July is probably the most popular month of the summer season. During this month, not only does America celebrate its independence, but college basketball coaches have the independence to travel across the country and recruit student-athletes for their programs. On the flip side, July is an opportunity for student-athletes to showcase their talent and skills in hopes of catching the eyes of coaches and later receiving scholarship offers.
Garnering attention from coaches shouldn’t be a problem for the ladies of the Alabama Heat Elite. The Amateur Athletic Union basketball club consists of a ninth and tenth-grade team. The ninth-grade team is ranked No. 2 in Alabama, No. 17 in the nation and has players who already have scholarship offers.
Both teams are preparing to embark on a journey of showcases across the Southeast, beginning with the Super Showcase in Orlando, Fla., July 5. Steve Ward is the head coach of the freshman squad. As talented as the athletes are, he admits it can be challenging to get them to stay focused.
“It’s hard because they are still young and they’re still learning how to be consistent,” Ward says.
However, Coach Ward doesn’t have to stress much knowing he has a composed, floor general in Hannah Barber. The Homewood High School 6A state champion already has scholarship offers from Jacksonville State, Samford and the University of Southern Mississippi. As her team enters a tough stretch, Barber has a relaxed mentality.
“I think it’s a balance between being confident and playing your game. It’s keeping your head in the game, playing within the team and not thinking of yourself being any bigger than the team,” Barber says.
2015 is the inaugural year for the 10th-grade team. Coach Ward says the ladies have performed extremely well thus far, winning a tournament in Birmingham, Ala., and finishing in the Final Four in the Nike Invitational in Hampton, Va. Former Ramsay High School standout and Rutgers University and Miles College women’s basketball player Sammeika Thrash-Thomas is the head coach of the sophomore team. Coach Ward says the ball club is lucky to have her because she brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the Heat organization.
Clay Chalkville High School’s Raven Omar is the leader of the sophomore squad. She asserts that playing with the Heat has given her more exposure and she’s developed more as a leader, point guard and overall player with the help of her teammates.
“I want to make a good impression on college coaches, so I want to hit this stretch in July hard. I’m looking forward to working with my team and pushing to make myself better. I’m working to improve my fundamentals and by the end of this summer, I want to be a well-rounded player… The total package,” Omar says.
Similar to Omar, Coach Ward wants his players to show great progress at their high schools at the conclusion of AAU season. For now, his goal is to continue to win and compete at the highest level.
Fans can follow the Alabama Heat Elite as the club travels this summer via Twitter @Bamaheatelite.