Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Who's Who at Boo

If you've never seen AAU ball, you'll be confused by the Boo Williams Nike Invitational playing out for the upteenth year in a row in Hampton this weekend. Maybe you've done some research and you think you know. You know about this kid named Elizabeth Williams, Virginia's Gatorade State Player of the Year. Pat and Geno have her on speed dial. You know Boo's elite squad has four others from the top 100 junior prospects, including Tennessee-bound Cierra Burdick. You've read about future Huskey Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

Bria Smith, Rachel Hollivay, Temi Fagbenie. Jewels of the 2011 class.

They're all here is and so is everybody who is anybody in women's basketball. Yet still it's confusing. Starting with the parking lot.

You can't find a spot. Cars are wedged in every which way and it's not exactly a tiny lot. You take a chance and park in the fire lane but are talked out of it. Finally somebody leaves and you're set, gazing at all the big and tall girls headed the same direction as you, walking into Boo's Sportplex arena like a herd of cattle. Orlando Comets. Tennessee Flight. Team Taurasi. Alana Beard's Future. You like that name. You go inside and players are everywhere, and you wonder. Which faces should I memorize so I can say I saw her when?

You head one direction and realize the kids on the court must be 13. You've got years to check those young'ins out, so you wander away, eager to set your sights on the next Maya Moore. Boo's team has tipped off, and you think it will be obvious. Which one is going to Tennessee? Which two are going to Duke? Hey, that kid on the other court over there looks like Kayla Pederson. Is she going to be somebody?

As desperately as you'd like to be the one informing, you need to be informed. You're find yourself trying to overhear the folks in the bleachers who seem to know who's who. You want to fixate on one player, but who? Does anybody have a roster? There's no name on the back of these jerseys. There's no program, that you can afford anyway. That coveted coach's binder that everybody wearing a collegiate shirt is walking around with costs $200, a bargain considering every kid's phone number is alongside her name.

Speaking of coaches, they're all here. You see Pat Summitt walk by in an understated black polo that reads Tennessee. You wonder why it's not orange. You see that blond, blond hair and realize it's Brenda Frese. Andy Landers walks by alone. There's Beth Cunningham and Denise Dillon. No Geno, but assistant Chris Dailey is roaming around.

The shirts read Appalachian State. Monmouth. Delaware State. Hey, that's Sylvia Hatchell.

Summitt gets up after watching Boo's team struggle in the first half, and you wonder. Was she watching Cierra? The kid's already verballed, after all. Is Cierra watching Pat watching her? Wendy Larry sits down where Summitt sat. You know how much Wendy must want one of these thoroughbreds who's in her own back yard. What a coup it would be for her to get one of those Lake Taylor High School kids, who stunned Princess Anne in this year's state title game. Three of the Titans are on this Boo team. One of them is Linda Stepney but you hear she's getting letters from the SEC, ACC and Big East. No UConn and Tennessee, but everybody else.

C. Vivian Stringer sits down when Larry moves along. Is there something about that seat?

The answer is no. It's not a luxury box. It's a portable bleacher roped off that says "NCAA Coaches Only." Don't know if anybody would stop you from walking right up to Stringer or Summitt and plopping down. You'd think somebody would like an autograph, but that's not what this scene is about. Everybody is used to each other because on a smaller scale, this scene is played out all over the country most of the spring and summer.

Some teams are jogging around the track that encircles all these courts in this huge facility of Boo's. Other teams collect in the stands. "When do you play tomorrow?" a mom asks her. Her daughter rolls her eyes. Don't know, she says. "When do we play?" she yells to a teammate two rows in front. Somebody says 1 something and then 7:30.

All the while these games go on, like a TV droning in the background. This is no child's play. It's physical, more physical than any college game you've watched this season, yet you hear whistles, whistles, whistless. But where are they coming from? With so many courts bunched together, you don't know which way to turn. Is that whistle coming from this court or that court? No matter because the game keeps rolling as if there's a plane to catch.The coaches don't seem to be throwing a fit on the sidelines over the refs, either. You could get used to this.

You've only been there a few hours, but you're bleary eyed. No high school game feels like this. No college game, either. This is AAU -- one day, one slice, one game at a time.

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