Updated: Jul 12, 2020
Finally back on the court!!! It was good to see this VERY talented group of young ladies back on the court having fun and competing at a high level. If your not familiar with talent in the state for the 2023 class when you get a chance make sure to check this EP Elite team out and you'll quickly realize the 2023 class is loaded with talent. EP Elite-Ward is mostly compiled of 2023 players with several of our top ranked players in that class as well as a few stock risers in the 2022/24 class.... several college prospects at a variety of different levels in this group. It's going to be fun to watch them grow together and see each individuals game continue to develop throughout their high school careers.
Who Stood Out? *Listed Below*
More on this weekend as the squad was back into action for the first time since the virus they took the trip to Birmingham, AL and competed in the War Games. The team finished up 3-2 on the weekend and competed in every game with several players leaving right where they left off.....just like riding a bike jumped back on scoring 30+ point games like its nothing. Below you can see a picture from the venue and take a look at the new normal. While the facility has lots of courts under one roof its lots of space and limited bleachers. To get a better understanding of the new normal we caught up with Coach Fallon, who is the head coach of EP Elite - Ward in a quick Q&A.
First off coach it’s been a big topic on should we be playing or should we not be playing….. We’ve talked a lot about mental health on one of our previous Zoom meetings. Did that play a big role into getting your girls back on the court and trying to get a sense of normalcy back into their lives? How was their moods during the practices and the events?
Returning to play was a decision that we evaluated very closely, and with understanding and respect, presented the option to our athletes and their parents. We all know, if it were up to the girls, play would have never ceased. I believe that physical health played a greater role in returning to play because we are dealing with athletes. Sure, they may have had cabin fever, but our organization remained virtually engaged, emotionally supportive and provided opportunities for individual accountability as it relates to training. So, returning to the gym was just another layer of the onion being peeled back. We communicated with our players and parents about the realities of this new normal and what it would look like. We have discussed the inherent, inevitable risk that we are all taking during this time, and the decision to play was handled on an individual basis. As a coach, it was my responsibility to research how other states and programs were implementing “return to play” guidelines, and our coaches remained vigilant with remaining informed about the latest data and numbers. With that knowledge, we were able to cautiously move forward.
As far as temperaments are concerned, with returning to practice, we started on the black top, and the excitement to have the opportunity to play outdoors was tremendous. The girls were simply thrilled to be around other people. So far, everyone has been in good spirits. Everyone (players, coaches, and parents) is excited to play again. We must remember, this game, basketball, is a part of them. It is a huge part of all of our lives, and when you have that taken away you have to be mentally strong to handle loss, but we just kept things in perspective. Many of us suffered a greater loss during this time, so we just asked our kids to stay active, stay positive and we ensured them that basketball would be back.
Being back in the gym and competing with your team had to feel great! How was it being back on the sideline and with your girls?
Being back on the sideline was rewarding and nerve-recking. I keep a bottle of Advil in my bag. Just knowing that at this same time last year, the girls would be in full swing and on the home stretch, makes a coach take a step back and put things into perspective. I was excited that we actually made it to an event. With COVID-19 being a fluid situation, everyone must remain flexible, and it’s disappointing to prepare to attend and event, only to have it cancelled. It’s disappointing and frustrating for the girls, but the feeling was surreal, and we were impressed with their performance. Believe it or not, the girls give us as coaches purpose because without them we don’t do this. We grind for their dreams, but yes walking out onto that court, warming-up, the clock, referees and just taking it all in, should really make us all appreciate the simple things that life affords us.
How did your players and families feel concerning the virus? What is the new normal? How does the event look? How did practice look? How was traveling?
Our players and families trust us. They trust our decisions, and they trust us with their girls. That is a responsibility that we do not take lightly. Some of our parents decided to sit out until next season, while others chose to play. Of course, everyone is concerned, and our guards will remain up. We have to stay vigilant during this pandemic, but I believe, collectively, we felt as state restrictions eased, if we implemented guidelines for the organization, we could safely play without fear of the being affected by the pandemic; and of course let’s not forget about the protests and riots. Those events were also a growing concern, as it relates to travel and kid safety. We are a predominantly African American organization, so we did have to consider and respect the events at the time. We had to consider how this pivotal movement in our nation’s history could inevitably affect us all. So, we have several “new normals” that have transpired in the first 7 months of 2020. The new normal is social distancing, contact tracing, masks-on, smaller more intimate events. Basically, we entered the venue - mask-on - played our game – re-masked – walk out of the venue! There are one-way entrances and exits, which is not vastly different, but the greatest difference that I saw was the reduction in spectators and the number of bodies in the gym at one time. People were cognizant and cautious, not getting too close to one another and just overall respecting space. In reality, it’s difficult to play contactless basketball, so every time a player came to the bench, we sanitized our hands. They were instructed not to touch their faces. Basically, we followed as many CDC guidelines and recommendations that fit within the realm of basketball. The same goes for practice and travel. We ordered take out and we do not permit them to patronize restaurants, malls etc. Our trips are strictly basketball business and I believe that’s a good thing. It keeps the girls focused on the task at hand.
What’s your thoughts on how your team performed this week both positive takes as well as things you may need to work on?
Now that I have had a chance to absorb the first 5 games, I really have to reflect on the fact that the girls played 5 full court games in 3 days. All but one, consisting of man to man defensive and offensive play. One definite positive is that they persevered. I mean that is tough on the body, and to do that after a 3 ½ month hiatus, I’d say that’s pretty impressive. They obviously had to shake off some rust, but by game 3 they were playing well. There is always room for improvement. We watched film and made adjustment with each game. I’d like to see our state, as a whole, teach and play more man defense because it’s just important to growing these players overall game. We have to be less focused on winning and more focused on preparing. We are striving to be a defensively solid team, and we are always working on growing IQ!
What do you think we can do here in Louisiana to move girls basketball forward?
We also must get on one accord and begin to host collective, quality events here in the state where our kids don’t always have to travel. War Games was a collective effort, presented by Roundball Academy (EYBL Essence), FBC United (UA) and EYBL Alabama Southern Starzz. I believe we can do it as a collective entity, and just continue to positively promote and support one another. We saw so much love and support on Twitter this past week, it just felt good!
Whats next for the EP Elite – Ward group and where can we keep up with you all for the rest of the summer?
The organization is headed back to Alabama this weekend to play in an event hosted by Panhandle Basketball and then on to Jackson, MS the following weekend. You can follow us on Twitter @LAPRODIGY_ELITE @EP_LadyElite22 @EPLE_2425. We will keep LGR updated with schedules, outcomes and streaming information. We appreciate the support and looking forward to future play! #LouisianaStrong
Who Stood Out!
Here's a copy of the roster if you don't have one already.
Again this team is loaded with talent and one of the best young teams in the state regardless of classification. I wanted to highlight a few girls that stood out this weekend but let it be known this team has several more college prospects not listed below:
Jasmine Matthews - 2023
5'10 G/F / Ranked #6
Jasmine "walking mismatch" Matthews comes out game one scoring 31 points and 7 rebounds in her first game back in over four months... just looked bigger and stronger than most this weekend! She even showed of the 3-ball hitting multiple in a single game. Never fails the other team sees her as a big and puts a big on her... she blows by them... the put a guard on her to keep up and she over powers them. By the time you figure out how to slow her down the horn goes off and games over.
5'7 Point Guard / Ranked #5
Sahvani stood out this weekend taking three charges in the first two games! She's considered one of the best if not arguably the top shooters in the state regardless of classification. It was impressive to see her find another gear and get by defenders in transition despite being off of basketball for over four months.
5'9 Point Guard / Honorable Mention
Southall brings a big frame and combines that will her ability to attach off the bounce both in transition and half court setting. I like what I saw from her on the offensive end and she's making a case to crack that top 25 as someone to keep an eye on as she has a potential with her size.
5'10 Forward / Ranked #20
I knew lefty was solid but I noticed her handles have improved which brings a lot of versatility to the team. She can now easily rebound and go starting a fastbreak herself or can help break a press as the trail big. A natural slasher on offense and can defend multiple positions.