse, Houston Elite, and Houston Wildcats. These are just a few of the prominent programs that have produced multiple D1 players. Besides producing D1 players, these Houston area teams have produced numerous McDonald All-American players in the last few years; Kelsey Bone, Karla Gilbert, Stephanie and Brianna Gilbreth, Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, Cassie Peoples, and Amber Orrange. A kid named Brittany Griner is also from Houston and started her club career there before moving to a team in Dallas.

Dallas has the only other Nike sponsored club in the state, DFW Elite. This club put 20 plus players in the D1 ranks a few years ago; one club in one year! Add Texas Express, Top Prospects, NT Shockers, Dream Team, US Elite, Nike Cy-Fair Shock-Hensle, Westside Elite and United Basketball. Again, these are just a few of the clubs that consistently produce D1 kids. As for High-Major kids, Dallas has recently produced USA Basketball players, Alexis Jones and Odyssey Sims. Add arguably the best point guard in the country for 2012 and certain McDonald All-American, Moriah Jefferson.

The Dallas and Houston area kids benefit from a strong club environment. This environment fosters a competitiveness that allows kids to have constant measuring sticks to compare their progress against.

Resources/Environment- Moriah Jefferson, the Dallas area point guard, plays for one of the best clubs in the country, Nike DFW Elite. She has been trained by a former pro since middle school. She is home schooled, which allows her to work on her game for hours, while getting quality instruction. She then plays against some of the best players in the country on a frequent basis.

San Antonio born, Cassie peoples moved to Houston after a short stay in Florida. She moved to a high school that featured the best player in the country in Chiney Ogwumike. Her high school coach previously coached a pretty good point guard named Lindsey Harding. Peoples' father is one of the best trainers in the state. She played for one of the best club programs in the country in the Nike sponsored Cy-Fair Shock. For competition, she had a fellow McDonald All-American down the proverbial street in Houston Heat(DFW Washington) guard, Amber Orrange(Stanford).

The environment in these cities are idea for producing High-Majors. Quality former players that know and understand the game now train and live in these areas. Brianna Turner is not only arguably the best kid in the country for 2014, she gets trained by former NBA player and coach, John Lucas. Not only is Turner 6'3 and can dunk, she has the opportunity to train with Lucas and her club coach, George Washington, a good trainer in his own right. These are the type of opportunities that help produce High-Major kids.

High school gym access for trainers and club teams are prevalent in these areas. The constant reps needed to elevate players games to the next level are a direct result of gym access. It can be argued, the major difference between a High and a Mid-Low Major player is refinement. High Major kids are usually "great" at least one skill. To become great at any skill takes an inordinate amount of time in the gym. Limited gym access reduces the ability of kids to refine their skills and become great. Meighan Simmons has great athleticism and a great knack for scoring. Having a military father with easy and consistence access to a gym on base helped in her development. The difficulty of securing dependable reasonable priced gym time has a direct impact on the lack of refined players locally.

Development- In speaking with the fathers, trainers and coaches of prominent kids in Dallas and Houston, they understand the importance of youth development. They are less likely to chase trophies. Too many local dads/coaches still attempt to stack their daughters teams to win. Many local teams employ strategies like full court press when already winning by 20 or more points. Many teams use Zone Defense exclusively during formative learning years. Many coaches spend little time learning the game themselves, so teaching proper IQ is futile. It is hard to instill basketball IQ when coaches possess little basketball IQ themselves. In a great conversation with Judson coach Triva Corrales, she speaks of the need to restrict middle school kids from playing zone. She speaks of the difficulties of teaching Man Defense in high school when players have played nothing but Zone Defense in their youth. In an example of lack of IQ, a local coach delayed the game by instructing the point guard to dribble at half court and "make" the defense come out of their zone and play Man Defense. The opposing coach screamed at the ref to give the delaying coach a technical foul! Instead of coming out of the Zone Defense and play man, he wanted the ref to disallow the stalling tactic because it was unfair??!!

Using Brianna Turner again, she can play 3 positions at 6'3. If any player should be pigeon holed in the post, it is a 6'1 middle schooler, like Turner was a few years ago. Yet, Turner was not restricted to the post and was developed on the perimeter. A common practice in middle school locally is to put 5'8 kids in the post. Instead of using an offense like 5-Out,that emphasizes player and ball movement, youth coaches use archaic 3-Out 2-In offenses that do nothing but stunt the growth of undersized post players. When you see a 6'0 guard like the Baylor's Nay Nay Haden, it shows how far Dallas is ahead of San Antonio. Hayden would have been anchored in the post locally, the same with Turner.

Iron Sharpens Iron- San Antonio's best players travel the nation in the summer and compete with the best from other areas. Again, some local players are in the conversation as being among the elite nationally. However, the local scene offers too many games against recreational players. It is very difficult to face a a 5'9 post player and get excited for the challenge after spending a summer facing the Brianna Turners' of the nation. Dallas and Houston area players have less opportunity to "play down" to competition. This is extremely important at the High-Major level. At that level, there is little opportunity to take nights off. Every time players step on the court, they must be mentally prepared to excel. The best of our local players do not get physically challenged every night out, thus, they develop the very bad habit of taking plays and games off. With so many "down" games facing recreational type of players, it is difficult for our Low-Mid-Major kids to take their games to the next level. It is tough to learn calculus when you are always practicing arithmetic.

Monday, December 19, 2011

ShesBallin Prospects!!

ShesBallin Prospects is here! The most comprehensive recruiting report in South/Central Texas features hundreds of prospects and their projected college levels. Player ratings are exclusively accessed by college and universities. This exclusivity allows the report to remain free from politics and influence peddling.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Miami Heat Syndrome!

Watching the super team pursuits by many NBA star players is reminiscent of some club ball organizations. The prevalence of stacking teams is probably a disservice to individual growth.

For instance, Houston's Brianna Turner is arguably the best player in the class of 2014. She started off her HS career by playing alongside at least four D1 players at Westbury Christian, including two high majors players. How much better did Turner get in high school last season? Yes, it was to her benefit to practice with and against great competition everyday. Yes, her club coach was also her assistant high school coach and was allowed to continue to train her in a very advanced environment. However, when was she going to learn to carry a team and have every play that she makes matter?

Now Brianna Turner is in a public school where she is the focal point of the defense on every play. She must step outside of her comfort zone and do things that her formal environment never asked of her. Her immense skills will now get a chance to be honed over a 35 game high school season. She now plays with guards who need her 6'4 help with ball handling duties. She is now playing with post players that are not equipped as she is to command double teams. Her current HS coach has not coached dozens of D1 players and against dozens of D1 players, like her former coach. This mandates that she step up and increase her basketball IQ and implement the new lessons in pursuit of victory. Brianna Turner is better for the "downgrade" in environment. Will we ever see Lebron James with 25 consecutive points on the biggest stage of basketball again like he did against the Pistons a few years ago? Probably not, since human nature has allowed him to know that he does not have to be outstanding for his team to now thrive. He's comfortable!!

Micheal Jordan led Laney HS, Magic Johnson led Everett HS in East Lansing and Larry Bird led West Baden HS in French Lick. They became the Mount Rushmore of basketball by leading teams and not going out of their way to team up with other stars. Now, many parents are scared of allowing their kids to suffer through the growing pains of going through the prerequisite of success; Failure and being uncomfortable!!

San Antonio 5-A District Predictions!

Predictions for district playoff teams and finishes:

1. Steele 8-2
1. Wagner 8-2
2. Judson 7-3
4. New Braunfels 5-5

- A tough preseason and return of Ashley Ross should make Wagner co-champ.
- Steele features the most top heavy team in the district, should lead to at least share of title.
- Judson is solid in a lot of positions and could win title if they can generate points on nightly basis.

1. Reagan 11-1
2. Churchill 9-3
3. Johnson 8-4
4. Roosevelt 6-6

- Reagan has a chance to go undefeated but will have at least one slip up, most likely to Churchill. -Churchill has a shot at the title but a tired star in Leslie Vorpahl will allow teams to upset.
- Johnson has a legit shot at the title but a young and disrespected team will most likely finish 3rd in the toughest conference in the city( 3 teams in the current SA Top 5)
- Roosevelt's athletic zone and exploitation of no shot clock will wear teams down for enough wins to secure playoff birth.

1. Steven 15-1
2. Jay 11-5
3.Brandeis 10-6
3. O'Connor 10-6

- Stevens is deepest team in city. Don't be surprised if they are Austin bound.
- Jay will get a couple starters back soon and should finish well.
- Brandeis and O'Connor should hold off a solid Clark for finish in the money.

1. East Central 7-3
1. Southwest 7-3
3. Corpus Cristi Carroll 6-4
4. South San Antonio 5-5

- East Central has three double digits scorers and are athletic.
- Southwest plays a style that will lead to wins. Should split with East Central.
- Corpus Cristi Carroll is well coached and has a distinct home advantage.
- South San should be OK behind good guard play.

Brennan vs Johnson Game Notes!

SA Express #4 and #5 teams squared off last night when Brennan beat Johnson 52-42. Game notes follow:

Tanaeya Boclair(Brennan)- Boclair has been championed on this blog as the best post player in the city despite being a 2014. Boclair was Player of Week last week for the city and looked unstoppable in the first half. She showed a wide array of offensive moves that had college coaches taking note. She made a left hand jump hook and followed that up with a step through. She then hit a 17 foot jumper that found nothing but the bottom of the net. She finished the night with 17 points and 22 boards. Boclair was at one point considered a HoopGurlz 100 player, a player considered to be among the best 100 players in the COUNTRY. She fell out of the Top 100 but that will change soon.

Alyssa Crockett(Brennan)- This blog wrote:
"One of the few guards who gets to the free throw line more often than physical bigs"
"Her tenacious attitude and play makes her one of the toughest guards to contain in the city. She will live at the free throw line"
"Her constant attacking style will guarantee her multiple trips to the free throw line"

The game proved what has been written on this blog numerous times, Crockett is a free throw making machine. Her style is rewarded in the city like former John Jay star Julissa Garrett. Crockett scored 11 of her 15 points from the free throw line, the majority of them in the clutch.

First Blow- Johnson inexplicably came out in a 2-3 zone that enabled the well coached Brennan team to pick them apart with passes, ball reversal and low post touches for Boclair. Johnson sat back and did not pressure the Brennan guards even though the strength of the Jags this season is the ability to pressure full court and speed up the pace. Brennan plays a ball control, half court style of play that slows tempo. The Johnson defense played right into the hands of Brennan's style. Brennan struck the first blow and had Johnson down 10-0 to start the game, an insurmountable lead.

Guts no Glory- Johnson's Recee' Caldwell started slow, came on strong to bring her team back and finished with not enough in the tank. Caldwell, who shot 19 times a game last year while averaging 20 pts, has sacrificed her shots this season and is averaging close to 18 points on 14 shots. Last night, she shot her team back into the game while going 4 for 5 in the 3rd quarter. She then went ice cold and missed her last 6 shots while trying to keep her team from falling further behind. She also went 0-3 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, even though she is an 80% free throw shooter for the season. Caldwell played the entire game for the second game straight while facing the concentration of the defense. She finished with 19 points on 21 shots. She is averaging 6 assists this season but only had 4 dimes last night. For a player that usually comes up big in big games, she did not have enough in the tank and came up short last night.

Non-Pacifist - Johnson dug themselves a huge hole and fought tooth and nail to tie the score twice late in the game. They lost because of their poor shooting and passive defense made it a very tough night. However, their efforts to overcome the early flaws were hampered by horrible officiating. Here is a fact, 4 out of the Top 5 teams in the city have coaches that "lobby" for calls. They are not pacifist.

Stevens, Churchill and Brennan, all have coaches that protest often when calls do not go their way. Reagan coach Terry Barton does not usually protest loudly but does make his point early and often. Steele's Kari Wallace loses her voice questioning every call. (During the Meighan Simmon's years, she made sure to do her part to make sure Simmons shot a ton of free throws. You do not score 3000 points without earning the respect of the refs!) There was an interesting exchange last night.

Johnson Coach Audra Bredemeyer was calmly protesting a call. The referee told her to "shut up", literally. The appalling thing was that he told her to shut up in front of her players. The same ref then got a verbal lashing by the Brennan coach and gave him time for a conference to make his case. The foul count was 7 to 1 after that exchange in favor of Brennan. Brennan shot 30 free throws to Johnson's 15, even though Johnson attacked the paint as often as Brennan.

Compare Bredemeyer's non-confrontational approach to that of one of the coaches of one of the Top 5 teams in the city. In a game last month at Wagner, this visiting coach jumped in the face of a hearing impaired ref and yelled at him that he "was not going to work anymore of his/her games". When the ref pointed to his ears to indicate that he was hearing impaired, the non- pacifist coach yelled, "I don't care, you can read my lips". This coach is one of the best in the city at gaining 50/50 calls in favor of his/her team. He/Her looks at the crowd like Hulk Hogan and raises his/her hands for support. His/Her antics work! I doubt that this same ref that told Bredemeyer to "shut up" last night would have disrespected this coach that way. Coach Bredemeyer is one of the nicest people you would ever meet, and her kindness is being mistaken for weakness.

Randy Evans is not nearly as boisterous as the above mentioned coach but surely gets the respect of the refs. His guards shot most of the free throws in the game last night, not his bigs.

Johnson a year Away- This blog wrote, "Johnson could be the best team in the city. However, they are probably still a year away".

For some of the above mentioned reasons, Johnson still has a way to go to be the best in the city. The former doormat of 26-5A has yet to earn the respect of the city's referees. They still have a young team, led by 3 D1 kids, two sophomores(one recently turned 15) and a freshman. They are missing the presence of Brie Foresman, a tough proficient scorer, who hurt her knee in a 30 point blowout last week. Against tough teams like Brennan, Johnson has to work too hard for shots if they are not turning teams over with pressure. Come playoff time, easy shots pay huge dividends, especially after a 35 game season.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peggy the Legend!

Legendary- How good is Poth's legendary program under Peggy Hosek? The Poth's JV team beat a local varsity team in a convincing fashion recently, even though the varsity team featured at least 2 college basketball players. The Poth JV team reigned threes with the precision and discipline that the program is known for.

Coach Hosek's standard is to pursue a state title EVERY YEAR. Coach Peggy was spotted in a south side San Antonio gym last spring watching a 6th grader that will play for her eventually. Coach Hosek came from an hour away to watch her future player play a club game. In a conversation with a very successful Division 1 coach, she mentioned this same kid. Apparently, Coach Hosek has already been beating the recruiting drum for her future star. After coaching over 1000 games and winning over 75% of them, her passion and dedication is still remarkable.

In a time when a lot of coaches seem to coach girls basketball as a hobby, Coach Peggy is a throw back. She is cut from the same cloth as Devine's Gayle Sessions and Grandbury's Leta Andrews.


- Brennan has a great shot at going to Austin. Here is why:

  • Deep- Brennan is deep in the post and on the perimeter. The feature three 6ft players in Eliza Martinez(6'1), Tanaeya BoclBair(6'0) and Tia Mason(6'2). Their guard play is also deep with Allysa Crockett, Kalani Marquez and Ashlyn Graham.

  • Talented- Both Boclair and Crockett will surely play Division 1 basketball, with Martinez and Mason having a good chance to play at that level as well. Graham and Marquez are too college basketball players.

  • Coaching- Randy Evans is a gym rat. He can be spotted at UTSA watching player work outs in the Spring. He does not go to Austin during the state championships to attend the beer gardens and socialize, he takes in the games and analyzes games as if he was playing them next. Coming from the boys side of the game, he uses a different approach in defending. Very few female players are dynamic enough to beat constant Box-1 pressure with solid help. Evans uses this to neutralize high scorers like Chamaya Turner, who had just 4 points against his intense pressure.

  • Classification- Being 4A, Brennan will not have to go through very good 5A teams in Reagan, Churchill, Stevens and a healthy Wagner in a pursuit of state.

  • Defensive- Brennan has held the opposition to 21 pts or less 12 out of 19 games.

  • Same Soup Reheated- Few local coaches have been creative enough to make Brennan play outside of their comfort zones. The Brennan guards are small, yet no one has taken advantage of this by posting them. Brennan guards are allowed to be aggressive because they are backed up by big bodied shot blockers. No one has made the Brennan bigs guard on the perimeter with the pick and roll and take away their ability to control the paint.

Tiffany Rodriguez- The Southwest star guard does a great job at drawing contact and finishing in the open court. Rodriguez has an unorthodox game that she uses to her benefit. Her primary live dribble move is a very effective In&Out with the right hand. She does a very good job at playing in straight lines. Her coach, Bill Avey, plays a style that enables her to showcase her talent. His run and jump full court press allows Rodriguez to get plenty of leaking lay ups.

Steele- Steele is the surprise team of the year so far. They have dropped out of the SA Express Top 10. As stated on this blog, the only true obstacle that faced such a talented team was the lack of basketballs to go around. The three most talented kids on their team spent a good time playing with each other growing up. This fact led most to believe that they would excel on the local high school scene. Coach Kari Wallace has her work cut out for her. Three Division 1 players, two high majors, spells state for most local teams. John Jay, Wagner and Churchill made it to state with those ingredients(Churchill did it with one D1 kid, Christine Flores). A weaker than normal district should help right the ship for Steele. Wagner has played the entire season without a Top 10 kid in the city, Ashley Ross. They also lost a major senior player recently. Judson lost its dominant post presence early, the one area that Steele is vulnerable. However, do not sleep on Steele. If they can ever get all of their talent to play on the same page, they should make some serious noise.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Quick Hitters: Milestones,Coaching, Dirty Macks!!!

- Congrats to Floresville star and Southeastern Louisiana bound, Erica Hernandez for scoring point 2,000 on Thursday during the Floresville Tournament.

- In another milestone during the Floresville Tournament, Brandeis guard Allysa Browne scored her 1,000th point of her career.

-Canyon Star and heavily recruited Chamaya Turner chalked up her 1,000th point and 650th rebound two weeks ago during the SAISD Tournament. Turner will surely break the 500 assist mark before her high school playing days are over. Versatility!!!

- Distinguished visitors- Baylor, UTA, New Mexico, New Mexico St and hometown, UTSA are all enjoying the great match ups during the Lonestar Tournament. The event features 50% of the SA Express News Top 10 teams in Wagner, Reagan, Churchill, Judson, and Stevens.

- Churchill's Cal Wulfsberg has brought a NBA type offensive philosophy to the city. During a big comeback in a huge win vs Reagan, Wulfsberg employed the "flat" high ball screen for star Leslie Vorpahl for the enire second half. The "flat" is extremely difficult to guard at the NBA level so Wulfsberg understands that it is almost impossible to completely stop at the high school level with the right players. For instance, defensive extraordinaire, Moriah Mack guarded Vorpahl. To alleviate the great pressure from Mack, Churchill constantly picked her with the "flat". This made Reagan choose their poison; go under the screen, switch the screen or attempt to fight through it. Vorpahl was too skilled be played one way and had counters to the different ways of guarding her. She had 17 huge points in the second half to lead her team to victory. In the next Churchill game, Wulfberg realized that Boerne Champion has a star guard in Brooke Allemand. Wulfsberg employed his Diamond and 1 denial on Allemand and completely neutralized her. Wulfsberg has a great knack for making very good opposing players look mediocre while making sure his star gets the balls reps required to be the star that she is.

(Side note: When speaking to college coaches, high school coaches should not have to bash opposing players while promoting their own players. Just because a high school coach "out coaches" his/her opposition, does not mean that the opposing players are inferior to his/hers. Chuck Daly, RIP, did not bash Micheal Jordan and insinuate that Joe Dumars was better than Jordan. Daly understood that it was his SYSTEM and environment(physical NBA that allowed thug tactics vs Jordan) that allowed a mesmerizing Jordan to look mediocre at times. In a competition for scholarships, a high school coach should not stoop to the level of making disparaging remarks about kids in an attempt to get their kids recruited. Dirty Macking is what some call it. In other words, get a woman on your own merits, not by hating on the next man!!)

- Speaking of offensive systems, in a great tape by Tom Izzo on Man to Man Offense and Counters, Izzo goes on to explain that Bob Knight's Indiana teams and its famed Motion Offense featured 4 blockers(screeners). Yes, the Indiana offense featured a lot of player and ball movement but the Steve Alfords' shot most of the shots! The prevalence of some schools leaning on Dribble Drive Motion Offenses and 4out 1in systems have forgotten the basic premise of hierarchy. Kentucky ran the DDM offense to a NCAA Championship game by ensuring that a kid named Derrick Rose had the ball in his hands the most! Same with John Wall! On a local note, Kari Wallace rode Meighan Simmons to three state appearances. Mike Floyd rode Erica Donovan to his only state appearance. Christina Camacho rode Len'Nique Brown and Arielle Roberson to her state appearances. In some recent games, it has been alarming to see lessor skilled players taking the crucial shots when the game is on the line. This is the surprising in comparison to other local sports. Imagine if Devine football coach, Chad Quisenberry failed to get the ball in the hands of the statistical greatest runner in Texas history, Joseph Saddler. Imagine if Saddler did not carry the ball in the crucial part of the game and watched the 3rd string running back get all the carries. Quisenberry knows better, so he has Saddler carrying the ball 50 times a game. Consequently, he is 13-0!

- FYI, Championship Productions should probably be the most visited site by club and high school coaches. If basketball great minds such as Larry Brown, Mark Few and Sherri Coale are always attending basketball clinics to learn more, what does that say about "ungreat" basketball minds. In a local note, UTSA has a basketball great mind in assistant coach, "Luby". Coach Luby has coached with HOF Tara Vanderveer, was the head coach at Radford and was an assistant in the WNBA for starters! He is very approachable and willing to share his vast knowledge.