By Kenny Kallina – First of all I want to thank every player, coach, parent, and worker who helped make this weekend’s FGB Spring Showcase a tremendous success. I wanted to do my first review of the event in a first person because I know so many of you who will read this and want to make it more personal. From me to you thank you. When I started the Showcase 5 years ago we did it at the Orlando Sports Center and I didn’t charge teams any money, luckily we broke even. This year in our 5th year it was probably the best event in Florida all year including the Disney events in my opinion because of the match ups, facilities, and quality people working at the event. None of that would be possible with out all of you.

I was very lucky to have four former players who worked the score tables all weekend. Trimaine McCullough played for me 3 years and signed at the University of South Florida and Alisia Jenkins (All big East Freshman Team), Courtney Williams, and Shavontae Naylor all played for FGB and worked. It was certainly special having all them there for me as well as for our players who may have heard about them but may have never met them.

We also had former Duke and All ACC Player Krystal Thomas there. Krystal I coached when I was in my early 20′s for a tournament in New Orleans. Krystal went on to be ALL ACC at Duke and now plays for Phoenix in the WNBA. Krystal has one of the most special stories to ever tell which only can be told by her and her family. I knew Krystal’s mother well and she would be so proud of her now. Krystal coaches with the Florida Lightning and giving back certainly makes me smile. I also saw Jessica Dickson who is USF’s all time leading scorer and has her jersey retired in Tampa. I was excited to see her there and her giving back to the younger players in the game. There are so many great former players giving back for young players today that connection is special make sure you talk to them. Anyways on to some of my opening thoughts. This week I’ll be posting a list of top performers. I have the score sheets and what I saw as well as feedback from my staff and hopefully we dont miss anyone.

Tough at the Top

One of the reasons the Showcase was so good this year was because we had several elite level national travel teams at the events. Many people would tell you the Miami Suns would take a step back this year after losing 4 starters and their coach well that is certainly not the case. Coach Haney has the Suns clicking on all cylinders early and are a legit contender at Deep South next weekend. A few observations would be 1) Beatrice Mompremier is the best sophomore in the state 2) Aisha Edwards is with Dominique Simpson one of the top 2 2014′s in the state and 3) Shakoa Edwards is playing her way into a BCS scholarship. The Suns swept their 3 games at the Showcase beating Blue Star Florida, FGB, and Peak Performance.

Several years ago we had Georgia Ice at the event as they were rising into the national scene well this year we were able to get Atlanta’s premier travel club to the Showcase in Peak Performance. Peak brought 4 teams to the event including their national team which is always a top 20 team nationally. Peak went 2-2 in the Sunshine State which is very good considering playing out of state at someone else’s event is tough. Faith Sanders came on the scene with a huge weekend for Peak. The Savannah native has not played aau since her freshman year and will be a very nice recruit for a school this year. I also really liked Rachel Selph, Kierra Henry, and Kyrie Chandler. Peak is loaded once again this year and there is little doubt they’ll be the top travel team in metro Atlanta this year.

For us after losing Trimaine McCullough, Jayla King, Antania Graddic, and Zenia Coley I was certainly concerned about how we would look this weekend. After competing with the Suns early we lost the game by a good margin at the end where I didnt think our top players played very well. I was very excited to see versus Peak how Sha’Quoia Crockett (19 points), Dominique Simpson (20 points), and Jonell Williams (14 points) showed they are the players which led us to a 16-2 record last summer. Bouncing back is the name of the game in any sport and I was proud how we bounced back to beat both Peak and Blue Star. I was especially impressed with not being able to have our starting 3 Kiara Deasmours and Crockett on Sunday because of injuries because we had other player step up big like new comers Ty Purifoy 2015 – Pensacola  Jade Lewis 2016 Pensacola, and Kasha Austin 2016 Hilliard. The two freshmen in this group after this weekend are already being regarded as Top 100 players nationally which is what I thought all along. Purifoy did a great job at point and I feel great going forward.

The rest of the Elite teams in the event also were very impressive. The Tampa Thunder went 0-2 on the first day to bounce back and go 2-0 on the second day. Hayley Duren 6-4 F from Fort Lauderdale is a stud for them and they got outstanding play out of Peyton Walker 2015; Kayla Kivinski 2014; and Sabrina Whitting as always. The Thunder are an emerging national level team in Florida in the near future keep an eye on them. Along with the Thunder the South Florida Jags had a strong showing with most of their roster being made up of players from Nova High School, Kiani Lurry 2014 and Bernedette Devaney 2014 showed why they’ll be highly recruited players off their team the next two years. Finally Blue Star Florida made their first appearance at the Showcase. Blue Star is one of the best coached teams in the state and had three very competitive games. Blue Star is led by a veteran back court of Sarah Martinez 2014 and Destiny Woodard. In addition to those two they have a very bright future on the young teams with Celina Vega and Tamara Henshaw.

Future is Bright

Some years the top of the showcase is up and some years it’s down one thing that seems to always stay the same is the young kids are always really good and this is a great place to make a name for yourself if you are in 7th-9th grade. This year was no different. While we spend a lot of time talking about the Miami Suns, they may be better in the 2017 and 2016 classes than any other class in their program. Team Larkins was fantastic led by Chelsie Hall 2017, Cabria Lee 2017, Taylor Wagner 2016, Tyana Williams 2016, and others. Larkins went 3-0 versus their age group and lost a close game to Florida Flight who’s primarily a 10th grade team. Flight who was CFE last year honestly I didnt think maxed out their potential last year but showed they are for real this year. Ciara Cumbie looked as good as I have ever seen her, Kyla Allison 2016 came back from the NHSI on Sunday to really impress scouts, and Astaja Tygher 2015 is one of the toughest inside outside players in the state. I would think that the Suns are the best 9th grade team in the state and Florida Flight has the top 10th grade team. Along with them Blue Star’s 2015 team is very good with a ton of young sophomore and freshman talent which includes Walker, Henshaw, and Vega.

While I touched on the top 2 10th and 9th grade teams in Florida we had more than just that at the Showcase. Rampage Elite and Florida Future have just about every good young player from Orlando to Fort Myers. Last year I liked Future’s team with Outten and Patterson and I was somewhat skeptical what they would be like this year without Patterson but in reality the additions of Waters among others they are better than they were last year. Outten and Waters are easily two of the top 5 2017′s in Florida which is looking to be one of the best classes in Florida in some time. Speaking of Patterson she was teamed with current Dunbar point guard and future teammate Keri Jewett this weekend on WITOO. WITOO had a strong weekend and Patterson looked like she may be the top 2017 in Florida and Jewett looked deserving of her top 200 national rating currently. Rampage Elite looked strong playing either top tier young teams or up for most of the event. Our next write up will focus on the 2017′s & 2018′s at the event so stay tuned for tomorrow.

Finally a few more thank you’s

Tasha Smith – Referee Assigner
John McGraw – Assistant Tournament Director
Wes Below – Assistant to the Assistant Tournament Director
Herb Thomas – Videographer
Holly Borchers & Bryce Currie – Florida Southern Coaches
Lakeland Christian School Athletic Department
Sports Medicine and Facilities Department at Florida Southern
Earl Hahn
Bob Corwin
Brett McCormick
Dan Olson
Brian Pink

Stay tuned this week for the “Best of” the FGB Spring Showcase – Kenny