Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Steele Playing for Keeps!!

Tim Calvert and Pops Lambert had foresight. The fathers of two of the best kids in San Antonio history donated their time and effort to support dreams. Not only the dreams of their own children, but the dreams of so many other kids that have went on to succeed throughout San Antonio. Players like Aleeyah Harris(Western Kentucky), Asha Hampton-Finch(Prairie View A&M), Erica Sanders(Texas Tech), Moriah Mack(New Mexico St)and Elena Gumbs(Rice) have used the Jaguar club program as a stepping stone to success. Both fathers have spent tens of thousands of dollars on travel, gym costs, equipment, insurance, etc., in an effort for local kids to thrive. They have spent summers in Florida, Washington DC, New Orleans, South Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee. The Daddies have sat in gyms during April in Virginia and Las Vegas, all so their kids can stay home! Home is College Station for Pops' daughter, while Waco will be second home for Tim. As of last Saturday, Home is also Austin!

Steele playing in the Final 4 of 5A is no surprise. If anyone is shocked, they should have familiarized themselves with this blog a long time ago. Since 2008, the obvious has been stated, Steele is deep with immensely talented kids and talent usually prevails.

"Three to four Division 1 players on a team, 2 of them Top 50 players nationally, may be enough to get them to state."

That was surely the case as the Lady Knight will face Pflugerville on Friday. Pflugervile is ranked #2 in the state but lost two starters in their last two games. Even if Pflugerville was 100% healthy, a team like Steele is a headache for opposing squads because, to put it frankly, they are built to succeed.

Kari Wallace has danced to this song before. The Meighan Simmons era included a few trips to the Drum. Besides having experience in going to State, the Simmons era helped her learn to coach talent, truly a learned skill. Managing individual brilliance while instilling team pride is not an easy task. Playing a style that UTILIZES talent, without USING it, is another attribute that Wallace has mastered. Witness the scores of Steele's games. Wallace will keep her thoroughbreds in during games that have long been decided since she understands that she is only restricting the growth of her players by not letting them shine.The ugly fact is that a 40 possession game is NOT conducive to developing players and keeping them somewhat happy. Wallace plays a style that rewards hard work and  welcomes move ins.

One of the most slept on kids in the city, Erika Chapman moved to Steele last season as a rising sophomore. The military brat is called "steady edddie" by a long time basketball observer and it describes her correctly. The Florida transplant is a 5'10 wing that is a double double kid nightly.She provides Steele with an evenness, by doing the dirty work when needed and 'going to work' when called upon. The game winning free throws against Reagan with .01 left on the clock in the area semi's was so indicative of Chapman. She never gets too high or too low and that is why she is a great compliment to the fiery competitiveness of superstars, McKenzie Calvert and Kyra Lambert.

Calvert has the mindset of Kobe! Since first seeing her at the age of 11, it has been evident. To sum her up, witness the Reagan game. She was having a tough night with her jumper so she took her talents to the post and got buckets from there. The most telling sequence was a fourth quarter three that hit noting but all net. What was the big deal about that? The previous shot was an air ball. After she shot the air ball, I wanted to see her mannerisms, judge whether she was losing her trademark confidence in the clutch. Yeah Right! The kid was smiling as she ran up the court while the Reagan fans chanted "air ball". They probably should have let the hornets nest rest. The next pin down screen she received, she curled to the top of the key and let a dagger fly. The net barely moved. Mamba!

Every once in a while I get infatuated with a kids game, Kyra Lambert is one of them. Four years on a small and extremely hot middle school court, I yelled, "Kyra, you are the best player on the floor. Go to work". Like most fanaticals, my statement came off as crazy to some. On that court in a game versus DFW Elite 2013 was, Diamond Lockhart(Texas Tech), Jada Terry(TAMU), Candace Adams(UNT) and her club mate Calvert. While she may have not been the best on the court to others, she was best to me and my preferences. Her vision, change of speed, basketball IQ, top end speed in transition, and ability to lock up on the defensive end were all things that translated to the next level. Still does. Now, as witnessed in the huge win vs Judson, her jump shot is becoming more reliable and that sucks for the competition. It was Lambert who chose to guard the high scoring frosh, Amber Ramirez, fresh off of a 31 point effort in the regional finals. Lambert is so important to the team in ways outsiders can not understand. Read her frequent pronouncements of following Christ, yet witness the intensity and grit in which she exhibits on the court. The more you see the kid, do not be surprised if "crazy" statements start flying out of your mouth as well!

Bri Millet is yet another weapon that Steele has at their disposal. Strong and skilled, she provides an added scoring threat when needed. Add Sarai Rodriguez and Steele's depth is going to be tough for Pflugerville to overcome.

This region has yet to get to the championship game in recent memory. Friday night may just be the night. No disrespect to the brilliant Clear Springs and their 2104 whiz, Brooke McCarty(another fav), but Steele's potential advancement should pit them against Duncanville! Wo! Wow! Whew! Whatever!! That team is no joke! However, thanks to the frequent flyer miles that Pops, Tim, and Ernest Chapman have logged in the name of "playing against the best", and the experience of Wallace in past trips to the Drum, the Steele kids should not be overwhelmed nor surprised.