The big names are in Las Vegas for club-team hoops this week including Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari and Sean Miller, who will be there to be noticed just as much as the players they are watching.
Team play is not always synonymous with the July evaluation period. The spotlight is mostly on the individuals.
That’s what makes the Tucson Rattlers a refreshing story.
The girls basketball team comprised of Tucson-area high school players captured the NCAA Super Showcase title today at the Tarkanian Basketball Academy in Las Vegas. Their 5-0 record followed a 5-1 showing in Chicago two weeks ago, when the Rattlers came a shot away from winning the title there.
“This team is like no other team I’ve had in the past, meaning that we have had some dominant scoring threats in the past that other players at times deferred to,” said coach Chris Klassen, who along with his wife Katie, have operated the Rattlers program for 10 years.
“With this group, they share the ball so unselfishly and everyone scores. The scoring is so balanced that teams can’t focus on one or two players to try to shut down because we will exploit them in other areas. We had a game up here (in Las Vegas) that we had 17 assists on 21 made field goals.
That’s also unheard of with club-team ball, especially when the players know college coaches are in the stands.
Marana junior guard Antoinette “Andy” Audiss scored 18 points in the Rattlers’ 54-47 win over Arizona Magic in the championship game today. Audiss, who made all four of her 3-point attempts, had not led the Rattlers in scoring in the previous 10 games this month.
Ironwood Ridge junior forward Bella Hamel contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds. Nikya Orange, a senior forward with Tanque Verde, also had 10 rebounds.
Hamel, Orange and defensive ace Summer Fox, a senior guard at Pueblo, are three players Klassen can count on, but others such as Audiss, are just as valuable.
Catalina Foothills senior guard Emily Chua, Marana junior forward Bella Muscoreil and Ironwood Ridge’s senior guard Caroline Finster and junior guard Makayla Holthaus rounded out Klassen’s effective rotation in Las Vegas.
“I’m just so proud of this team,” said Klassen, who is an assistant coach on the staff of the Pima Community College women’s hoops team. “Our girls have built off their Chicago performance and continue to get better.
“We had a two-hour film breakdown session Friday before we left and they were totally engaged and dialed in. We showed and talked about certain things that cost us the championship game in Chicago and they made the corrections this week and it showed big time.”
The Rattlers’ formidable frontcourt duo of Orange and Hamel were again impressive in Las Vegas. Orange averaged 11 points and 7.6 rebounds and Hamel 8.8 points and 8.6 rebounds.
An amazing stat, one that shows the Rattlers are an uncommon hoops club team: they had more steals (52) than 3-point attempts (46) in the five games in Las Vegas. They averaged 10.2 steals a game.
Fox led the Rattlers with 3.2 steals per game after producing a 4.2 average in Chicago. Fox also led the Rattlers with 5.4 assists per game in Las Vegas.
“The key to our success this month has been the total dedication and passion on the defensive end,” Klassen said. “This team has fully bought into our system and locks down opposing teams, making it difficult to run their offenses and sets.
“Our ability to switch and hedge with different schemes keeps teams on their heels. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
The Rattlers next play two games Friday in the EOT Summer Swoosh Tournament in Ladera Ranch, Calif. Three days of games there will wrap up their summer season. They will next play for the last time as a team Sept. 28-30 in a tournament at Garden Grove, Calif.
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.