Commentary

Faris' competitve edge pays off

Originally Published: June 13, 2008
By Chris Hansen and Clay Kallam | ESPN HoopGurlz

Kelly FarisGlenn NelsonUConn commit Kelly Faris learned the ropes playing against her athletic family.
Kelly Faris is the youngest of an athletic family. Her father and older brother played football and her two older sisters were basketball players.

"There's always a game going on," Faris says. Since she's from Indiana, the game was most often basketball. "But there was no mercy ... no mercy."

The competitive edge Faris honed on the driveway, though, has served her well. She's already committed to Connecticut, though she has one more year left at Heritage Christian High School in Indianapolis. And she was invited to a USA Basketball event for the second time, this trip earning her a spot on the U18 team headed to Argentina.

"Coming back helped out a lot," she said. "I knew what the competition would be like and what to expect."

But that doesn't mean it was easy. "It's a lot tougher here," the 5-9 wing said. "It's a lot tougher to do the little things. You have to make changes."

For instance, as simple as an entry pass might look, at the U18 tryouts getting the ball from the wing to the paint was no easy task. If the opposing guard didn't tip it, the quick post defending would step around and get a hand in the way.

"You learn quick," Faris said.

As a wing, Faris also has a slight problem caused by the format. The point guards handle the ball most of the time, there's no real structured offense and if the ball goes into the post -- well let's just say it doesn't come back out all that often.

[+] EnlargeKelly Faris
Glenn NelsonKelly Faris ranks as the No. 5 shooting guard in the Class of 2009.
"I knew that coming in," Faris said. "I just [wanted] to come in and play my game. There's a lot you can do without the ball, like defense."

Faris had little to regret about her high-school season; Heritage Christian won the state 2A championship and wound up as the highest nationally ranked team in the basketball-mad state. The Eagles return all but one player next year, and Faris would love nothing better than another chance at a state title.

"It's a big deal in Indiana," she said, "and you get a lot of support from the community."

Her AAU team may not draw the same number of fans, but the Indiana Elite also does well out on the circuit. "AAU is a quicker, faster-paced game," Faris said. "There's not as much structure -- you just play the game."

But Faris will probably take time off from basketball to play volleyball for Heritage Christian in the fall, which she's done before. "You get away from basketball," she said of the switch. "A lot of kids get burned out."

So far, though, the fire still burns in Faris -- a fire that started back on the driveway in Plainfield, Indiana.

-- Kallam

Chris Hansen's Rim Shots

• With four underclassmen making the USA U18 team, the training and competitions now also become a recruiting ground of sorts. In 2002 the NCAA barred coaches from attending USA Basketball events and practices. This year, the NCAA rescinded the ban on USA Basketball events as long as they occur within the dates certified on the recruiting calendar.

Kelsey Bone, Skylar Diggins and Joslyn Tinkle all are undecided and with much of their calendar during the NCAA evaluation periods committed to the FIBA competition, the chances of coaches seeing them at the big events this summer are fewer and much further between. The team will have training or practice from July 10-16 in Colorado Springs and again July 17-20 in Washington, D.C. The team then will travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for competition July 23-27. With these commitments you won't see these stars with their traditional club teams much -- if at all.

Most of the Colorado Springs training sessions fall in the NCAA evaluation period, unlike the trials this week which will allow coaches pursuing these three underclassmen to watch them play. Given their talent there isn't much evaluation going on and it is more of what the coaches refer to as "babysitting." Because of the fierce competition for the players, most coaches fear the negative recruiting from their rivals if they don't attend most of a player's games.

Further complicating the coaches' summer travel is the FIBA competition itself which falls within the second evaluation period. Many coaches may be swapping their domestic flights out for the longer trip to South America. The NCAA guidelines allow each school to have four coaches on the road but only three are allowed to be "working" at one time. This means only three coaches can be in a gym at any one time. Argentina is one hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone and four hours ahead of the Pacific Time Zone, not enough difference to relieve the coaches from having to coordinate game by game who is working. The NCAA's two evaluation periods run July 6-15 and July 22-31.

• Krissy Grant, a 5-10 guard from Lamar High School (Arlington, Tex.) has an initial schools of interest list of: Baylor, Duke, Hampton, LSU, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UCLA, and USC. The 2010 prospect, on the ESPN HoopGurlz Watch List, plays her summer ball with DFW Elite.

Clay Kallam is a columnist and contributor to ESPN HoopGurlz. He is the founder of Full Court Press, an online magazine devoted to women's basketball; the author of "Girls Basketball: Building a Winning Program" and a voter for several national awards, including McDonald's and Parade All-Americans and the Wooden Award.

Chris Hansen covers girls' high school basketball nationally for ESPN.com and leads the panel that ranks and evaluates players for the network. He can be reached at chris.hansen@espn3.com.

For more in-depth coverage of girls' high-school basketball and women's college-basketball prospects, visit HoopGurlz.com

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