ST. GEORGE – The Utah Raiders, a competitive amateur basketball program for young women, has been a staple in the southern Utah sports scene for a long time, but now they are taking it to a whole new level.
Raiders founder and head coach Gary Tomlinson started the girls basketball program in 2007, and he said these past five years have really gotten his team ready to compete at girls basketball’s highest level.
“I started the Utah Raiders in ’07 when we moved out here, but we have only been competing at the (national) level the past few years,” he said.
Tomlinson is taking 10 local girls to San Diego, for the Next Level All-American Camp July 6th and 7th. After the All-American Camp, Tomlinson will have his other two teams meet him in San Diego to start the AAU summer circuit.
Tomlinson is really excited to get his girls recognized and believes he has some of the best players in the country.
“I think I have three or four girls that can end up in the top 50 national rankings,” he said.
Kassidy Cox, a rising junior from Desert Hills, is already ranked by Next Level Sports Services and is the highest ranked player in the state of Utah at No. 58 in the nation. The only other player in the state of Utah that is ranked by Next Level is Jayda Bovero from Fremont High School, who is ranked No. 77. Players are ranked and evaluated at these national camps based on live game action.
“Kassidy had a great game,” Tomlinson said. “She went up against a girl that was being looked at by UCLA and she owned her.”
Along with Cox, Tomlinson is impressed with the development of Kelsey McCann, Courtney Morley and Ashley Beckstrand.
“Kelsey McCann, a rising sophomore from Dixie High School, should be a top 50 girl,” he said. “She showed what she can do this year in Region 9 and against girls her age she should do great. Courtney and Ashley should both be in the top 50. Both girls have been playing up (at a higher age level) for a long time. Courtney has been playing varsity all summer for Cedar High and Ashley has practiced and played with our older girls for a long time.”
Tomlinson talked about the camp and how it helps the girls prepare for college.
“It’s very grueling,” he said. “The first day of the camp is 14 hours. You get put into teams and have to start playing games right away, bonding with girls you just met.”
The camp is for seventhgraders up through high school seniors and Tomlinson has girls coming in every age group.
Megan Leavitt, a rising senior at Snow Canyon, will compete with some of the best girls in the nation.
“Meg’s 6-foot-3, so she will get put with the best Bigs in the country,” Tomlinson said “Megan is going to have to come out and play great. I know she can and if she works and plays to her potential she will be noticed by the college coaches that are in attendance.”
Along with Cox, Emily Seifert from Desert Hills and Abbie Barnard from Virgin Valley will be in the rising junior class.
Kourtney Metzger will join McCann in the rising sophomore age group while rising freshman Shana Foley from Cedar and rising seventh grader Claire Newby from Pine View Middle will also be attending the All-American Camp.
“The girls get to see how fast the game really is,” Tomlinson said. “They get to see the best and the fastest players in the nation. This camp is so much more than the rankings. There are so many college coaches there. It’s great to get on their radar, too.”
Patrick Blake is a sports commentator and host of the Blake’s Take radio show. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News. For more SPORTS TALK, tune into Blake’s Take weekdays from 5-6 p.m. on KZNU Sports Radio – 93.1 FM 1450 AM – or online streaming live on the brand new KZNU Sports website: www.kznusports.com
Copyright 2012 St. George News.