From left, John Casale of TC Basketball, Steve Gardner of ABA, and Sarah Sullivan of TC Basketball
On the surface, it always looks like top-notch college talent would have trouble evolving in the Pacific Northwest, but the examples that say otherwise are too numerous to ignore.
In the world of girls youth basketball, quality competitors continue to work through Steve Gardner and the ABA, based in Vancouver WA, since its start in 2009-10. This spring, ABA is projected to have 4-6 girls teams (8th grade through junior class, 2020-24) and will feature a number of skilled athletes:
Beyonce Bea – Idaho
Cassidy Gardner – Portland State
Haley Hansen -- Northwest Nazarene
Monka Hickok – TBA
Mason Oburg (2020)
Eastyn Reeves -- Oregon Institute of Technology
Taylor Stephens -- Central Washington
Brooke Walling – Fresno State
Gardner passed through the TC Basketball offices earlier this month and stopped to answer a few questions.
What got you into the business of coaching girls basketball?
I didn’t think there were enough people doing it the right way, and I thought we could do a better job. It started with my niece, who was at a young age, and then with my daughter. Along with some other people, I thought we could do a better job; maybe I was one of those crazy parents who thought I could it better. But that’s how it worked out.
It was a good group of kids right away. Around 2012 is when we started to get (very talented) kids, and they are juniors in college now. We had a handful of D-I kids, D-II kids and so forth. That team was pretty competitive, and it just built from there.
How tough was it getting to the right competition?
We’d drive back and forth to Seattle, Portland, Salem -- they had some decent tournaments there) -- and as the girls got better we began to branch out. If you play in the right tournaments, like the kind Triple Crown runs and in the right division, the college coaches gravitate to those games. Play another good team, and coaches are there. Some teams are so afraid to lose sometimes, they’ll play in the second division to win a tournament, but that’s not where the coaches are at. In our area volleyball is big, but basketball has grown tremendously in the past five years.
What makes the ABA special?
It’s our skill development piece. We have some of the best trainers in the area; we look at your skills above just going out there and playing more games. For us, that’s the big deal, along with getting them in front of college coaches. I think we’ve done a good job with our connections and the relationships we’ve built.
We are blessed with a lot of gym time, but have to work with the local high schools. Our strength and conditioning guy has his own facility, so kids go to him for that part. We check (academic) progress reports and make sure they have the SAT and ACT info and are studying right for that. It won’t matter if they can’t get into (college).
From left, Jay Moore of Bounce Nation and John Casale of TC Basketball
Jay Moore had his promising basketball career sidetracked by injury, but he had solid connections in the Atlanta area and was brought onto the coaching staff at Lovejoy High School, one of the stronger prep environments in the South. From there, he established his name as a trainer and then started Bounce Nation basketball, with his AAU team firing up in 2014.
There’s a powerful list of players on the Bounce Nation roster these days: Anaya Boyd is a 6-foot point guard from Lovejoy who sits No. 35 on the ESPNw rankings for the Class of 2020, and she’s joined by Loyal McQueen (5-foot-6 point guard), who has committed to North Carolina and is ranked No. 23 on the Class of 2020 list. Also flexing serious talent is 2020 grad Genesis Bryant, a 5-7 point guard who was last year’s Georgia Class 6A player of the year. Fans will also want to keep their eyes peeled for rising stars Olympia Chaney (2021), Courtney Gardner (2021) and Ari Dyson (2023).
Bounce Nation puts time an energy into helping female athletes in terms of education as well; Moore’s mother has been a teacher for 30-plus years and helps with tutoring, while Moore will work with high school coaches to make sure multiple resources are available to help with schoolwork.
Moore swung by the Triple Crown home office in late September and sat down to answer a few questions about girls club basketball and Bounce Nation.
You were brought onto the staff at Lovejoy High School as an assistant coach after your knee injury. How did that job impact you?
It was a blessing, with my head coach from there giving me that opportunity. It gave me an avenue to still show I could touch the community. I needed an outlet, because I wanted to be a resource for those kids out there. It was the foundation where I built my style as a coach … I never looked back, and I’m grateful for that injury because it put me in the career I want to do for the rest of my life.
How did you move from being a high-level male athlete to finding inspiration working in girls basketball?
The purity of the sport ... you know, I won a lot of games with the boys on pure athleticism. With the girls, there’s so much more teaching and training and working with developing the IQ for the game. It drew me in from my playing days; I was a pure point guard, and I’m not as interested in just “wow” moments. Don’t get me wrong … my girls will throw alley-oops up … but the high-level skill of those girls to play (outside of) athleticism reeled me in.
What compelled you to start your own business with Bounce Nation?
I trained girls to get ready for D-I basketball, so I was OK with the (high-level) environment, but coaching them was more of a gray area. If I got very in-your-face, stern, hold you accountable … I wasn’t sure if that would be something that pushed girls away. But that wasn’t a problem, and it’s been great.
What do parents and players have to be aware of to thrive in AAU basketball?
It’s a mindset we make them develop. We are a program built on competitiveness and production. You have to come in and compete against whoever every day, and that’s something we pride ourselves on. And everything in life is about production; if you’re at your job and not producing, you’re going to get fired. If you’re out here with us, you don’t get to shoot 30 shots and say you’re an all-American. You have to produce. Every opponent, every drill, every time you walk on the floor.
What’s your take on the evolution and growth of the skills in girls basketball since Bounce Nation began?
The modern female player has amazing skills; what these girls can do, the ones at the top level, they are just amazing. There are a lot of boys who can’t do those things with a basketball. And the piece everyone still sleeps on is the athleticism. In our practices, we have dunk contests and we aren’t lowering the rims. And they’re not just seniors who are 6-foot-4. Girls hitting reverse layups, jumping high in the air, chasing down a girl and blocking a shot off the backboard … these things are through the roof in just the past three or four years.
What keeps you going year in and year out with the game, dealing with the travel and parents and other demands?
Changing the lives of families … helping break generational curses of poverty by sending girls to college. What drives me is seeing that kid who goes to college and no one in that family has ever gone before. For that kid to get a big-time scholarship, and to get (an education) when you’re done outside of basketball … you are changing that generational curse for a family, not just a kid. I look at it from that standpoint, and it motivates me every day.
From left, TC Basketball's Sarah Sullivan, Spencer Richardson of Team B Wright, and John Casale of TC Basketball
One of the most impactful girls youth basketball programs in the Southeast hails from Nashville, Tenn., playing under the banner of Team B Wright.
With two teams sitting right at the top of the TC basketball rankings for Tennessee, Team B Wright is not only delivering value for its players and families but is also sending skilled and tenacious athletes to college programs.
This club program started about 10 years ago under the name Lady Zoom. Four years ago, NBA veteran and Nashville native Brandan Wright decided to get into the youth hoops business, and he attached his name to the club. Wright was the No. 8 overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft out of North Carolina and has played for seven NBA franchises.
Spencer Richardson, program with Team B Wright, visited the Triple Crown home office in mid-June to talk with staffers about how to continue growing the game through TC’s event. The club has six girls teams (for seventh-graders through Rising Seniors) and three youth boys teams, with about 120 athletes in the fold, and runs exposure camps and individual showcases.
Q: How did you get interested in girls basketball?
A: I had the opportunity to see the Music City Madness event around 2010, which was run by Carl Tinsley. I got to see elite girls basketball players and just fell in love with the game, watching them play. I decided the following year to start a team; I had one team and from there it blossomed.
Q: What are the big themes and priorities you make sure parents and players embrace?
A: First and foremost, they have to understand that the classroom comes first. It doesn’t matter how many times they come to the gym and train with me and the coaching staff, or how many tournaments we play in front of college coaches … if their grades aren’t there, then it’s all for nothing. Outside of that, it’s all about hard work and dedication. We’ve thrived on being able to get kids in the gym and take the ones who are average and get them in the habit of working on their game. We take them from being average to being elite basketball players.
Q: You now stand right at the top of the pile in terms of accomplishments and competitiveness in your region. How’s that feel?
A: It feels great. I can remember when I first started, going to some of these tournaments, I would be watching from afar at some of the teams that had publicity going in, and they were the ones that had 40 or 50 coaches watching, and it would be standing-room only. I was like, that’s the stage I want to get to. Eight or nine years later, now we’re that program, along with the other great programs. There wasn’t anything special or magical – I tell people all the time, it’s the kids who make the program. As a coach, we are there to guide them. But once they get on the floor, they are the ones getting college coaches to come watch us play.
Notable Team B Wright players:
Le’jzae Davidson, junior at Furman (13.6 ppg, 32 starts)
Kesha Brady, sophomore at Tennessee Tech (10.5 ppg, 13 starts before injury)
Yaubryon Chambers, 2019 guard, 16 D-I offers
Iyana Moore, 2021 guard, No. 14 ranked guard in her class
By Bradey King
The inaugural Triple Crown Basketball NIC kicked off Saturday at the Plano Sports Authority 2 in Plano, Texas. Six teams took to the hardwood from Texas, Missouri, Colorado and Alabama.
The standout squad was the All AL Roadrunners. The team went undefeated on the day, taking down Lady BIQ 2020, 45-21, and later beating Houston Flight Elite, 78-20.
The Roadrunners outscored and outsized their opponents all day. However, no matter the score, their energy and hustle remained at a high level throughout the entirety of both games, showcasing maturity, coach-ability and pure love for the game.
“My biggest rule is if you don’t play defense then you have to come sit by me. They should always play as if it’s tied up. They all abide because they want to play,” said head coach Beverly Kirk. “You can have the height but if you don’t have any skills it doesn’t do any good, so I really focus on developing their skills. I teach them to be aggressive and always go hard to the basket because at some point we’ll be the smaller team.”
The day’s roster was made up of 10 players, all 2019 graduates. Impressively, all the players scored at least two points in both games. They shared the ball and every single player did their part to contribute in one category or another. Taylor Henderson led the way in Game 2 with 17 points and also grabbed five boards.
“We are so blessed because most of our girls live in Birmingham, so we have the ability to practice twice a week. Those things we need to develop, we have the opportunity and time to develop them,” added Kirk.
The girls have been playing together for several years, which is a rarity in club sports nowadays. Their team chemistry was extremely obvious as the day went on. A few players, including Henderson and Terri Crawford have been playing together since elementary school.
“Chemistry goes a long way. If you’re good buds off the court, it makes you so much better on the court. Nothing can come between y’all,” said Henderson.
“We know each others talents and style of play so we know to look for. It just makes it more fun,” added Crawford.
For the girls looking to play at the collegiate level in the near future, this 2019 summer is a big deal for these soon-to-be high school seniors. Elite tournaments such as the TC NIC provide an opportunity for college exposure as well as a time to work on skills while facing varying levels of competition.
“We’re working on getting better and preparing ourselves for college. Here, we’re exposed to some of the girls we’ll compete with at the next level,” said Crawford.
The Alabama squad will bounce back onto the court on Sunday morning with hopes of remaining undefeated through bracket play and ultimately claiming the Triple Crown NIC title.
Support Your Officials Campaign
Starting Memorial weekend, Triple Crown Sports® (TCS) will have stricter enforcement towards respecting officials and allowing players a better event experience.
Officials and TCS staff will have an expanded commitment to enforce good behavior through:
Why is TCS doing this? Two main reasons:
Can I still debate a call with the official?
Are you a head coach? Then yes, go for it. Do it in a positive manner and not to ridicule or belittle the official. If you’re a parent then please enjoy the game and don’t confront the official.
What is considered bad behavior?
We know that you don’t always agree with the official and we acknowledge that they make mistakes. That said, sports officials rarely, if ever, determine the outcome of a game. Players and coaches cause the true outcome of a game.
Triple Crown’s purpose is to “bring athletes and families together in competition and create experiences that embed lasting lifetime valued memories”. Our “Respect of All” value says that there’s “no grunts, no servants and we’re all equal, real people”. These two guiding principles lead us to the decision to crack down on poor treatment of officials and we’re excited to improve the youth experience.
Thank you and enjoy the game,
Keri King- CEO
Triple Crown Sports, Inc.
Briggs & Stratton is a reliable place to turn if you’re looking for a powerful engine.
Briggs & Martin know how to propel a basketball team as well.
Lavender Jalissa Briggs and Kemery Martin, the two primary guards for the Colorado Premier girls basketball club 17u team, led their squad to a resounding finish Sunday at the Colorado’s Finest Exhibition with a 68-49 Elite Division victory over EJ Hoops 16u at the Colorado Christian Events Center. Briggs closed with 21 points and six rebounds, and Martin added 12 points and five assists as Colorado Premier jumped to a large early lead and never looked back.
In the open court, the two guards showed plenty of flair with the ball and got to the rim in myriad ways, but they also knew how to look for open teammates and meet coach Keith Van Horn’s expectation of good basketball plays. Either way, Colorado Premier was determined to wrap up the weekend with the title.
“It’s a team sport, and always good to involve everyone. It’s important to build chemistry and trust with each other, and this tournament was good for us,” said Martin, who will be a senior next fall at Corner Canyon HS in Draper, UT. “Good to get teammates the ball, and when you do that, everyone is happy, and it’s more fun to play. We’re also trying to realize that when we do get as lead, in big games like that, to not to let up.”
“We’re trying to make it fun for everyone; if you don’t then people won’t work hard. I think we really improved on our team’s offense, and that’s what we wanted to work on, really,” said Briggs, heading into her senior year at Provo (UT) High School. “We know leads can go away in a matter of minutes or seconds, and we wanted to play as hard as we would against anyone, to prepare ourselves.”
The EJ Hoops 16u team also had a nice tournament in reaching the finals, but Colorado Premier jumped ahead early, extending the lead to 36-18 with 42 seconds left before halftime on a spinning layup by Briggs. EJ Hoops would on occasion cut into the lead and get back within 10 or 12 points, but Colorado Premier always answered.
A step-back 3 from Briggs made it 59-45 with 4:30 left in the contest, and Martin wrapped the ball around her body before a layup at 3:22 to push the score to 61-46.
“It’s hard when you’re that talented, to not feel like you can do it by yourself. It can be a challenge to integrate them, but that’s something we’ve emphasized a lot because we have high-level players elsewhere,” said Van Horn, who starred collegiately at Utah and was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft and played 11 years in the NBA. “It was great to see how the entire team moved the ball – I thought it was a very unselfish weekend for us.
“I told them after, these championship games are a grind. You’re tired, so you focus on playing defense and executing. It’s very rare to run away in a championship game, and you have to be prepared for the other team to make a run. Ultimately, our goal is to put kids in position to be successful on the court and secondly to get the win and do it the right way.”
Kali March had 10 points for EJ Hoops, and Jenna Siebert added nine points. The tournament also was a benefit event for the Colorado Women's Sports Fund Association.
From left, TCS basketball directors Sarah Sullivan, Renee Carlson, BallN Prep Editor Prentice Beverly, and TCS basketball director John Casale. Photo by Nathaniel Chu.
In order to get a handle on the talent level up and down the reaches of girl’s youth basketball, you’ve got to love the game, and at least tolerate the road.
From his younger days soaking up all things basketball in the South to his life today based in Los Angeles, Prentice Beverly has carved out a useful and important role in girl’s basketball. You’ll see him at showcases getting the updated take on top players, with his insight and rating the fuel behind the BAllN Prep Report, and he also run a Skill Academy Series, which is designed to help players build the skills that will resonate at the next level.
Beverly coached girls basketball in Alabama and got into scouting when he saw the flaws in a Georgia man who was scouting Alabama players – and doing a pretty lousy job of it. And the girls game got in his system, meaning he turned down multiple opportunities to scout the boys game. That’s not to say the girls game is bulletproof – he thinks the length and demands of the girls club season tips too far to game-play, meaning players don’t get as much time to work on the finer points.
He stopped by the Triple Crown Sports corporate offices in Fort Collins in late April to visit with staff and talk about what it takes to stay ahead in the fast-moving world of youth hoops. Still working full-time with the U.S. Air Force, Beverly has grown his brand to include several contributing writers who also tour the basketball landscape and help boost the value of BallN Prep Report.
Q: What’s a day in the life look like?
A: I’ll field calls from college coaches, and also from players who might be looking for advice on what level I think they play at, what school might be interested. When I’m on the road, I’m looking for talent. People ask me who won a certain game, and I just laugh. I can tell you who played well. The kids that shine, I write them up and put it in my database for BallN Prep. I talked to one coach the other day who may be getting a new opportunity, and that team needs a couple players. She wants me to start looking … it’s just basketball, every day.
Q: What do you go through when you’re traveling and researching?
A: There are always two big tournaments in the spring, and maybe others you end up going to … the Boo Williams Nike EYBL (in Virginia) with all 32 teams on that EYBL circuit; then you have the Deep South (in Raleigh, NC). That will have maybe 600 teams, 400-500 college coaches … I catch the red-eye east, walk in and get my coaches book that has every roster, and I start walking court to court. I write notes, and in between talking to coaches I do my evaluations. It’s fun, but you’ve got to stay on top of what you do.
Q: How do you decide where to focus your work, seeing as so many people would want you watching their court?
A: I don’t pay a lot of attention now to, say, the 2019 graduating class. If I haven’t seen you yet, you’d have to do something to really grab my attention. Every once in a while, I’ll catch a diamond in the rough. A couple years ago, there was this kid named Jensen Caretti (now a sophomore for Ohio State) – I’m sitting in a media room eating, and I hear this guy talking about they’ve seen a female LeBron James. I’m just listening, and I’ve heard this stuff before. I ask about her, and it turns out she’s going to play at this gym across town – I hurry over there and walk in, and I say don’t anybody tell me which kid is which. Just let me watch.
I see this kid, 6-1, athletic, and she goes up, snatches a rebound off the rim, and I’m like, ‘Oh! What was that?’ Then she takes long 3-pointer, bucket … and after, a coach comes up and says, ‘Do not blast this on social media! I know you – we’ve got a chance to get her.’ And I said, coach, you know that’s my job, though. I got to. I checked the databases, and she was just a total unknown. I had found the unicorn. She went from unranked to top 30 in two weeks and went to Ohio State.
Q: How do you pick and choose which events to attend?
A: I get tons of phone calls. If it’s an area I haven’t been to, or somewhere I haven’t been lately, I’ll probably go. I need a list of the kids who are coming, how long the event has been going … some people get me to come and then advertise it using my name. I don’t mind that, but be sure there’s something to watch when I get there.
The girls game is more pure – what are the guys usually working on? What dunk they can do – sorry to say it, but it’s true. Girls don’t get the attention and the money and the accolades the boys side gets, and I was sympathetic to that. But I like the purity with the girls game; they work hard. There all All-Star competitions, and a lot of the times in the 3-point shooting competition, the girls beat the guys. The girls are more fundamentally sound. You’ll always need shooters, and you’ll need players with high basketball IQ.
Triple Crown Basketball will expand its tournament reach in 2018, running competitive championships in every time zone and putting your players in front of the right mix of college programs.
Colorado’s Finest Exhibition (Denver, CO, May 12-13): the area’s top clubs spring into action with D-II, D-III, NAIA and JUCO programs watching closely.
National Invitational Championship (Plano, TX, May 25-28): will have the same mix of colleges on hand, with sturdy competition and three games on CBS Digital.
Northeast Championship (Chester, PA, July 6-8): you’ll see five talented divisions in a five-game guarantee. Chester is located just east of Philadelphia.
Northwest Championship (Centralia, WA, July 10-12): directly between Portland and Seattle. This takes place at another standout facility, the eight-court Northwest Sports Hub.
Southeast Championship (Birmingham, AL, July 23-25): The Hoover Metropolitan Complex houses the new Finley Center, a great 11-court setting for a high-caliber event.
Western Championships (San Diego, July 27-30): this is our signature tournament, in a beautiful setting. More than 90 teams attended last year!
Like a point guard hitting an open teammate with a clever pass, there was a satisfying connection made over the May 12-14 weekend during the Colorado’s Finest Exhibition basketball event produced by Triple Crown Basketball.
Held at Regis University in Denver, the tournament brought eight 17u club programs together (six of Colorado’s best, one from Washington state and one from New Mexico) for a cause close to their hearts, as admission fees and concessions sales were directed to the Colorado Women’s Sports Fund Association. The CWSFA is active in many spaces when it comes to athletics; these proceeds help fuel the 25 $500 Opportunity Gifts for individuals and the 10 $500 grants that go to non-profit organizations also designed to help the cause of women and girls in sports.
Athletes of all ages are encouraged to apply for these grants – anyone from a 4-year-old gymnast to a 65-year-old skeleton/sledder have been recipients. You can apply through the organization’s website (www.cwsfa.org) from Sept. 1-Nov. 1 for the Opportunity Gifts, and Nov. 1-Dec. 31 for the grants.
Awards are announced in February, in conjunction with National Girls & Women In Sports Day. Through eight years of the program, the CWSFA has awarded more than $135,000.
“We are very thankful to be hosting this event, and (for) anything that gives back to women’s sports. Regis is obviously a service institution, and we pride ourselves in serving others,” said Regis women’s head coach Molly Marrin. “It’s a beautiful combination, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
The event also offered a high-energy recruiting opportunity for a number of regional college and junior college programs:
Fort Lewis: Head Coach Jason Flores, Assistant Coach Maylinn Smith
Regis: Head Coach Molly Marrin, Assistant Coach Taylor Harris
Western State: Head Coach Lora Westling
Metro State University of Denver: Head Coach Tanya Haave, Assistant Coach David Wells
UCCS: Head Coach Lynn Plett, Assistant Coach Liz Doran
CCU: Head Coach Corey Laster, Assistant Coach Jon Asp
Otero Junior College: Head Coach Taylor Shaffer
Colorado College: Head Coach Katherine Menendez
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology: Assistant Coach Hope Bonlander
Johnson & Wales University: Assistant Coach John Stene
Western Nebraska CC: Head Coach Chad Gibney
The BC Denver 2018 Elite wrapped up an undefeated run through the field Sunday at the Colorado’s Finest Exhibition with a 51-39 victory against the Boulder Rockies Black at Regis University in Denver.
BC Denver Elite, which allowed just 98 points in their three pool play games, outscored the Rockies 19-9 in the second quarter to take a lead it would maintain the rest of the way. BC Denver had a 56-40 edge in rebounding and held the Rockies to 4-of-23 shooting from 3-point range.
Ashley Panem scored 16 points for BC Denver; Denali Pinto added 11 points and seven rebounds, and Delaynie Byrne scored 10 points. Pinto scored 21 points in her team’s win against New Mexico Select, and Byrne poured in 19 points each in wins over Boulder Rockies Silver and EJ Hoops Black.
“Defense is one thing we talk about a lot, for several reasons. It gives you the best chance to win if you’re not shooting well, and we all know that happens,” said BC Denver Elite head coach Geoff Golden, who founded the club in 2010. “And in terms of recruiting, coaches want to see that you can play good defense, that you’ll get out and hustle.
“We look to share the basketball — we’ve got a talented roster, and we play the best when we play together. We look to make the right basketball play. We’ve had some kids out (sick/injured), but the event was good for getting everybody in the mix and continuing to build that chemistry. We’re happy with where we are right now, but far from satisfied. There’s still a lot of work to do.”
For the Boulder Rockies Black in the final game, R’Manie Pulling and Chloe Welch each scored 13 points. Camila Emsbo scored 15 points against BC Denver Select; Welch tallied 15 points vs. EJ Hoops Elite and Pulling added 15 points against Xpress Shon.
Other notable efforts during the event, which took place at the Regis Fieldhouse on May 12-14:
Jayda Lyon, New Mexico Elite – She scored 16 points in a tight 69-66 loss to EJ Hoops Black.
Avery VanSickle, EJ Hoops Elite – She scored 19 points in an 87-61 win against Xpress Shon.
Alisha Davis, EJ Hoops Elite – In that same game, Davis rang up 17 points and seven rebounds.
Kiara Steen, Xpress Shon – Also in that same contest, Steen tallied 17 points and four assists.
Emily Doolittle, Boulder Rockies Silver – She scored 16 points, hitting five 3-pointers, in a loss to EJ Hoops Black.
Lindsey Nurmi, Xpress Shon – She scored 18 points in a 59-45 win over BC Denver Select.