Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Power behind the Thrones!

From Worldwide Wes to Karl Rove, many powerful people are indispensable to more recognized Powerful people. Marques Jackson, rest in peace, and Cedric LaFluer are not in the national realm of Wes or certainly Rove, but they have and are providing the blood to the veins of many college programs.

Marques Jackson passed away a couple of year ago. I knew him on a rudimentary level. What I did know then and fully appreciate now is that Mr. Jackson has his fingerprints guiding a lot of successful college programs.

Years ago at the Final Four in San Antonio, Mr. Jackson entered an Nfinity Shoe party and stopped the room! Dozens, and I mean literally dozens, of college coaches immediately came over to pay their respects to this man. It was a sight behold. All of these well payed college coaches essentially waiting in line to shake the hand of a club director. Why? As the old saying goes, "he who has the gold makes the rules." In this case, the gold is the overwhelming amount of talent in the Marques Jackson DFW Elite basketball family. Now that Marques Jackson has moved on to a better place, his legacy lives.

Baylor Bears went 40-0 last season in what marked the most successful women's basketball season ever. The main reason, Brittney Griner. Yes, Kim Mulkey is a brilliant motivator and very good coach. Her million dollar salary is well deserved. She has turned a fledgling program into  two time national champions. Betting against her to win at least one more would be foolhardy. Especially when considering that she has a not so secret weapon; Marques Jackson's young protege', Damion "Swift" McKinney. McKinney became just the second African-American male assistant to win a national championship(Atlanta Dream HC Fred Williams was the 1st at USC). McKinney cut his teeth as a personal trainer and coach for DFW Elite. McKinney ascended to such heights that Kim Mulkey hired him to help take her program to new levels. McKinney responded by landing recruiting classes that other schools dream about.He signed McDonald All-Americans Brittany Griner, Odyssey Sims, Brooklyn Pope(transferred from Rutgers), Alexis Prince and Niya Johnson. In a ironic twist, McKinney reportedly helped the University of Texas land the Nash sisters before joining Baylor, whom he personally trained in high school.

(side note: Baylor fans probably owe a huge amount of gratitude to new UT coach Karen Aston. Aston, the former Baylor assistant, is credited by many for recommending Damion McKinney to Kim Mulkey. That recommendation led to Baylor making history!)

Mr. Jackson's right hand man was reportedly Anthony Grant. Anthony Grant is a true gentleman and his son has assisted with Texas A&M in a coaching capacity. Anthony Grant's daughter plays for Texas A&M. Mr. Jackson's DFW Elite T-Jack team featured 3 highly recruited players that all signed on to play at Texas A&M for the upcoming season, including McDonald's All-American, Jordan Jones. Mr. Jackson sent his own child, Tiffany, to the University of Texas. Tiffany Jackson was a 2007 All-American for the Longhorns.

Speaking of the Longhorns, Cedric LaFluer has indirectly helped put the Longhorns back in the game! The first time I met UT assistant George Washington, he was coaching his talented team in a local SA Lady Rohawks tournament. The team featured a bright young guard named Amber Orrange, who would eventually go on to All- American status and start for Stanford. However, the best was yet to come. It was LaFluer and his Cy-Fair Texans umbrella that helped George Washington put together a collection of talent that included the #1 player in 2014, Brianna Turner and the Baylor bound McKenzie Calvert. Adding Calvert to a team that featured, Turner, Orrange and others, George Washington catapulted on to the national stage. He no longer had "good" talent, he had struck gold. This new found status allowed Washington to showcase his ability as a great skill set coach and allowed him to recruit more talent to his rising club. Washington has a terrific resume', one that reportedly included being a strength coach for a WNBA team. However, it was his club connections to elite players that eventually helped him position himself  to acquire his current job as an assistant at UT. Over the past couple of months, Washington's former club program, newly rechristened Texas Preps Elite D-Walk, has had 4 outstanding players commit to their former club coach and the University of Texas. LaShann Higgs, Kelsey Lang, Nekia Jones, and Alyssa Dry all have signed up to play for Karen Aston. Many expect another very good 2015 Texas Preps Elite D-Walk player to make it 5 commits very soon.

LaFleur has more directly helped another Big 12 program, TCU. After his daughter, TK, transferred from Nebraska, she went on to an all-conference career for the Horned Frogs. She played pro ball for a couple of seasons and is now an assistant for her alma mater.  LeFleur also mentored a good young club coach named Chris Johnson. Johnson and his Cy-Fair Premier program became nationally respected by having players like Brooke McCarty(Top 20), AJ Alix(Top 50) and twins, Tyler and Taylor Gilbert(Top 100). Johnson joined the TCU staff last season and immediately had an impact. The very talented Kansas freshman Donielle Breaux wanted out and chose to join her former club coach, Johnson, at TCU. Caitlin Diaz followed suit. Now, Johnsons' stock is rising nationally as a very effective recruiter and just in time as TCU has now joined the Big 12.

I simplified a very long winded story of connections and relationships for the sake of keeping the blog somewhat brief. However, It can not be disputed that men like Marques Jackson and Cedric LaFleur have been very instrumental in promoting Texas women's basketball. Like Worldwide Wes and Karl Rove, many have reached a higher level by standing on their shoulders.