695HOOPS WHERE IT'S ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS
November 26, 2015
I started taking photos and and notes in 2008 for what would eventually become 695Hoops.com. I would sometimes talk about my vision for what the site would become. Most people couldn't really see it. In August of 2010 I finally published the site with its first couple of feature interviews. During the 2010 high school season I tried to organize a huge day of girls all star games. The idea did not pick up much steam so I had to scrap that. I am thankful that in 2015 the site is still around and people still check for it and this year's Senior Shoot Out will be the biggest and best ever. I decided to start an annual Thanksgiving blog to recognize some people who help me navigate through the DMV girls basketball circuit. In no particular order I will acknowledge some people who make all the late hours worthwhile.
First I want to thank my younger cousin Allegra Schell who was one of the best players to come out of the state of Rhode Island. When she was 7 years old she followed me to the court and it was on from there. She went on to smash several juco scoring records and then starred at St. John's University. Her participation introduced me to the women's game.
I appreciate the parents and players who support and participate in our events. The Girls Middle School Showcases, Senior Shoot Out and Family Reunion games would not work if the top talent did not support them.
My immediate family allows me to spend long hours in the gym watching games and hosting events. They rarely complain and they even jump in to help out from time to time so I have to acknowledge my wife and the two kids still at home for being so understanding.
My Baltimore Starz family have kept me in the game for way longer than I ever thought I would be. I am grateful for all the players and parents that I have come through the program. I have the best group of coaches in Chanel Greene, Mike Horton, Mike Whitten, Scott Johnson, Ovan Shortt, Chris Hardy, Antonio Johson, Jackson Hawkins, Randy Dukes, Michael Canady, Corneilius Scott, CJ Scott, Reinaldo Collazo, Jewel Smith, Robb Dubose, Jay Shaw, Chris Armstrong and Chris Acree. Some of these people don't coach every year but when needed they step right up.
I'm thankful for the people who make doing business easy. The entire Baltimore City Community College staff is awesome. They are by far the the most professional people we work with. Tara Owens, Arthur Fitzhugh and the rest of the staff make us feel right at home. Jonathan Scruggs and the Elizabeth Seton family have been great throughout the years and it is always a pleasure to work with them. Dewey Thomas and the crew at MATHS have been looking out for us for years. Coach Brad Rees and the McDonogh staff have opened their doors to 695Hoops and helped us take the Public vs. Private Challenge to another level. The Institute of Notre Dame family has looked out for us as well. My Maryland Lady Tigers family Walt Roman, Kevin Young, D. Farmer, Sheed Coleman, Lawrence Banks, Marvin Anderson, John Ayers and DJ Punisher are like real family now.
I appreciate the support and advice from media people like Tink Butler of Next Sports Phenom, Lisa Bodine of Blue Star Media, James Nichols of the RBR and Joe Fenelon of New York Girls Hoops. Nate Logan has been hooking me up with quality photos for years.
I have a big extended family of day ones that I can count on to this day. Mike Dukes of the Lady Comets has had more basketball conversations with me than anyone else. I can always count on Tully Sullivan, Alexis Washington, Anthony Washington, Charles Brown and Terrance Hunter of the Lady Lions to come through in the clutch.
In order to put together quality events you have to have program directors and coaches who will help you get the players to show up. Rob Hildreth, Tony Gorham, Ron James, Sam Caldwell, Henry Anglin, Holly Ismail, Scott Buckley, Frank Oliver, Stretch Brandon, Craig Simmons,Stan King, Donchez Graham, Detoiya Mcaliley, Carol Durkee, Gavin Henry, Reggie Bailey, Steve Franklin, and many others have been extremely helpful over the years.
Sometimes you need more than players to make it happen so I appreciate Walt Hagins, Tameka Addison, Najah Walker, Tina Simmons, Joe Mcaleer, Billy Taylor, Kevin Speaks, Robb Dubose, Meri Davis, Rodney Johnson, Patrick Gregg, Tony Bell, Troy Franklin, Mark Tremba, Darryl Johnson, Rob Wilson, Yolanda Lavender, Jimmy Price, Shatyra Hawkes, Brianna Hutchen, Chris Burley and so many others for helping out behind the scenes over the years.
Our family has extended up to I83 and I really like how the Glover twins Kevin and Kerry have supported and opened the doors for I83Hoops to take off in the future. The same thing goes for the I64Hoops family with Cap City Ballerz and Cross Over Hoops. It's coming.
Thanks to Joe Dunston and my brother Saladin Reese I know you can bring the DMV together through girls hoops. I watched them do it when they created the MAGNBL many years ago. I learned from my B-More Hoops family Shawnie O'Neal, Troy Franklin, Scott Bowden, Tariq Brown and Coach Dane how to rally the community around the kids.
I am really grateful for the opportunity to work with Under Armour and their circuit of teams on the east coast like Boston Showstoppers, NDO, City Rocks, Philly Freedom Stars, Team Intensity, Crossover Hoops, Hard to Guard, and the rest of teams all over the country. Right here in Baltimore I'm thankful for coach Sam Walker and the entire Baltimore's Charm family. Big things are coming. I could keep going for another thousand words but I'll stop.
The business part is the worst part of the game. I am happiest when I am in they gym watching those players that keep me interested. I like players who believe they are the baddest chicks on the court every time out. Players like Shatyra Hawkes and Tracey Carrington. Many have come through the area. I love to tell this story about Akilah Bethel.
Back in August of 2011 when the BMore Hoops Anniversary games were at their peak Ms. Bethel committed to West Virginia State in the middle of the week leading up to the games. This was big news and some people felt she would skip the game since she had nothing to prove. Most of the top players from her class and several good players from younger classes were scheduled to play. A couple of players who were coming off huge summers and had created a media buzz opted to pass on the game but showed to watch in some nice summer dresses and sandals. A few minutes before tip off Akilah walked in, grabbed her jersey and proceeded to dominate the game. During the game I watched the "Big Timers" in the crowd and I kept thinking to myself they must be scared to play against the best or they're being protected. I have seen that a few times since then where players gain a little status and then become protected or managed by helicopter dads. As a fan of the game I think that cheats us all so I always appreciate players who look to bring it to any and everyone at any time. Akilah Is still like that to this day as she has made it a point to show up at the Family Reunion Games.
Akilah Bethel of LSU is my kind of player.
So, each year we will give the title of Akilah Bethel Award to a player who demonstrates that type of passion in seeking out the best competition and shows an overall love for the game. We had several players we could have chosen but this year's award went to Kiyana Jefferson of Lancaster, PA. Kiki is a freshman at Lancaster Catholic and will play major D1 ball. She's that good already. The fact that she showed up at just about every college showcase for D2/D3 players in a 100 mile radius of her home when she did not need to speaks volumes about her. Keep your eye out for her and I will see you all at the Public vs. Private Challenge and the Senior Shoot out. Happy Thanksgiving from Coach Al and 695Hoops.com.
Kiyana Jefferson, 2019 Lancaster Catholic. 2015 Akilah Bethel Award winner.
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