Monday, March 19, 2012

Elite Players

Elite Players seem to have some things in common. When I mention Elite, I am referring to players that have multiple Division 1 opportunities from major programs. It seems that many kids want major college opportunities but fail to do some of the things that Elite players do. Obviously there are many ways that some players become Elite but a few things seems to be common among them. I will use the top players in the country because the are the Elite of the elite according to college coaches.

1. Focused- Research the top players in the country and the overriding fact is that they do not play multiple sports in high school. Some players will run track or play volley ball but the majority of Elite kids are focused on basketball. Players like the Ogumike sisters of Stanford played volleyball in high school and remained Elite. They, and other super athletic Bigs, are the exception. Skilled guards and forwards that seem to the achieve highest level of college opportunities are overwhelmingly focused on getting better in BASKETBALL. This is no different than an Elite piano player not spending a considerable amount of time learning the trumpet. Cross training at a young age is probably a good thing. However, the introduction to early skill set through training has sped up the Elite game.

For instance, in the Baylor vs San Diego St game yesterday, the broadcaster spoke of how good Baylor guard Odyssey Sims was in middle school. Apparently, a SDST guard remembered playing against Sims in an middle school camp and looked forward to playing against her again. I would bet that it was the Jr Phenom camp in San Diego, a camp that I first saw Sims at when she was a 7th grader. Sims was on another level then, as she is now. Her early specialization has lead her stay far ahead of her peers that are not as focused on basketball.

2. Training- In my transition from the boys side of the game to the girls, I have noticed how important training is in the development of young players. Training has really stepped up in regards to both girls and boys, but girls are now getting the attention that used to be reserved for boys. Elite girls, by in large, have consistent training in middle school years. I will use sensational guards Skylar Diggins(Notre Dame) and Alexis Jones(Duke) as examples. Both players are supremely skilled and both have trainers(fathers) that worked with them tirelessly in their formative years. Diggins' stepfather has been chronicled often as being credited with introducing the game to her through constant drilling and playing.

Training is probably more important to an Elite girl than a boy. The reason is that boys play basketball much more often during free play than most girls. Of course some exceptions to the rule exist, but Elite boy basketball players play for fun much more often than Elite girls. The lack of free play by most girls basketball players on a consistent basis leads to a need for more training. Elite girls typically are involved in more training while young in comparison to non elite players.

3. Watch Basketball- As silly as this may sound, Elite basketball players watch basketball more often than others. Imagine that!

I remember growing up being Magic Johnson. Then I became Micheal. On the days that my counter parts took their turn being Magic or Micheal, I was Byron Scott or Gary Payton. When my love for the game deepened, I became college stars. More watched games led me to be more players. Terry Dehere on Monday, Penny Hardaway on Tuesday, Chris Jackson on Wednesday. Everyday, I became a new player. This goes on across the country, young elite boys "being" their idols while honing their game.

The girls side is different. The women's game is growing but lacks marketing and mass appeal that the men's game has. What is true to both boys and girls, is that Elite girls follow men's basketball too. Just take a look at the twitter feeds of some of the most talented high school girls in the country. They speak often of being fans of superstar  players and root openly for professional teams. Frequent chatter about the Lakers, Lebron, Blake Griffin, D-Rose and the likes are common among these Elite girls basketball players.

I find it alarming that so many kids aspire to be Elite and attain scholarships yet rarely watch basketball. This is like a future music major not listening to music! Watching basketball helps instill Basketball IQ. Show me a kid that understands things like clock management, great use of fouls to lengthen games, or advanced individual moves and the use of them and I will show you a kid that watches basketball often.

(Side note: I mentioned Twitter with caution. Dating myself by admitting emulating Magic Johnson, I tend to be wary of adults who Twitter or Facebook with teenage kids for an inordinate amount of time. I understand college recruiters have a job to do and these forms of communication are useful. However, I find it uncommon when grown ups are constantly befriending kids on these mediums. BUT, for a parent, Twitter is a huge resource! If your child is being recruited by a particular school, search the Twitter of current players and see what you will find. See what kind of nonsense players being recruited by these institutions are broadcasting for the world to see. It may save you from making a very crucial mistake in choosing a program that claims one thing but tolerates another.)

Many things separate players, from Elite players. The common ingredient that separates the two levels is surely time. Time spent on working on your game will obviously pay off but the few above mentioned practices are apparent in a lot of Elite players.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Local Madness

March Madness is here and San Antonio has some local participants:

Lyndsey Cloman(injured)- Taft/ TeamXpress( Oklahoma)
Oklahoma play Michigan on 3/17

Sune Agbuke- Cornerstone/Lady Rohawks(Baylor
Baylor plays UCSB on 3/18

Stephanie Whittman-Alamo Heights/TeamXpress(Kansas St)
Kansas St play Princeton on 3/17

CeCe Harper- Madison/Lady Rohawks(Kansas)
Monica Engleman- Madison/ Lady Rohawks(Kansas)
Kansas plays Nebraska on 3/18

Meighan Simmons- Steele/ TeamXpress(Tennessee)
Tennessee plays Tenessee-Martin on 3/17

Ashley Salazar- Sophia Young Elite( McNeese)
McNesse plays Kentucky on 3/17

Asha Hampton-Finch- Roosevelt/ South Texas Hoyas( Prairie View A&M)
PVAM plays Uconn on 3/17

Marissa Rodriguez- Reagan/ South Texas Hoyas( UTEP)
UTEP plays Penn State on 3/18

Sajoyia Griffin- Wagner HS( San Diego St)
SDST play Purdue on 3/17

Charlie Harper- SA Lady Rohawks- Harper not only has two players he raised and coached in daughter CeCe and Monica Engleman in the Big Dance, he also has a son that plays for Lamar. Lamar made the  Men's Big Dance as well.

Sidenote: Another basketball dad, John Roberson, has a son that made the Big Dance with his Colorado team. Andree Roberson is a projected 1st round draft pick according to numerous draft boards.

ShesBallin, Brandon Clay and Elite Ballers

A couple of weekends ago, ShesBallin Basketball enabled some of the best the city has to offer to participate in an invitation only evaluation clinic in front of Peach State Basketball's, Brandon Clay. Clay is not only the founder of his well respected scouting service, he also a member of the ESPN Hoppgurlz staff. In addition to his national voice, he runs very successful events throughout the year. His events are well attended by college coaches. He also runs invite only camps featuring some of the best kids in the country. Some of the prospects at the ShesBallin event received invites to the Arizona elite camp in June due to their performance. The 60 or so players in attendance made this easily the most talent rich clinic in the San Antonio's recent history. Of the attendees, at least half will play Division 1 basketball.

Here are SOME of the standouts.

Brandon Clay with some Elite Youngsters

Jaquan Jackson 2013- (Sophia Young Elite/ Harker Heights)- The 5'8 guard can go! I slept on this kid last summer as she played for the loaded roster of TeamXpress. Jackson is a slasher with pizazz with the ball. She plays like a boy with shifty handle  and great elevation on her jumper. She reportedly is being recruited by at least one Big 12 school.

Makayla Christian 2016- (AEDT)- The Central Texas guard was the most outstanding player in the middle school session. Her savvy court play stood out. She was able to hit open jumpers and penetrate at will. At 5'7, she has good size for a young PG. If she continues to add to her game and grow a couple more inches, she is a potential TOP 100 kid nationally.

Makayla Mabry 2017-(SA Finest) The 6'0 post showed the athletic ability and improved skill set to set her herself apart. She was very active on the boards and used her length to be a defensive force. Showed seasoning for a young Big by keeping the ball high on put backs and power drop steps.

Megan Valdez 2017(South Texas Hoyas) One of the few players that Brandon Clay asked to meet and extended a personal invite to Arizona. Megan dominated opposing guards with a defensive pressure that is not commonly seen at this age. She showed an increased ability to finish in traffic after her numerous open court steals. By far, she helped herself nationally with her performance.

Kyra Lambert 2015(Sophia Young Elite) The ESPN HoopGurlz 100 Watch list player shot the ball extremely well. Lambert's ability to create shots for herself and others was on full display but her knocking down open jumpers is what stood out.

Desiree' Caldwell 2018 (SA Finest) Caldwell garnered the most oohs and aahs at either session with her ability to break defenders down off of the dribble. She finished well in traffic among bigger defenders well. She hit open jumpers to showcase her increased range.

Brooke Allemand 2013(SA Finest) The UNM commit was so impressive, she was another player that was asked by Clay for a meeting to extend a personal invite. He also tweeted about Allemand's ability to shoot the ball. She shot extremely well off of the dribble and ran her teams well. Her handle and offensive polish definitely stood out.

Brittany Rogers 2017 (South Texas Hoyas) The super strong forward is nice! She has a big frame that allows her to bang down low. She also has the skill set and athletic ability to step outside and create match up problems on perimeter. She is another player that had observers impressed.

KK Saenz 2013 ( Texas Lady Magic) The speedy guard opened a lot of eyes. Her ability to touch paint and create shots was on full display. The full court defensive pressure she presented gave some opposing guards problems. She has deceiving quickness and has learned to change paces to mix it up.

Gabbi Conally 2017 (Sophia Young Elite) Connaly has been on local radar for a while and she did not disappoint. Her increased handle allowed her create shots at will off of the bounce. Her open court finishes were very impressive for a young kid.

Amber Ramirez 2016 (SA Finest) The best 2016 in the city was the other player that excited observers with a cluster of elite plays. Passing, shooting or mixing defenders up of off of the bounce, Ramirez did it all. The youngest player in the HS session, she showed that she had as much promise as any in the gym. She showed why she already has D1 programs vying for her commitment.