Friday, August 24, 2012

2012 Top 20 Players in the City!!!

In my annual take on the top kids in the city, here are the Top 20 kids in San Antonio.

1. Recee' Caldwell 2014- Since I am obviously a little biased, I will let others speak for why she is best kid in the city. Here are her national rankings for 2014 Dan Olson Collegiate Report (3) , All Star Girls Report (4), ESPN HoopGurlz (7), Peach State Basketball (6), and Premier Basketball Report (5). She won a gold medal in the 2011 FIBA Americas for USA u16 as a 14 year old.

2. McKenzie Calvert 2014- After facing and watching the Baylor commit progress since the 5th grade, she has added facilitator to her game. I was very impressed with her at USA trials this past May. She has always had the ability to score in transition, but she has now learned to change speeds to set the table for her and her teammates. I also saw her encourage and verbally motivate her teammates more than in the past while Colorado, a skill that locals will surely see as well.

3. Kyra Lamber 2015- The TAMU bound PG has always been one of my favs. Her hesitation and first step is almost unfair in the open court. She is in the same class as Leslie Vorpahl when running the pick and roll. If the Aggies continue the Vic Schaefer defensive strategy, they got a kid that can guard from baseline to baseline in Lambert.

4. Tesha Smith 2013- Smith is the biggest leaper in the city rankings. Her solid HS school season earned her "New Comer of the Year". She followed that up with a monster summer. She showed that she can rebound with ANYBODY in the country. Her college ready frame and great instincts gives her the upside that made programs like TCU and Texas Tech offer her a full ride. In a year that has not been as top heavy when compared to previous classes, Smith may be the only kid in the 2013 class locally with BCS offers.

5. Leslie Vorpahl 2013-The Tulane commit is as respected as any kid in the city. Last high school year, she displayed the ability to hit the contested 3 off of the dribble. This put her at the top of the pack for 2013 guards. She has always been a facilitator extraordinaire. Her motor and defensive instincts when playing angles allow her to be effective on both ends of the floor.

6. Brooke Allemand 2013- The New Mexico commit has an argument for best in 2013. She has the most translatable skill for the next level in her ability to knock down the 22 footer off of the catch and the dribble. Her shooting ability has always been a known commodity but it was her leadership ability this summer that had schools hoping she changed her mind about being a Lobo. Her performance versus the NJ Sparks was nothing short of very impressive. The likes of Vivian Stringer came to watch others but went home knowing her name(game).

7. Tanaeya Boclair 2014- Boclair has increased her suitors immensely with a super HS season and a comparable summer. She is a Top 100 kid in the class of 2014 by ESPN Hoopgurlz. She has always had the athleticism to thrive but now her increased ability to handle the rock and hit the pull up jumper from 15-17 feet has made her a nightmare to guard. Boclair has picked up interest from BCS conference schools with her impressive play vs Top 100 kids across the nation.

8. Chamaya Turner 2013- The 2013 point forward is simply too tough to guard for most local high school players. The future Olympian in the discuss and the shot put can break defenders down off of the bounce and bully her way to buckets. She does a fantastic job of reading the floor and setting up her teammates for easy buckets. She has a great feel for making the right play.

9. Wendy Knight 2014- A local father of a player in this Top 20 started calling her Ms Big Shot after a summer of making crucial plays in the clutch. Knight has become one of the most reliable shooters in the city from deep. She always has been a great finisher in traffic and very effective in turning corners to touch paint. She is the idea curling wing at the next level. Her mid range pull up jumper is elevating her into a much sought after prospect.

10. Tiara Davenport 2014- The Texas Tech commit is new to the city but her game is well known throughout the state. She is very good athlete at 6'1. She boards extremely well out of area and finishes well in traffic. She plays with that Dallas, Duncanville area, chip on her shoulder.

11. Gabbie Bowie 2014- Bowie has catapulted up the city rankings with an ever increasing skill set. She came here a little over a year ago as a 5'8 power forward. She now possesses absolutely the prettiest pull up jumper in the city. She has added a legitimate handle to go with her freakish leaping ability, so much that she has offers from D1 institutions to play the point guard now!

12. Moriah Mack 2013- Long regarded as one of, if not the best, on ball defenders in the city. They way she picks up her lead leg to possess the next piece of basketball real estate should be taught in defensive videos. Mack has increased her ability to hit the wide open jumper from mid range by tuning up her handle. Probably too unselfish on the offensive end at times but it's that type of attribute that helped her squad reach Austin last year.

12. Erica Sanders- 2015 Sanders joined Davenport in pledging to Texas Tech after a very good summer. She showed an increased ability to hit the mid range pull up jumper. Her trademark Euro Step is effective in transition and in tight spaces. Her first step puts defenders on notice that they better give her a cushion on the wing.

13. Ashley Ross 2014- Ross has been a fav on mine for awhile. In my 1st writeup of her in 2008, I called her an 11 year old Dennis Rodman type player. Now the rising junior  can take defenders off of the bounce, shoot the open three and make plays for others. I will not be surprised at all if she continues to add to her skill set to the tune of a few BCS offers and a Top 5 ranking citywide next season.

14. Destiny Amezquita 2013- Amezquita has battled injuries for a good portion of her high school career which has left her unfortunately unable to do her. Amezquita can get buckets with ANYBODY in this city. I once predicted that she would give a few teams 40 before her career was done. If healthy this season, she still may prove me right. Her strength, range and handle makes a headache to contain.

15. Carlie Heineman 2014- The UTSA commit is one of the purest shooters in the city with one of the quickest triggers. Her release point is high and fast enough to allow her to be one of the few kids in the city who can take and make contested jumpers. Her strong handle has permitted her to create jumpers off of the bounce and touch paint for her runners, using either hand.

16. Briana Jones 2013- Wichita State was so impressed with her great motor, ability to guard and play on the wing and forward that they quickly snatched her up. Jones can stretch the D with an ever improving 3 ball. She has long been one of the best rebounders, especially offensively, in the city. Look for a season that flirts with a double double for the Mavs.

17. LaQeisha "LB" Brown 2013- Easily one of the most improved players offensively in the city. Known for years as a defensive stopper and great rebounder for her size, Brown has added a consistent mid range jumper. Her handle is a lot better than she gets credit for. She is able to create shots off of the bounce and score in traffic. Explosive second leaper. 

18. Aleeya Harris 2013- The best running Big in the city from rim to rim. She, along with Boclair, are the best perimeter defending Bigs in SA. She too is a great second leaper. Her years of volleyball ingrained a distinct timing for the prolific block shot. The way she palms the opposition shots is not seen on the girls side of the game often. I have called her an upside kid for years do to VB. If she chooses to focus on Bball in college, some small D1 is going to get a steal!

19. Kayla White 2013- The smooth guard has pledged to Wichita State. She is a kid that makes everything look easy, which has been a reason for some to criticize, or sleep on her! She looks like she is coasting when she is blowing by defenders for easy finishes. Her game can be described with the nickname "2 Easy". She can hit the open 3 ball and her pull up jumper is simply beautiful. She is a underrated on ball defender, one of the best in the city.

20. Avery Queen 2014- The most skilled Big in the city. She can hit the occasional 3ball now and her 15-17 foot baseline jumper is why the offers from D1's are starting to come in. She has added an effective running hook in the key which adds to her arsenal of jump hooks, step throughs, Sophia Youngs, step backs,and turn around jumpers.

Side notes:

- I have yet to rank a rising freshman in the city's rankings. However, I have always let the city know that players like Cee' Caldwell, Kyra Lambert, McKenzie Calvert,  and Leslie Vorpahl were top kids before stepping on campus. This year, Amber Ramirez is easily a Top 10 kid in the city. Ramirez has more offers (Big 12, Pac 12, Conference USA) than most kids on the list. She surely has more BCS offers than any other players in the Top 20 except Caldwell and the recently pledged Lambert.
(Calvert would obviously have more if she was still available).

- Many local coaches claim to have the best player in the city on their team. Many parents claim the same. This summer, I coached against whom many college coaches and national scouts call the best player in 2014, Kelsey Mitchell. She was fresh off of a 31 point performance when we matched up. She led her team to a close victory over mine but finished with only 12 points on a tough shooting night. Unlike some local coaches and parents, I am not naive enough to claim she is not the best player by basing this on her performance against me. I schemed to get the ball out of her hands and sent help on her at all times. Her sub par performance against me does not lead me to question her as being arguably the best in the country. She is easily one of the best but I fully comprehend that coaching schemes can negate brilliance. Chuck Daly(RIP) and his "Jordan Rules" made Micheal Jordan look mediocre at times. College coaches will tell you who is best by offering kids scholarships. Their livelihood depends on making correct talent assessments. Those that do not, will not last long. Kids like Mitchell can go anywhere they want. We have a couple of kids locally that go can anywhere they want and the have the college offers to prove it! Many people will disagree with the list. That's fine but many will coach kids and/or are parents to kids that do not have the same college opportunities as those on the list. Let's Be Real(istic)!!!!

- Top 20-30 to follow

"If the man is coming, make way for the man!!" The Wire

"What are the options when you have an inferior product in an aggressive market place."
Stringer Bell

"Well if you have a large share of the market, you buy out the competition."
Economics Professor

"And if you don't?", Stringer Bell

"The new CEO of WorldCom was faced with this very problem. The company was linked to one of the largest fraud cases in history so he proposed....." Economics Professor

"To change the name.", Stinger Bell

This is another classic scene from the HBO series 'The Wire'. The economics professor gave Stringer Bell two options to shine crap and call it gold. This is the same strategy that is being used to franchise the basketball market in San Antonio. The corporate ambassador attempting to legitimize themselves in the  raiding of local talent has been here for a long time. By my count, the ambassador has had business relationships with at least 5 clubs in the city and now has BOUGHT a new name. The ambassador is attempting to do what they have never been able to achieve in the city, establish a superior product. This local WorldCom is attempting a name change to become MCI.

In this case, MCI is like Walmart and Walmart is a beast! The corporate entity produces more revenue than entire countries. I have read many biographies on Sam Walton and admire his accomplishments very much. However, Walmarts' impact on communities is not all that good. Many mom and pop stores that pay decent living wages to employees and provide expert customer service are wiped out by the invading behemoth.

Nationally recognized clubs see San Antonio as new fertile territory. For years they have attempted to reach into the city and "take". The have succeeded in getting a couple of the brightest players to leave and work in their Walmarts. They have over produced their land and used the pesticides of recruiting to alienate the native soil. Like a Genghis hoard, they now must conquer new land.

Who benefits in the globalization attempts of these power clubs locally? Do they provide increased exposure? I have shown that San Antonio players are now well respected nationally so that lie is no longer valid. An elite kid locally is going to get exposed no matter what. But they provide free and distinctive  shoes right! In the words of the former Michigan State guard Marcus Taylor's father in the must read for all AAU parents, 'Sole Influence', "Buy your own damn shoes". Free can truly be very Costly! Do these corporate basketball take over kings offer superior development? Hardly! Look deep on their benches and witness kids that have been paying dues for years and have been recruited over. Ask those kids and their parents how the recruitment process is going.

Can these franchises help the middle class, the players in the city that will go on to play college at the D2, D3,and NAIA levels? This group of kids are the primary reason that franchises hurt small communities. These kids will pay and pay for years to support the elite players of the franchises. Do some homework and visit the sites of power clubs. You will find something real interesting. These programs have had hundreds, if not thousands of kids play ball for them. Why do you not find the names of the D2 and D3 kids prominently displayed on their sites? Do they not deserve to be celebrated as well? When these franchises and their ambassadors spread their gospel, why don't they include all of their sub-D1 connects that they have in their big time rolodexes.

Walmart is a finely tuned machine. Economic field studies reveal which areas are prime for expansion. If the environment could not support the franchises revenue projections, Walmart will not go there! This city is prime for franchises because the talent already exists! The franchise is not coming here to develop the expertise of the next leaders of industry. The franchises are coming here to get paid! Understand that as a fact! I have no problem with that. I find it so hypocritical that volleyball and soccer programs can make six figures annually yet never get scrutinized but basketball clubs can't? That is another blog for later. However, know that Walmart is coming for revenue, not to enhance to community!

San Antonio basketball has some really good mom and pop shops. They are attentive to the needs of their players and their players are thriving as a result. I am releasing my annual rankings in the city and at NO OTHER TIME in the history of this city have we had this many college basketball players. From 2013-2015, we will put 50 plus players into the D1 ranks. The previous record was 30 plus or so from 2010-2012. Twice as many players will play college basketball in that same time span. Why? How? Mom and Pops shops are investing into the basketball community and the soil is healthy because of it!

And there is the Ambassador, not respected in their own land, buying respect and changing the name of their inferior product. The Ambassador has been retained by Walmart to slang its wares. When the Ambassador outlives their usefulness or brings shame to the "The Brand", they will get the axe, another failed coup d' etat. I recently tweeted that just because Metta World Peace changed his name does not change the fact that he still is Ron Artest! Basketball Brawls and All:)

ShesBallin Rankings Review

Every August since 2008 I have released a rankings list of the city's best players. I have separated the rankings by class on occasion and also have grouped all classes together. Here is a reminder of my talent assessments from 2008 and 2009. Please go back and read the individual takes on each kid throughout the years. I have included the 2010 and 2011 rankings in links at the bottom.

History has shown that I have been pretty accurate with my assessments. The 2008 ranking was not well received by many. It was the first ranking in the city up until that time and controversial. I smugly reflect on some of those emails that challenged my ability to assess talent. The most scrutinized choices on my list in 2008 were, Jessica Kuster and Sune Agbuke. They did not play for power clubs and were under the radar. I could care less and named them as Top 10 players in the city as underclassman, Kuster as rising junior and Agbuke a rising sophomore. Look at where they are now!

Please be reminded that all my of these rankings were written in August, before the high school season. It is much easier to wait until the season and be a front runner, wavering on a weekly basis depending on what player is playing well.

2008 city Rankings

1. Meighan Simmons (Steele HS- TeamXpress- Class of 2010) 5'8 Shooting Guard
The ultra quick scoring machine is on pace to score 3000 points in her HS career . The very Deanna Nolan-like reigning Express Player of The Year has another gear that is not often seen in girls basketball. Her jumper is solid and she finishes at the basket like few can. Simmons has drawn major interest from Top 25 schools with numerous offers on the table. When her handle gets a little tighter, she will be able to attend any school she chooses. Should be mentioned in the same breath as fellow Texas stars Odyssey Sims and Chiney Ogwumike as viable All-American candidates.

2. CeCe Harper (Madison HS- Lady Rohawks- Class of 2010) 5'8 Combo Guard
The fearless combo guard from Madison is a gamer. Arguably the most clutch performer in SA. She is content on being a distributor in the first half and scores in bunches when the game is on the line. She has a very strong handle, penetrates at will, and is a very good passer. She finishes with a number of creative shots and uses great foot work to get off her shot against taller opponents.Among many college suitors, the grapevine has her being courted by a very successful Big 12 school. Reminds me of a smaller version of Lisa Willis. Harper is a Top 25 talent and as her jumper becomes more consistent, Top 10 teams will find her hard to ignore.

3. Monica Engleman ( Madison HS- Lady Rohawks- 2009) 5'10 Wing
Hands down the best shooter in SA. The prototypical wing has Shannah Crossley range and is capable of hitting 25 foot bombs that barely move the net. Her solid frame and good leaping ability allows her to play some post in high school and be a strong presence on the boards. The Kansas Jayhawk commit is quick enough to defend guards and strong enough to defend the post. As her handle gets a little stronger, look for the her to make some happy fans in Jayhawk land.

4. Lyndsey Cloman ( Taft HS- TeamXpress- Class of 2009) 6'2 post
This powerful post player from Taft recently committed to the perennial Top 10 team, Oklahoma Sooners.Cloman has developed a strong face-up game to go with her traditional low post game. She hits the 15 footer with regularity and has good foot work. The feisty Cloman has a nasty streak in her that will serve her well in the ultra competitive Big 12. Cloman can be compared to a young Tasha Humphrey. If she continues to get quicker and extend her range, she we be a force in the Big 12.

5. Sune Agbuke ( Conerstone HS-SA Comets- Class of 2011) 6'3 Center
Can you say UPSIDE!!! This kid has all the makings of a high major D1 player. She has remarkable hands and good agility for a girl her size. Upside implies the term "work in progress" and that describes Agbuke.Traditionally, Bigs develop later than their smaller counter parts and she is definitely still developing. Her size and strength make her a major factor on any court she is on.

6. LenNique Brown ( Wagner HS-TeamXpress-Class of 2010) 5'5 Point Guard
The purest point guard in SA. The past first pg is the most slept on kid in the city. Her quiet demeanor belies a fierce competitive nature. Most of her biggest games come against top notch competition. Her yo-yo handle and lightning first step are Ivory Latta-like. She must become a little more selfish on offensive end since she is capable of getting into to the lane at will. She opened a lot of college coaches eyes this summer and must continue to develop her shooting range if she is to attend a BCS school.

7. Jessica Kuster ( Reagan HS- SA Heat- Class of 2010)6'2 postThe athletic post player from
She is another "UPSIDE" kid with tremendous speed and leaping ability. She is a monster on the boards and changes a lot of shots in the paint. With her ability to also defend guards, she is definitely one of the best defensive players in the city. With her athletic ability and body type, Kuster may be more suited as a face-up rebounding wing in the Swin Cash mode. She should have numerous college suitors as her offensive game becomes more refined.

8. Kiante Ageous ( Sam Houston- TeamXpress-Class of 2010)5'10 Wing
Power guard extraordinaire! With her trademark Dwayne Wade jump stop, KiKi is a constant paint dweller. She is a nightmare match up for wings because of her first step and she is too powerful for most guards to check. She attacks the rim with authority and slaps the backboard on many her finishes. Reminds me of a slightly smaller Jasmine Dixon.

9. Felicia Jacobs ( Roosevelt HS- Lady Rohawks-Class of 2009) 5'6 Guard
The female version of "The Glove" is the best on-ball defender in the city. This lock down defender is pound for pound as physically strong as any player out there. She is track star fast and has amazing 'ups'. She constantly out rebounds bigger opponents. Her speed translates well on the court as she stops and changes direction on a dime. Her dribble penetration keeps her in the paint and puts constant pressure on the defense.If Jacobs can improve her shooting range and shooting consistency, she would remind some of slightly smaller Matee Ajavon.

10. Cheyenne Berry( Lytle HS- TeamXpress-Class of 2010)5'8 Combo Guard
Berry is one of the most exciting players in the city. Her passing ability is reminiscent of Samantha Prahalis. She is known for making seemingly impossible passes look easy. Her solid frame allows her to dish out more than she takes. She is a streaky shooter that can get hot and score in bunches. She is a super confident kid that takes a lot of chances which invariably leads to a high number turnovers at times. A stronger jumper would add numerous colleges to her growing list of suitors.

2009 City Rankings( click here and search August for assesments on each kid)

1.Meighan Simmons
2.CeCe Harper
2.LenNique Brown
4.Sune Agbuke
5.Erica Donavan
6.Jessica Kuster
7.Stephanie Whittman
8.Jackie Edwards
9.Kiante Ageous
10.Chyenne Berry
11.Arielle Roberson
12.Julissa Garret
13.Kathryn Galindo
14.Daniell Blagg
15.Michelle Rodriquez
16.Alexis Govan
17.Ciara Mclee
18.Taylor Calvert
19.Arlene Cisneros
20.Asha Hampton-Finch
21.Shana Holmes
22.Victoria Willems
23.Niaga Mitchell-Cole
24.Olivia Patterson
25.Marquisha Sparks

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Apache Chief

SA Heat founder and coach Koby Cantu has been named as the new head coach for Antonian Prep. The Apaches administration made the announcement today to players and parents.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Local Farce!!!

The commitment of Erica Sanders to Texas Tech illustrates how political high school ball is locally. Sanders was a double digit scorer for a Top 10 team in the city last season yet did not even make all-district. She made honorable mention! I know have the honor to mention that she is now set to attend a Big 12 school to play basketball and still has three years of scholastic basketball left.

Erica Sanders commits!!

Johnson 2015 guard Erica Sanders has committed to Texas Tech according to her father and club coach, Eric Sanders. The rising sophomore is joining club teammate, Tierra Davenport , who reportedly committed to the Lady Raiders as well.

Congrats to the Sanders family!

Tesha Smith's 5 Schools, 5 Visits!!!

After a huge summer that resulted in dozens of Division 1 offers, Wagner big Tesha Smith has reduced her list of suitors to five schools. She has set up visits to the five schools starting in September.

In no particular order, Smith is deciding between TCU, North Texas, Wichita State, UTSA and New Mexico State.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Celebrate Success!!!

The Express-News featured an article that celebrated the 2009 Little League World Series trip by the McAllisters Park team. The 2012 McAllister Park team is returning to the LLWS starting today. Congrats to both the 2009 ad 2012 baseball teams. The TEAM aspect of the LLWS and the accomplishments of both should be recognized.

In the same spirit of celebration, let's look at the the last legitimate local girls basketball team to pursue a "national championship" on the girls side.

The 2008 Jaguars of Schertz  went to the AAU Nationals with the following players Erica Sanders, Kyra Lambert ,McKenzie Calvert, Moriah Mack, Ashley Ross, Samantha Allen, Simone Fields, Corrina Moncada. This team did not fare well in terms of wins in the event but in terms of individual accomplishments, they have superseded the boys baseball players by far.

The Express-News did a "where are they now" piece on the 2009 LLWS team.
Here is an update on the 12 players:

- 4 players(25% on team) no longer play baseball in favor of football.
- 3 players have made varsity so far
- 1 player has terrific stats

Here is an update on the young female Jaguars of old:

- 7 of 8 players made varsity as freshman
- 2 Players are committed to BCS Universities as underclassmen
(Calvert/Baylor, Lambert/Texas A&M)
- At least 2 others players have multiple D1 offers(Sanders,Mack)
- 7 of the 8 made all-district(all as underclassmen)
- All 8 helped lead their HS teams to playoffs
- At least 6 of 8 are being heavily recruited by D1 institutions

These are just the facts. No need to say much more. I will say, congrats ladies. Your accomplishments are and will continue to be celebrated.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tesha Smith with National Shine!!!

Tesha Smith is featured on ESPN Hoopgurlz today as an outstanding performer at one of the best events in the country, Battle of the Boro. Smith is narrowing down her college choices and organizing her 5 visits for the fall. The 6'2 rebounding machine for Wagner plans to sign early.

The candidates for her visits include: TCU, North Texas, Texas Tech, UTSA, Wichita State, New Mexico State, Arkansas Little Rock, Southern Illinois, Ole Miss, and Western Kentucky.

Here is the Hoopgurlz assessment of Tesha from the Boro:

 Tesha Smith (San Antonio, Texas), San Antonio's Finest: Smith rebounds as well as any post player in the entire country. At 6-2, Smith isn't as tall as some of the other back-to-basket post players in the class nationally, but she makes up for that with her ability to control the glass. Her presence immediately limits the number of second-chance opportunities that the other team is going to get. With games frequently decided by single digits, a player with Smith's skill can drastically change the outcome of a game.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Amber Ramirez w/ Hoopgurlz love!

Amber Ramirez capped off a great summer with some coverage from ESPN Hoopgurlz. The following is an except from the article. Ramirez is the only 2016 featured in the piece.

Amber Ramirez (San Antonio, Texas), SA Finest White: This was a great encore for Ramirez, following her June performance at EBA West Camp. In this tournament she was pitted against bigger, stronger, older competition, and her skill set simply translated. She has all the swag you could ever want from a player this young, which allows her to continue to attack with her advanced ballhandling. She can create offense off the dribble and makes plays with the pass as well as taking shots. We simply need to see a consistent release on her shot so her scoring becomes steady. She has a slight build and is going to see a lot of deny-and-face guard tactics as she moves up the ranks, something her Finest teammate, Recee' Caldwell, knows plenty about. As good as she was this summer, seeing Ramirez in the same backcourt with Caldwell next summer should be something fans and scouts look forward to.

Ramirez has picked up two new offers over the past two days, one from a Pac-12 school and another from a Big-12 institution.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kyra Lambert decides!! And validates my Opinion(s)

Congrats to one of my favorite players to watch, Kyra Lambert, 2015 pg for Steele HS. She has committed to Texas A&M University. Her commitment is the first for a member of the 15' class locally. She is only the second San Antonio area player to commit to the SEC in recent memory.

Congrats to her father and long time club coach Pops Lambert.

I have written some "opinion' blogs lately. Lambert validated all three of them with her commitment.

1. Clinics can help in recruitment-

2015 Kyra Lambert fears no one. Her athleticism allows her to play up vs. elite competition and her skill set is advanced for her age. She represented well when she was assertive. She needed to be more selfish at times. She showed why she is considered one of the best young guards in the state, if not nation in her class.
This is a quote from a blog I wrote about the Gannon Baker camp at Texas A&M almost exactly two years ago.  Kyra not only attended that camp in front of the A&M staff, she attended the same camp last summer. Fresh off of an elite summer with TeamXpress, Lambert attended the clinic for the second time. I had a player of mine at the camp that expressed interest in A&M. I placed a call to A&M assistant,Kelly Bond, on my players behalf. The conversation went quickly to how impressed the staff was with the ever improving and very talented Lambert.

After another stellar season, this time for Sophia Young Elite, Texas A&M saw enough to offer the rising sophomore. This alone is an accomplishment since the A&M staff rarely offers kids so early. In fact, I was led to believe that only two 2014's were offered by the A&M staff last year as sophomores.

2. Shoe Affiliation does not matter much-

Again, a recent blog spoke of how Lambert put in work vs shoe sponsored teams and grew because of it. She has joined a recent national champ and Top 15 team over the last few season with Texas A&M. Lambert did not have to chase a title or trophy in a separate city as her Sophia Young Elite team is primarily based locally.

Congrats to Mike Ekenam and Sophia Young. The Sophia Young organization provided a good environment for Kyra to showcase her great ability.

(Side note: Sophia Young is incredible. I had the pleasure of seeing her at work today and her professionalism is something to be admired. She challenges her teammates with her play but encourages them as often. Watching her approach practice with detail and intensity makes me think she is destined to coach after her playing days are over)

3. Tough Parents= Tough Players

Pops Lambert is a tough father whom expects great things from his child. In that vein, Kyra does not disappoint. Her father tapes every game and chops up video with her, thus, she is one of the smartest kids in the city. Visit Gold's gym or some military gym on the weekend and you have a great chance of running into Kyra, getting it in under the watchful eye of her pops, Pops.

I am delighted for the Lambert family. Here is my  initial talent evaluation for Lambert from November 2008. As you can see, the kid was nice and bound for the big time way back then.
(S/O to her skills coach back then, Mo Harrison, Next Level. He obviously had her on the right track)

2015- No one in her class is even close. Another very skilled combo guard. Can pass, slash, score and shoot. Plays with and against boys on a regular basis and gives more than she takes. She leads by example and is not a rah rah type guard but is always one of the better players on the court. First step is just unfair to defenders. Will attend Steele and plays in a great back court with the Jaguars.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Opinion(Tough Parents= Tough Kids)

In another opinionated piece, I will keep this one very brief. Tough (Elite) kids come from Tough Parents.

In a recent tweet, ESPN/Peach State talent evaluator Keil Moore retweeted a comment from elite 2014 pg, Brooke McCarty. To paraphrase, it went something like this:

"Back in the gym after a break. Rest, it has been real. Now I am back working on my future".

Anyone that has seen Brooke McCarty play respects her game. She is 5'5 and 120 pounds, max. However, she is a LIONESS! She competes and fights with the best of them. Her motor is incredible. In July, she played 5 tournaments, around 25 games, in 25 or so days and plays the majority of most games. She is a machine!

You do not have to search hard for the reason of Brooke's ambition. Surely she is self motivated, but her mother the equivalent of her on the sideline.

Attend any of Brooke's games and you will be able to pick out her mother real quickly. She usually is sitting at half court, as focused on the game as her daughter. She yells for her daughters team to box out, get a stop, play real defense, get tough, finish in the paint and all the effort commands one can think of. She is on point! She encourages her daughter when needed, she gets on her daughter when the situation determines it. She is tough on Brooke and consequently, Brooke is tough on the competition!

The explanation of why some kids are tough and some are not can not be adequately examined in a simple blog written by me. What I can say is that it appears to me that the parents that always make excuses for their child, fight their battles, hide them from competition, and treat them with kids gloves produce weaker basketball players.

Players like the Ogumike sisters of Stanford blow holes in the argument that affluent, well to do parents, produce kids that do not have that edge. Tough players have long been considered a by product of poverty and family obstacles. There are plenty of kids that have never wanted for anything, yet will bite to get in done.

I recently saw one up close. Haley Peters is an animal. Her work and practice habits are on another level. The Duke forward is reportedly borderline genius academically. Her brother walked on at Duke, $60,000 a year tuition and all. She obviously does not come from a family that is hurting financially. Peters is not the most athletic, yet, runs the mile in times better than most guards. She hits the weight room to the tune of getting kicked out by concerned coaches. Her story reminds me of current Texas guard Chassidy Fussell.

Fussell is willing to drive to San Antonio to work with a trainer, just to get additional reps. Her work ethic is almost legendary in Austin. Her parents could afford to hire her a personal trainer in HS and she pushed him to work out more. The former military man and Fussells' trainer has detailed to me her constant need to get better.

The common denominator between McCarty, Ogumikes, Peters and Fussell is that all of these elite players are tough and come from tough parents. Becoming elite is seemingly no secret. Tough expectations produce tough kids. Tough kids persevere to become elite, just like their parents expected them to be!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Opinions( Shoe Games/Circuits)

The following is my take on the shoe affiliation used by many clubs to recruit non-affliated players.

 Shoe Games(Circuits)- This is a subject that many refuse to touch publicly. I am not smart enough to heed the admonishments of the powers that be. The shoe affiliations of clubs entail pros and cons. I will attempt to address both through my limited vision.

I have been a witness to both the Nike and adidas club circuits as a coach under the umbrella of a Nike team and an adidias team. I am under the impression that neither Nike nor adidas no longer provide monetary stipends to its club teams.

Nike is by far the most prestigious shoe circuit on the girls side of basketball. Attending Nike Nationals as a fan this past July was a great experience. The event featured college refs(3) for every game, a great location, highly competitive teams, great players, college coaches everywhere and was very organized. The Nike circuit also has the Nike Regional Skills Academy, a skills clinic attended by some of the best players in that particular region. The NRSA is not exclusive to 'Nike Players" and is truly a very good thing for the sport.  Being a Nike team certainly has its perks like free or discounted shoes. Or very unique shoes, only distributed to Nike sponsored teams. To be a Nike team, in my oppinion, a club must have at least a decent reputation for having college bound kids. You would also have to have some longevity and national promenence.  

adidas is the other major circuit. The adidas circuit was very strong years ago when it was headed by Mike T White. The adidas circuit has a national event as well. I attended a couple of them  a few years ago when it was held at Texas A&M and Indiana University. The caliber of teams, by in large,  were and are not as talented as the Nike circuit. The 2008 and 2009 adidas circuit featured very good teams such as FBC, TeamXpress, Memphis Bobcats, Oregon Reign, and Houston Elite. These teams featured outstanding players and teams that could hold their own against any Nike team at that time. Again, this circuit features free and reduced product. However, adidas has apparently limited the free shoes and goods in favor of heavily discounted product in a cost saving measure. adidas had the adidas Nations teams in the past. This program took the best adidas sponsored kids and matched them up against young prep stars from different countries. In fact, this is how local legend, Meighan Simmons, attracted the affection of Candice Parker and the University of Tennessee. 

Now to the meat and potatoes, are shoe affiliations needed to accomplish club goals? Or, does a player need to be associated with a particular shoe sponsored team to realize their college goals? To be frank, NO!! If a club coach director and or parent/player is focused on what really matters, a college scholarship, shoe affiliation is not all that important.

Here is one of the biggest lies that SOME shoe sponsored teams like to diseminate; To play the best competition, you have to play on a particular circuit.

Here is an example of why this is not true.

SA Reagan standout Wendy Knight '14 has played against the following players in her career with SA Finest Basketball:

Alexis Jones(Duke/ESPN #3/McDonald AA), Briana Turner(ESPN #2 2014/USA u17),Kelsey Mitchell(ESPN #1) ,Jordin Canada(ESPN #3/USA u16), Lahjana Drummer(ESPN #7),Zaire O'Neil(ESPN Top 25) ,Mycah Johnson(ESPN Top25),Erica McCall(ESPN Top 15/USA u16/u17) ,McKenzie Calvert(/Baylor commit) ,Jada Terry( ESPN Top 50),Candace Adams(ESPN Top 60),Brianna Day(ESPN Top 50) Peyton Little(Texas A&M/ESPN Top 5), Brooke McCarty(ESPN Top 20), AJ Alix(ESPN Top 50), Jessica Washington(ESPN #20/ USA u17/UNC commit)Courtney Williams(Texas A&M/ESPN Top 10/ McDonalds AA), Gabby Greene(2104 ESPN #6 )

Here are some of the Top Teams she has faced:

DFW Elite(Nike), Cy-Fair Shock(Nike), Essence(Nike), Boo Williams(Nike),Cal Sparks Gold, All Ohio(Nike)WV Thunder, NJ Sparks(Adidas)Missouri Phenom ,Oklahoma Select ,EBX ,Nebraska Shooting Stars, Mokan Eclipse, Texas Prep Stars.

These are just  few of the players and teams that Knight has faced, and she plays for an unaffiliated club. She has faced at least a dozen former or future McDonald All- Americans. She has played 5 of the 20 or so Nike teams. She has played at least twice as many adidas sponsored teams.

Development- Now that we see that great competition is accessible without shoe affiliation, let's look at development for the average player. How does the average college prospect develop? Players develop by working on their craft(training) and PLAYING!! So often I have seen good players join stacked shoe sponsored club and ride the pine or take on a new limited role. A two time national championship coach cautioned me against placing my child on the numerous shoe sponsored clubs in Texas for this exact reason. She argued that my child would be better served staying with an independent  and experiencing growing pains while playing AGAINST stacked teams instead of playing WITH a stacked team. Now, one can reason that that advice was to stroke my ego while recruiting my child. My retort is to point out that this coach would have  better access and could better monitor my childs' recruitment by encouraging her to play with a friendly shoe sponsored club. Many reputable college coaches feel the same way but out of fear of alienating powerful club coaches, they keep their mouth shut.

The best case scenario of this is Alexis Jones. I can care less about what the experts say, Alexis Jones was the best guard in the country last season. No knock to any other guard in 2012, but I've seen them all, except  Jewell Lloyd, and Alexis is hands down the best. Alexis played with one of the most successful shoe sponsored clubs in the country early in her high school career. She left to play with a team of good but not great players, led by her father. I watched Alexis almost record a triple double, while tallying 30 plus points vs a top 5 team in the country that featured 10 or so BCS bound kids(2 McDonald All-Americans). Alexis faced traps and junk defenses by some of the best teams in  the country. She put on shows at huge events such as PBR Super 64 and Battle in the Bayou against shoe sponsored teams. She made the USA team while playing for her father, not for a shoe sponsored team. Alexis did not have fellow All-Americans to lean on when facing multiple All-Americans. Consequently, she got better!

In a local example of this, Kyra Lambert had a great summer. The Top 20 player in the class of 2015 grew! When running into to her at Battle in the Boro, I asked how her summer was going. She replied that she was playing better. She went on to say that she had a tough time at the Oregon City End of the Trail, one of the best events in the county. She apparently  faced junk defenses  set out to neutralize her in Oregon. I smiled with satisfaction when hearing this. The 15 year old Lambert GOT BETTER! I was privy to the many opportunities she had to play for shoe sponsored teams this club season. One in particular, DFW Elite-Washington, now renamed Texas Prep Stars, went hard after Lambert. Texas Prep Stars is a great team featuring the incredible Lashann Higgs from the 2015 class. Besides Higgs, they feature another Top 20 guard in 2015 in Alyssa Dry. They also have the most exciting player in the state in 2013 Nakia Jones, a guard for Beaumont Ozone. Texas Preps feature at least two other Top 50 kids, one of them, Jordan Posey, is a probable Top 25 kid. Add the 6'4 BCS bound Kelsey Lang and you see the opportunity Lambert had to play with a truly elite(stacked) team. But, how much better would Lambert  have gotten this summer sharing court time with these fellow Top 50 players? She surely would not have faced Box and 1 like junk defenses. She would not have struggled since she would have had so much BCS talent to lean on. Lambert led her Sophia Young Elite team against a Top 5 national team in the Georgia Metros(Nike). She also faced the top player in the country for 2013 according to ESPN Hoopgurlz, Mercedes Russell. In regards to development, who got better? Lambert or the many guards languishing on the benches of stacked teams across the country in the name of a shoe? Or in the name of a trophy? Or in the name of ranking? Who got better; Lambert by a landslide!

College- Back to the real reason to play club ball, scholarships. Here are some small comparisons to illustrate my point that the game is the game, despite shoe affiliation.

The University of New Mexico  has commitments from Brooke Allemand and Alex Lapeyrolerie for  2013. Allemand plays for the independent SA Finest Blue and Lapeyrolerie plays for Nike sponsored Cy-Fair Shock's second team.

Tulane has commitments from Courtney Latham and Leslie Vorpahl. Latham plays for Nike Cy-Fair Shock-Coleman and Vorpahl plays for the independent SA Heat-Cantu.

Diamond Lockhart  recently committed to Texas Tech. She plays for DFW Elite, a Nike sponsored team. Tesha Smith is being heavily recruited by the same Texas Tech and has the opportunity to attend the school if she chooses. Smith plays for the independent, SA Finest.

(For the record, I love the games of Alex Lap, Latham and Lockhart. I first saw Lap at a Houston tournament when she was a 7th grader and her length and athleticism was easily admired. I first took note of Latham at Texas A&M elite camp a couple years ago and loved her savvy game. I have been a Lockhart  fan since her 8th grade year and she matched up against my squad in the Lady Rohawk event. She gave me fits!)

Again, this is not a knock on any Nike team and it is surely not a comparison between independent like SA Finest and national kingpins DFW Elite and Cy-Fair-Shock.  There is no comparison! These Nike clubs are goliaths in the game!

What I am saying is that playing for independents has its advantages, just as playing for shoe sponsored clubs has advantages as well. I am addressing the widespread misperception that shoe sponsored clubs are superior to all independents and the fallacy that shoe sponsored teams better prepare kids for college.

Surely one advantage that I perceive  shoe sponsored teams having is getting marginal players into BCS schools.   I have not, nor will I ever name players on this blog in a negative way, however, take a look at how many ineffective bench warmers are sitting at BCS schools and you will find a large number of them who played for powerful shoe sponsored clubs. I have a 2 part theory behind the presence of so many BCS benchwarmers from power clubs.

First,  BCS coaches wish to keep favorable relationships with power clubs. To do so, they take mediocre players for their level in hope that that club program will deliver their next superstars to them through loyalty. On more than a few college visits, I have been introduced to players in ways such as this, " This is Suzy Q, she is from such and such, and she played for (insert shoe sponsored club)." Inevitably, I sit and watch the team practice and see why I received the club resume of the player. In a good majority of the cases, she cannot play!!! The kids that CAN play, and played for shoe sponsored clubs, do not need the introductions or club team affiliation in the introduction. Their games speak for themselves!  Geno Auriemma did not need to say that Maya Moore played for the Nike sponsored Georgia Metros when speaking of her.

The second reason that I believe so many BCS benches are being warmed by shoe sponsored former players is that many club coaches guide them wrongly through vanity. It is so much more of a recruiting tool if a club director can say "I have this kid at this BCS conference school."  It is impressive on the website for a club to post how many NCAA tournament appearances that their BCS players have experienced. Never mind that a large portion of those kids may not have actually contributed much on the court. Instead on guiding  players to mid-low major universities that their players CAN PLAY at, many power programs put vanity ahead of the best interest of their kids.

With all that being said, who would not want to be a Nike sponsored team? I would! As long as I could continue to develop and not amass a five figure recruiting and operating budget. Winning a tournament by over recruiting  players that have been with me for years is not a cost that I am willing to pay right now. My naivety has me thinking that this is not the way club ball should be. But, what do I know? Probably not much!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Opinions(Exposure Events/Camps&Clinics)

To paraphrase the great John Wooden, "I am giving my opinion not advice." The following are a few opinions that I wish to share with the many club coaches and parents trying to navigate the club waters. Most of these topics need an entire blog but I will attempt to keep them brief. I will break them down into multiple blogs entitled "Opinions".

1. Exposure Events- Simply put, go where your team will be seen. Having college caliber kids is the key to having your team seen! College coaches livelihood depends on delivering kids that can help them win. If your team has players that will help a college program win, coaches will follow. Good exposure events can be put into a couple categories, big and effectively small.

- Big Events: I have attended a few big events as a coach and fan. I have coached in Battle in the Boro, Battle on the Bayou, Big State Flava Jam and PBR Super 64. These events have hundreds of teams. I have also attended Nike Nationals as a fan. The common denominator in these events is the impressive amount of coaches. An event like the Boro can have 200-300 plus scouts easily. While 200 scouts sitting court side in one facility is eye opening, the key to befitting from the coaching presence is having good players. Good players will play well enough to win a game or two. The more you win, the better the competition gets. The better the comp gets, the more college prospects participating in the game. More college prospects results in more college coaches viewing the game. I have been on both sides of the big event game; coaching a young and unheralded team and coaching a heavily recruited team. I have paid the hefty fees that accompany most big events only to play in front of hardly any scouts. I have also played in front of an average 50-60 scouts for an entire event. If your team lacks established relationships with tournament directors and does not have known players, it may be a tough nut to crack when attending big events.

- Small but Effective Events: Again, I have been to numerous small events. Events such as Cali Summer Games, Texas Classic, Peach State Summer Invitational. The Cal Summer Games and numerous Peach State events routinely have 100 plus coaches for 32 team event. This breaks down to 3 college coaches for every club team. Bigger events basically have a 1 to 1 ratio, with the established teams monopolizing most of the college coaches. I have had great success, on a scout per game basis, while attending smaller events. A key factor in attending a smaller event is schedule flexibility. Most smaller event features exhibitions games. These games are a huge benefit to up and coming teams. The 60 plus coaches that I played in front of in a big event like Battle in the Boro, was easily matched with the 60 or so coaches at our exhibition game at last years Cal Summer Games. One of the major benefits of attending smaller events is that coaches tend to sit on lessor known teams for extended periods of time. In the Blueprint for instance, some local teams played in front of a couple dozen coaches. Some of these teams have attended bigger events and played in front of no more than a handful of coaches.

So which is the better, big or small? Again, it is determined by additional factors including your teams talent and reputation. I would suggest a smart mix of big and small events. Here are a few events that are good, IMO.

PBR Super 64 (great facility, organized, comp, coaches, media)
Battle in the Boro (great comp, amazing amount of coaches, media)
Big State Flava Jam(great comp and coaches, media)

Small but effective:
Cal Summer Games (100 plus coaches, location, facility)
Peach State- Real Deal in Ville (100 plus coaches, good facility, media coverage)
Texas Classic (40-50 coaches at one facility)

I have heard good things about the following events:
Deep Soth Classic-Big-( tons of coaches, great comp)
USJN 16u- Big- (huge number of coaches, great comp)
End of the Trail-Big-(coaches, organized)

2. Camps/Clinics: Camps and clinics can be a terrific tool for players in the recruiting process. I have seen both sides, effective and useless.

College Camps- For long, these have been called nothing but "money makers" by many in club basketball. I do not totally agree with that sentiment. Many college camps consist of two groups, elite recruits and payers. All camp attendees must pay to attend camps, however, all campers do not receive the same attention from the staff. Usually, the payers are delegated to a separate gym in larger camps. These "payers" are not really on the radar of that particular school. The other group, the elite prospects, are the attention getters. They are usually  already on the coaching staff's radar and received invites. My opinion varies in regards to camps. They are beneficial in many ways. They will give perspective real quick. If a kid attends a camp and gets no attention, it is an unbiased way of a parent(club coach) learning that their kid is not as elite(good) as they think. Again, a college coaching staff is not going to have an elite prospect on campus and ignore them. Attending college camps also can allow players to size themselves up with other recruits, take an extended look at the coaching staff and see the school facilities. Here is a common theme at camps, OFFERS. The majority of players that I have coached have received offers from attending camps. However, all of these players were previously being recruited by the institutions that offered them. If you are in the "payer" side of the gym, getting very little attention from the head coach or top assistants, you may want to adjust the level of your expectations from that particular school or conference. If you are treated in this way at multiple institutions, I would not continue to throw money away by attending college camps.

(side note: Many club coaches are paid handsomely to work(deliver their players to) certain camps. Be aware! I would ask for a list of camp counselors before attending college camps. The club coach working as a camp counselor and his/her kids will expectantly receive a lot of attention from the coaching staff. If your child(player) is competing for attention against the working club coach's players, good luck in getting it! Some coaches pander their kids to as many college camps as possible in an attempt to set up a job at the collegiate level. Plan accordingly!)

Clinics(Scouting Services)- When playing the rankings game, clinics can be a must. Many clinics such as Nike Regional Skills Academies are well attended by scouting services and ranking publications. While getting ranked may not be all that important in the recruiting process, it can aid in recruiting. I have had players attend clinics where they left such an impression on scouting services that they increased their reputations nationally. Consequently, their status rose higher in the rankings that college coaches purchase from scouting services. Believe it or not, many college coaches use ranking/scouting services to find prospects. On a personal note, two top 5 programs began to recruit my kid on word of a scouting service. Of course, recommendations only go so far. Players will have to validate the scouting service recommendations. Again, no reputable college coach will jeopardize their job giving a ride to a player that can not get it done on the word of a talent scout.

If a clinic is strictly a skill set clinic, there are plenty of reasons to attend. Getting better is always a good thing.