By Ryan Kaczmarski
There is something big going on at the All-Pro Construction facility in Avon every summer, where local elite girls basketball players go to refine their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. This place is called The National Basketball Academy (TNBA), and the team is called the TNBA-West Elite.
The summer AAU program is headed by Avon resident Kevin McNamara – who also is an assistant girls basketball coach at North Olmsted High School – and the team is nationally affiliated with Adidas and has multiple players being recruited by some of the largest colleges in Ohio and across the United States, including Molly Daily (North Olmsted), Megan Barrett (Lakewood), Maddie Nickels (Magnificat), Katie Smith (Fairview), Kara Johanson (Rocky River) and McNamara’s daughter Brittney McNamara (Elyria Catholic).
TNBA has teams for girls from grades 8-11. This is the third year for the TNBA-West Elite team, and already it has some accomplished alumni in Westlake’s Katie Carroll, who will be playing basketball at Qinnipiac University and Magnificat’s Stephanie Haas and Megan Barilla, with Barilla signed to play for the University of Akron.
There are banners for each and every TNBA player who has received a college scholarship hung in the practice facility, and it is an impressive sight.
“We’re going to keep extending the individual’s (banners) around the gym,” McNamara said. “Our club is very well respected, not only in Northeast Ohio, but all around the United States.”
Girls who want to take their basketball skills to the next level, and possibly play in college – no matter what division – have come to TNBA for not only tough workouts and practices, but to play in tournaments where there will be college scouts in attendance.
“This year and next year are really important for college scouting,” Barrett, an incoming junior at Lakewood High School, said. “I plan on playing in college and it’s a really good opportunity here (at TNBA) with scouts and the tournaments we go to and the exposure we get.
“I think playing more and practicing more will help me a lot (as opposed to just playing during the school season),” she added. “We work on ball-handling and shooting drills a lot and we start to know the game really well.”
The way the girls train at TNBA is different than just scrimmaging, they break it down to the basics and build the game up from there.
“The first 45 minutes of every practice is working on fundamentals,” McNamara said. “When everybody comes to practice for the very first time, they understand that one of the big differences is that we don’t just roll the ball out and say we’re going 5 on 5 and run plays. Our goal is that when the girls get back to their high school (teams), they’re better players than when they first came to us. We want the high school coaches to be with us on working on the fundamentals.”
To keep with OHSAA mandates, McNamara does not coach any girls from the North Olmsted program on his team, so first-year player Molly Daily is playing on a TNBA team with another coach.
“I feel that I’ve gotten more aggressive as a player, because I’m now playing with other girls that are from the top of their (high school) teams,” Daily said. “It’s making me a better player and I’m getting more knowledge of the game.
“My weakness has been being aggressive in the post, even though I’m 6’1”,” she added. “Playing against girls like (Lorain High School’s) Alex Harris has really helped me (with that).”
Magnificat’s Nickels hopes to improve her chances of playing at the next level through the TNBA program.
“You get a better sense of what there is to come and what your options are after you move on from here,” she said. “This also makes you a better player, both as an individual and as a team player.
“All the other teams I’ve played on haven’t been this close, like a family, like this team is.”
McNamara is tough on all the girls, not making any exceptions, even for his daughter.
“Other coaches would tell me to try this or try that, my dad said ‘No, do it this way,’” Brittney McNamara said. “Other coaches don’t have the dedication to work on things with you and he is there all the time trying to help.”
TNBA keeps its rosters small, keeping the focus on each girl and what their needs and wants are for the future.
“We know we’re not the biggest club in Ohio, but we’ve professed that our slogan this year is ‘Quality over quantity,’” McNamara said. “The first year, we had five seniors and four of them went on to play college basketball. Last year, we had nine seniors. Seven of them went on to play in college. This year, we have eight seniors and I bet all of them go on to play college basketball.
“We can’t go on and say that we had 300 girls go on to Division I (college ball),” he added. “That’s not us, and it never will be. I’m a dad first, and we hold on to that idea of quality over quantity because our schedule is harder than everybody else, our program and the way we develop kids is better and our ratio to deliver kids into scholarships is better than everybody else. It’s important to us, to let people know how serious we take the effort, because we understand that parents pay a lot of money for AAU, they travel and commit themselves, and they’re hoping that there’s something in it for their kid.”
If you think your girl would be interested and want more information on TNBA and their programs, go to the website at www.eteamz.com/TNBAWestElite or e-mail Coach Kevin McNamara at firstname.lastname@example.org.