By Ryan Kaczmarski
The National Basketball Academy (TNBA) is a premier AAU basketball program located in Avon Lake, and the best girls from the area who want to be better on and off the court fill its rosters. Recently, the TNBA freshman girls team won the 2013 Adidas Girls Nationals tournament, held July 27-29 in Suwanee, Ga.
The team is comprised of nine girls from high schools all over the Greater Cleveland area, including Magnificat and Avon high schools.
Going on the road and winning has become expected for most of these girls, but taking a national championship against some of the best girls in the country should never get old.
“I’ve been playing AAU basketball for a really long time, so I’m kind of getting used to the out of town tournaments,” Phoebe Sterba, from Magnificat High School, said. “There was very good competition as the tournament went along. The first game was easy, but as we went deeper into it, the games got closer and the competition was better.”
Sterba is going into her sophomore year of high school, and playing for TNBA, and coach Kevin McNamara, has helped her mature as an athlete and a person.
“The transition from AAU to high school basketball was a pretty easy one for me,” she said. “With my AAU experience, it made it easier for me to go to Magnificat and play basketball, because of all of the great competition and our intense practices.”
Others on the team were not so comfortable going on the road, but the girls’ friendships helped them throughout the tournament.
“Going through the tournament was a great experience,” Keely Hall, from Firelands High School, said. “There were so many things to see, at such a young age, that were learning experiences. Being with your teammates for it was really fun, and it just made all of our relationships stronger.
“You can tell that everybody on the team improved over the course of the tournament. It was a lot to take in, but it was a really great experience.”
McNamara stresses the importance of the girls learning during practice, so when they are playing at the national tournaments, they can show their skills on the big stage.
“For these girls, the reason you go to these things are that it gives the college (scouts) an opportunity to view them,” he said. “Colleges can’t just come to regular tournaments; the NCAA tells them that they only have a certain window to watch these kids. There were 198 colleges there from all across the United States.”
The tournament also gives the girls a chance to play the best competition from across the nation in their age group.
“It’s so much harder down there,” Riley Schill, from Elyria Catholic, said. “Everyone plays at such a high level and the game is so much quicker. Everyone is strong, tall girls and you don’t see that playing at home.”