Friday, November 21, 2014

Quick Hitters: November 21, 2015

  • ·         Kyra Lambert is having her way with high school defenses. The soon to be named McDonald All-American is showing that not being allowed to play varsity last year could not stop her. The Clemens super guard is averaging 27 points early.  She is on pace to surpass the 25.9 average that Meighan Simmons averaged in 2009-2010.

  • ·         Boerne Champion frosh ,Katlyn Ghavidel is averaging 21 points a game. Seven games into the season, she has hit 24 three pointers at a rate of 41%. At this pace, she should hit the 100 make mark by the end of the season. To my recollection, only two players have hit the 100 mark; Brooke Allemand (Boerne Champion) and Carlie Heineman (Brennan)

  • ·         Mayra Sendejo for Southside High Schools is a good lead guard. Sendejo is a quick fiery on ball defender that is capable of hitting the open 3.

  • ·         Alexes Bryant is continuing to expand her game. The 6'2 forward for Steele showed extremely well in the Corpus Christi Miras Rivera Tournament. Frequently playing on the perimeter, Bryant hit a couple catch and shoot jumpers from 3. She is averaging 17 ppg early.

  • ·         Speaking of Steele, the new boss has enthusiasm. New coach Jeff Chatman has the respect of his players. They are playing hard for him with his pressure defense and up-tempo style. Watching him in a suit lead the pregame defensive slide and reaction drill sets the tone. He seems to be a guy that has skin in the game. Word is that Chatman ran the tryouts for his middle school and is encouraging his youngsters to come up to the gym and get shots on the Gunn while working with him and the high school players. Obviously his passion and focus on growing his youngsters through skill set (not allowing 5'10 middle school guards to be dumped in the post)is a plus for the city.

  • ·         Staying on the topic of passionate new coaches, Smithson Valley has one. David Farber is a no nonsense guys that seems to get it. Coming from the boys side, he coaches his girls hard and they are responding. He clearly knows the X & O's and is allowing his players to play.

  • ·         The city is wide open and a little down this year. Losing double digit D1 players and close to 30 college players from the 2014 class has watered down the quality of play a bit. How open is the city? Preseason #1 Wagner started the season 0-3. Current #1 Brennan barely beat Wagner, who was missing one of the best guards in the country in Kiana Williams and the gifted young big, Danaisha Hood. Clemens going down by double digits to Corpus Christi Carroll showing that Kyra going for 40 is OK if the rest of the team is held in check . Stevens is tough to beat but depth may be an issue over a long grueling season. Johnson and Clark can score but can they defend well enough? Steele can defend but can they score enough in the half court come playoff time when the game slows down?  Teams like O'Connor and Churchill can beat most teams on any given night as long as Vidal and Flores are shooting a high percentage. How down is the city? Top 10 teams Clemens, Reagan, Steele and Reagan all went down to Corpus Christi Carrroll last weekend. No disrespect to CC Carroll but I cannot recall this 4 of the best SA has to offer getting beat in the same year by a team from the valley.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Opening Night Quick Hitters

Watching an opening night triple header, here is the 1st Quick Hitter of the season.

  • Hair laid, clean fitted skirt to the knees, black high heel pumps, she's ready.  She sat through the previous game with no expression. While other coaches talk with their colleagues and/or talk schemes with their staff, Anissa Hastings just sits with her legs crossed and arms folded. Game time comes around and the elegance is still there but the intensity of a former defensive stopper at a big time college program comes to the forefront.  In the first game of the season, Hastings has been a thorn in the side of NEISD teams over the last few years. Her initial year at Stevens, she ushered in her era with a big win over Churchill, ranked in the Top 3 in the city at that time. Last night, it was Reagan's turn to get a dose of Hastings and her Stevens squad. In the past, her Stevens teams have been slept on but the SA Express- News had her squad ranked in the Top 5 in the preseason rankings, to a surprise to some. Knowing Hastings , who lost three seniors that all went on to play college basketball, the ranking is still too low. Stevens can play defense and in this city where offensive depth is not a strength this year, Hastings and her crew are nothing to sneeze at this season.

  • Speaking of SA Express News, they obviously do a great job with providing exposure to the young women in this city. I hope they will now introduce voting coaches to a D1 commit named Amber Vidal after she went for 24 points(7/12) 5 assists and 5 steals last night. She may be a player to watch now.

  • Speaking of a player to watch that was not mentioned in the same preseason article, Kiana Williams may not be cleared for the big game between #1 Wagner and #2 Brennan tonight. Williams may not be known to the coaches who voted for Players to Watch but is being "watched" by Louisville, Maryland, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Rutgers, Kansas, Purdue, Stanford to name a few. Most of these coaches who lead these nationally relevant programs have offered the 2017 PG a scholarship.

  • A couple of new coaches made their debuts last night for NEISD teams. David Backlund is the new boss at Churchill and Stephanie Desmarais leads Johnson. Backlund seems to have some Wulfsberg in him as he runs some of the similar on-ball picks and spreads the floor for his star, Mikke Flores. Desmarais, a former college basketball player, seems to emphasize ball movement and playing pressure defense.

  • Guard Kasey Saldana makes O'Connor tough to guard off of the bounce in their wide open system. She tallied 16 points and combined with Amber Vidal to score 40 points from the guard spot for O'Connor.

  • Defenders better learn the name Mya Green. The slender lefty for Churchill has the green light and lit Brandies up for 18 last night. The corner three seems to be her calling card and the Churchill system emphasizes the drive and kick.

  • Gabby Connally continues to add to her game. The highly touted, heavily recruited lead guard for Brandeis adds something to her game every year. Playing this summer with the brilliant Kyra Lambert and the crafty Texas Tech bound Japreece Dean, Connally has become an elite table setter. She has always been able to score but now can facilitate at a very high level as well. 

  • Johnson freshman Desiree Caldwell went for 20 points, doing a solid job as the PG in her 1st HS game, a loss to Top 10 O'Connor. 

  • Erica Sanders is a do-it-all player this season. She may average a double double the way she is rebounding from the guard position. At 5'8 she snatched boards and  led the break last night. She also is Johnson best defender. Sanders has yet to commit, she is surely a D1 bound athlete.

Changing Perceptions and Inspiring At The Same Time

Texas Hoops message board used to have passionate threads about girls basketball years ago. I recalled reading a thread about the emergence of San Antonio basketball around the time that Meighan Simmons was making the state and the nation pay attention to the Alamo City. Being a new comer to the city at that time, anything written about girls basketball in the city caught my attention. This particular discussion talked about how San Antonio was garnering respect but still lagged far behind Dallas and Houston. Then, someone chimed in on a so-called fact, knowing the anonymous nature of message boards  allows posters to not worry about being politically correct. The message board poster stated " San Antonio does not have the population to produce a large number of college prospects due to the majority of the city being Hispanic." Ouch! Being a club coach with a good number of Hispanic players, that stung. Why? Was it the truth, and as the saying goes, does the truth hurt?

I started taking inventory of the Hispanic D1 basketball players in the city at that time and came up with one, Christina Flores. The 6'4 post for Churchill went on to a very accomplished career at the University of Missouri. However I could not find any guards that had went on to the D1 ranks in recent history(at that time) on full scholarship. It's tough to touch a touchy topic without going too in-depth about race, social norms, stereo types and things that I am not smart enough to fully comprehend.  But, the insinuations were obvious, the Hispanic population of female basketball players were short and not considered terrific  athletes. These two things supposedly prohibited them from excelling in women's basketball.

It is a good thing Mikki Flores and Amber Vidal didn't buy into those negative  perceptions. This blog has been months in the works, since Flores committed to Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Vidal committed to the University of Nebraska- Omaha over the summer. Both of these vertically challenged lead guards not only beat the odds of making it to the D1 ranks(some say around 1%) but overcame the odds of making it to that level being shorter than  5'6.  A quick look into the rosters of Conference USA and Southland Conference shows an unofficial count of eight Latina players out of a possible two hundred fifty-five. Of the eight, three of the players are 5'8 or shorter ; Jazz Oconas, Janelle Perez, and Joanee Lira.

Amber Vidal and Mikki Flores are role models. Hyperbole? Maybe, maybe not. What is a role model? What's the definition of a trail blazer? If a person inspires another to do good, especially a kid(s), are they worthy of these lofty titles? However you define it, Flores and Vidal are giving up close examples of success to so many young Latinas in a city full of Latina basketball players.

Watching Flores shoot bomb after bomb from 25 feet, while leading  a team with composure and discipline was impressive. As an evaluator, I wondered if Flores had learned to play under more control? Could she stop penetrating with such fearlessness that exposed her body to unnecessary contact. She not only played under control but also with a headiness that signaled her growth as an elite floor general in the city.  She hit numerous runners and floaters in traffic at crucial times in the game. She was already good but has gotten much better. She showed that she is better that I "ranked" her in the city for 2015 players. Her understanding of the game has grown, calling out loudly "America" to her teammates as the opposition tried to run the much used "Americas Play". She is fortunate to play for a coach, like his predecessor, that runs his entire offense through her abilities. Some may say that she should shine with that type of offensive leeway from a coach, to which I say, heavy is the head that wears the crown. It is easy for detractors to claim they want the rock in their hands all the time but those lights get very hot when they are shining on you! Flores shined bright last night versus what many consider a Top 10 team in the city.

Vidal was just as impressive. My initial mention of her on this blog when she was a freshman spoke of her being a "Baller". She is more than that now. Facing a BCS defender last night, Vidal got what she wanted, when she wanted it. Catch and Shoot 3Ball, no problem! Mid-Range 1-2 Pull Up, splash! Attack combos to the rack, And 1!  Vidal gave a quietly loud 24 points to Johnson while still getting her teammates involved. Seemingly always making the right plays. When Johnson tied the game late she punished their 3 consecutive turnovers with buckets and assists like a seasoned high school D1 bound lead guard should. Vidal will never be a rah rah player but showed that she is now more vocal as a leader. She has learned to use her HS system to accentuate her strengths and make her teammates better.

Visit Factory of Champions, George Gervin Center or Mission Conception on any given weekend and you will see a large number of Hispanic ballers, male and female. I presume this has been the case long before I got here. What has changed is that the grassroots basketball community are sowing seeds in fertile ground now, having numerous current examples of growth to show the youngsters. For every Erica Hernandez, Destiny Amezquita, and Michelle Rodriguez that goes on to play big time college basketball, the next Amber Ramirez does not have to face the same type of stereotypes. Whenever Mikki Flores and her SYE team played at the 2014 SB Extravaganza,  the crowd filled with young Latinas from the SA Fusion basketball team loudly cheering on her every move. Their coach Mike Navarro can point to her and say, "if Mikki can do it, so can you".  When Amber Vidal has multiple D1 intuitions hoping that she changes her mind and joins them, local freshmen named Cuellar, Tamez, Ramos, Vera,  etc.  have a tangible example that passionate perseverance is more powerful than people's negative perceptions. These young women may not be defined as such but they sound like role models to me.