Five of the 20 players on the American Family Insurance ALL-USA preseason girls basketball team are from Texas. That’s an outsized representation, even by Texas standards, but it shouldn’t be shocking to anyone who’s followed women’s basketball lately.
Three of the past four No. 1 WNBA draft picks played their high school ball in Texas. Three of the top 15 teams in the USA TODAY Sports women’s basketball coaches poll are from the Lone Star State: No. 4 Baylor; No. 8 Texas; and No. 12 Texas A&M. In the past 10 years, only once (2013) has there not been a player from Texas on either the American Family Insurance ALL-USA girls basketball first, second or third teams.
“Texas is far and away way in advance of developing feeder programs, taking their girls basketball players at middle-school ages and developing them, even into the high school systems,” Dan Olson, director of espnW HoopGurlz, said from the Dallas airport. “A lot of other states don’t pay for this and you get what you pay for, and the result is you get an inferior product in other states. Whereas in Texas, it’s a polished product. They take it seriously.”
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Lauren Cox, a 6-4 Baylor signee from Flower Mound, Texas, and an ALL-USA preseason selection, said there’s a simple reason Texas players shine nationally.
“I think it’s the competitive nature of high school and summer basketball in Texas,” said Cox, ranked as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2016 by HoopGurlz.
That level of seriousness is reflected in the number of games Texas teams play. Last year, Cypress Woods (Cypress) won the Texas 6A title, finishing 35-1. No other girls team in the final Super 25 played 35 games, let alone won that many. Another thing that separates the state from others is it allows a daily in-school athletic period for members of school sports teams, a time when players can lift weights, do a study hall or watch film as a team.
“I get to work with my kids at least 45 minutes every day, even when we’re not in season,” said Cypress Woods coach Virginia Flores, who coaches ALL-USA player Nancy Mulkey, a 6-9 Oklahoma signee. “We get to see them every day and help with their development. I think we’ve always had good athletes, but sometimes it takes name players to bring some of the attention back to Texas. When you have players like the Ogwumikes get into the limelight, it gives our younger players a chance to think, ‘Wow, I can do that’ and give them some motivation.”
Texas also has a strong club-ball structure, and while many high school coaches bemoan the problems of spring and summer club basketball, it can help players develop. Wagner (San Antonio) girls basketball coach Christina Camacho, who coaches ALL-USA player Amber Ramirez and also organizes AAU tournaments during the summer, says things have changed significantly.
“I’ve been coaching for 29 years and I know AAU is a huge part of the kids playing more than they used to in the summer,” Camacho said. “I see an abundance of trainers coming up and trying to help kids more. You see those kids starting to train harder. I’m a true believer that your kids are going to get noticed in the summer because that’s when college coaches are out. When I played, if you were on a varsity team, you couldn’t play on a club team with two or three of your varsity teammates and we weren’t allowed to go to camps. That’s how far we’ve come.”