As the playoffs heat up, it is time to address the Most Valuable Player in the city. Of course this is a great debate for many reasons, but here is my take. I will make an argument for each player and a reason that they MAY not be the MVP. Providing reason(s) why a player MAY not be city MVP is tough. This blog has NEVER bashed kids. In fact, all of these kids were introduced to the Internet audience through ShesBallin. Here are the Top 3 candidates:
Why She Is- Caldwell finished the season averaging 17.3 points and 5.8 assists 4 boards. Johnson had a 15-45 record in the two initial years before Caldwell stepped on campus. She led Johnson to 20 wins last season and 27 wins this season. From 15-45 record to 46-21 over the last two years, she has led Johnson to a 31 game improvement in two years. She led Johnson to its first playoff birth and a season long Top 10 city ranking, while competing in the toughest district in the city(3 out of 8 top teams in city). Caldwell did this while facing the best defender and junk defenses from every team this season. She rarely got an easy shot. Again, less than a dozen high ball screens were set for her the entire season. Her offensive system did not get her easy return shots off of things like reversals, leak outs, pin down screens or set plays. She created 90% of her own scores, all while being second in the city in assists. At some point, she guarded the best player on every team she played this season, averaging 2.4 steals. Caldwell is young, as are most of her teammates and head coach. She makes her teammates better. With Caldwell handling the ball handling duties, she created opportunities for her shooters to just catch and shoot. Her slashers were rewarded with full court dimes for easy lay ups. To beat Johnson, teams learned to cut Caldwell off. Stevens, Reagan, and Churchill all blew Johnson out by limiting Caldwell's opportunities to create for herself and others.
Why She Is Not: Caldwell had help with talented teammates. She plays with two division one bound teammates, Gabbie Bowie and Erica Sanders.Johnson was 2-2 in her absence this season. They most likely would have contended with Roosevelt or Madison for fourth place in district without her, possibly making the playoffs. She turned it up late in the season but allowed herself to be taken out of some games by junk defenses.
Why She Is: Calvert has had an incredible year as the leading scorer in the city on the hottest team. She is one of the few kids that can stay focused enough to pummel weak competition. Usually a Rottweiler does not bother to get riled up for a barking chihuahua. A lot of girls play down to competition but not Calvert. She never lets her guard down and feasts on players that do not belong on the court with her. She increased her scoring lead over the city by almost outscoring entire teams in some cases. The weaker teams in her district and in the city were her playground as she tallied 30 plus against them on every possible turn. She is the best transition scorer in the city. Her confidence is what the Steele reflects. Her swag is worth a few points a game alone. It is amusing to see opposing guards intimidated by the task of playing against her. One of the best on-ball defenders in the city, she creates easy baskets for herself by ripping opposing guards. She has the thick skin of a volume shooter that never remembers a missed shot, another great attribute from top scorers. On a team with talent, she is a strong enough personality to command respect and win over a tough coach. She averaged 22 points 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Her defensive prowess led her to earn 3.4 steals a game.
Why She Is Not: Calvert too plays with talent. Elena Gumbs, Rice commit, is a heady guard that has a major impact on Steele's success. Kyra Lambert is a potential All-American if she continues to improve and handles a good portion of ball handling duties. Calvert is the beneficiary of a lot of breakaways lay ups in transition assisted by Gumbs and Lambert. The Steele team would make the playoffs without her. She does not run the team and only has to focus on scoring.
Why She Is: Vorpahl has the ball in her hands 90% of the time for the #1 team in the city. Many parents claim that their kids would do more with the ball constantly in their hands. While many players could produce more good with constant touches, however the BAD would be multiplied exponentially. Making the bulk of the decisions and making the right ones are extremely hard for a high school player. Vorpahl did an outstanding job with running a team and leading them to wins.Teenagers can be extremely difficult to lead in terms of jealousy and petty squabbles. Vorpahl leadership kept the Chargers playing as a cohesive unit and they seem to enjoy her. Some kids are despised by their teammates and she is not one of those type of kids. She averaged 15 points, 6.8 assists,3.4 rebounds and 2 steals a game.
Why She Is Not: Vorpahl had much more help in terms of system. I watched her get 8 on-ball screens in one play vs Reagan. A kid like Caldwell received 8 on-ball screens ALL YEAR. She also had some help with college players Dani Espinoza and Jordan Holub. Her coach is arguably the best in the city and made his team understand pecking order.
The Most Valuable Playerin the city is: Leslie Vorpahl
Simply put, Churchill is not a Top 10 team in the city without Vorpahl. While Vorpahl is not the BEST player in the city, she is the Most Valuable. Her basketball IQ is exceptional. She torched Steele for 30 and gave Reagan close to 20 in one quarter. She did not pad her stats by scoring against weaker competition, she sat during most blowouts. To not realize how important she was to Churchill's success would be comical.
In a convo with a club coach after Churchill's defeat to Wagner, the coach spoke of Vorpahl not playing up to par. That is almost as comical. Her brilliant performances have spoiled us. We have seen her make improbable shot after shot and will her team to victory so many times this season, we forget she is a teenage girl. I questioned on this blog whether Vorpahl was going to break down physically from all of the demand on her this season. She did not. In a great testament to her great season, she made it happen in the biggest games. Her coach surely deserves some credit for entrusting her with the ball and making it easier for her to do her job but very few kids in the city could actually do her job. Caldwell would have Churchill in Top 5. Calvert would have Churchill in Top 10. Vorpahl had Churchill #1. Steele and Johnson do not skip a beat with Vorpahl this season. Johnson's Gabbie Bowie and Erica Sanders still benefit from good guard play with Vorpahl. Steele's Elena Gumbs and Kyra Lambert both average close to 20 points with Vorpahl.