In this news brief: several Bay Area post offices are open late today so people can make tonight’s tax day deadline; two people are injured after a boat catches on fire in Coquina Key; heavy fires inside a New Tampa Jersey Mike’s damage three neighboring businesses; an overnight house fire in Wimauma sends one person to the hospital; Tampa International Airport releases more plans for its billion-dollar renovations; the first and second rounds of March Madness are returning to Tampa in 2020.
BRANDON, FL–Red Storm Elite is an AAU basketball team whose focus is on developing its players.
Assistant Coach Inniss Goden Jr. knows the importance of his team maturing in basketball fundamentals.
“We want to see growth, maturity and an increase in basketball IQ,” Goden said. “We don’t want them to be robots, we want to see them be instinctive when they are running the plays and we just want them to grow every time.”
The team is entering its second season as a program and has 10th-grade players from various high schools in Hillsborough County. Big man Maurice Pickett believes playing for the Red Storm is preparing him for varsity basketball at Lennard high school.
“My coaches prepare me on that next level when the season comes up for varsity,” Pickett said. “I know that every day we practice, every day we play just gets me better.”
Red Storm Elite hopes to continue the success gained in its first season. The team placed in the top three in five out of eight tournaments.
“We can see that with each tournament that they’re getting better, trusting each other and we see ball movement,” Goden said. “We actually see them running the plays now instead of us yelling the plays out to them, gradually with each tournament they are getting better from tournament to tournament.”
The team is confident that their hard work and focus on development will benefit them against opponents in the upcoming season.
“Oh, this team, I don’t know what other teams are because this the only team I know that’s coming out with that trophy,” Pickett said.
To find a schedule of the AAU tournaments that Red Storm Elite will be participating in, visit their Facebook page.
A student at Freedom High School in New Tampa is living out a dream that started four years ago.
“Before coming to Freedom I wasn’t even sure I was going to make the team,” Megan Clark said.
Clark, who graduates in May, recently verbally committed to play basketball starting next Fall at Tennessee Technical University. She will sign her National Letter of Intent next month.
“Her talent is not what got her to where she is but rather her dedication, intelligence and desire,” said Joeyn Dearsmen, Clark’s assistant coach.
“Megan is the type of kid that goes above and beyond, and when something is asked of her she gets it done, no questions asked,” said Dearsmen. “She’s not your typical high school kid, works out most days before the sun is up.”
The Freedom High girls’ basketball team has a history of sending girls to play at the collegiate level, something Clark is so proud to now be a part of.
“It means the world to me to be able to follow in the footsteps of players like Taylor Emery (Tulane University) and Faith Woodard (Georgetown),” Clark said.
Sad that she has one season left, but excited for what the future holds, Clark is ready for this season to start and get her team to the FHSAA State tournament in March before heading to Cookeville, Tennessee to continue her student athlete career.
The University of South Florida women’s basketball team is returning to the NCAA Tournament after earning a No. 6 seed during this year’s Selection Show on Monday.
The team joined fans at the USF Sun Dome for a selection show watch party. Players had front row seats to the screen, to watch the announcement was broadcasted nationally on ESPN.
“It was nerve-racking to think that you’ll be that next team called,” senior guard Courtney Williams said. “I’m excited that we finally got our name called and the teams that we’re playing.”
This year’s tournament begins for the Bulls in Los Angeles, where they will play a ranked Colorado State team currently on a 28-game winning streak. The winner of that matchup will go on to play either UCLA or Hawaii in the second round.
This group of seniors brings experience to the program’s twelfth post-season tournament appearance in 13 years. Three of the team’s four NCAA Tournament runs happened in the past four years.
“They’re a veteran team,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “They know what’s at stake. Your next game can be your last.”
USF opened the season with a victory over NCAA Tournament team Jacksonville before going on to eventually defeat top 50 rating percentage index teams Chattanooga and Oklahoma State. The Bulls maintained their AP top 25 ranking all season and finished the season with a No. 21 RPI.
Andrea and Andrell Smith weren’t like other twins. No, together these girls achieved a district championship, a national junior college championship and being named to the all-big first and second team. They had obvious basketball talent.
“We had fun and we knew it was serious and we wanted to be good, but never did I think I would play professionally,” said Andrell Smith.
A college athletic career became more of a reality for the dynamic duo in 12th grade. They graduated high school to go on to play at Gulf Coast Community College, then later transferred to the University of South Florida.
“We came to South Florida to make a name for South Florida and to also make a name for [ourselves],” said Andrea Smith.
As seniors, they led USF to the NCAA tournament. A professional career became promising for the two guards.
“I always wanted to be a professional athlete. I always wanted to, you know, play basketball for my career,” said Andrea.
After being drafted in the third round, Andrea became just the second Polk County female to be drafted to the WNBA. It’s something most college athletes dream about, but so few actually achieve. However, the pros were a whole different court from college level basketball.
“That was probably the hardest basketball I’ve ever played, because that’s how physical it is. That’s how different from Division 1, the best in collegiate sports Division 1, then you go pro and it’s just wow,” Andrea recounted.
Take it from two athletes that have “been there and done that” throughout their college play; an athletic career is not always a forever thing.
“Don’t take your education for granted, listen to your professors, listen to your academic advisors, because they want you to succeed. You cannot always play a sport your entire life. You have to put the ball down at some point,” remarked Andrell.
So what is life like after being in the spotlight during college?
“I’m so happy with life, I couldn’t be in a better situation,” said Andrell.
“Yeah I absolutely agree with her. It’s been awesome, it’s great, you know, I wouldn’t do anything different,” said Andrea.
To some, basketball may be just a sport. For Jean Carlo Rivera, it is a passion and skill he wants to share with all of Tampa Bay.
At the Harbour Island Athletic Club and Spa, Rivera has developed a basketball skills training program. After just a month and a half he has established a clientele ranging from high school students to professional players.
Rivera has been studying the game of basketball for years. He played four years of collegiate basketball at Florida College. Then he played professionally overseas in Puerto Rico.
He wanted to share all that he learned from his experiences. This helped spark the idea for his training program.
“Me training on my own, just, I wanted to help kids get better because nobody helped me get better, you understand,” Rivera said. “I had to help myself. So everything that I learned, I want to pass on to kids for the next generation, the next generation, the next generation.”
Rivera’s main focus is to develop his client’s basketball skills. He runs different drills with his clients that incorporate various techniques such as dribbling and passing.
“Being a basketball skills developer you do pretty much every type of drill. We do ball handling, shooting, rebounding, passing, post moves,” Rivera said.
Johnathan Gray, a professional player overseas, values Rivera’s training because it helps him focus on the little things.
“He really breaks down my footwork in terms of my shooting, my balance, and stuff like that that I really, you don’t really think about naturally,” Gray said.
This program is just the beginning for Rivera. He plans on expanding his program and growing basketball in the city of Tampa.