July 12, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
WEST POINT -- ChyAnne Cunningham already has made a name for herself in Northeast Mississippi.
Krista Donald has earned the distinction of being one of the top girls basketball players in the state of Mississippi.
Both girls and plenty of others from the area will try to broaden their horizons even more next week when they travel with the Mississippi Hoop Dreams Amateur Athletic Union girls basketball teams to Bloomington, Ind.., for the Adidas Hoosiers Nation Hardwood Championships.
The event at the Bloomington SportsPlex, Bloomington North and South high schools, and Assembly Hall at Indiana University is expected to feature more than 100 teams from across the country and to attract more than 200 college coaches for the three-day event.
Cunningham, a junior at Columbus High School, and Donald, a junior at Lake High and a member of The Clarion-Ledger''s Dandy Dozen, which recognizes the state''s top players, are just two of more than 20 players on the Mississippi Hoop Dreams two age-group teams (14 and 16 and under).
Noxubee County''s Jeraldine Campbell, another Dandy Dozen player, Columbus High''s Courtney Cunningham, Carrie Brown, and Kameron Corruthers, Starkville High''s Rebecca Myles, Brittany Brown, and Shae Bonner, Aberdeen High''s Dayana McGee and Michelle Stewart, West Oktibbeha High''s Shamia Robinson, Heritage Academy''s Maggie Proffitt, and West Point High''s Wilma Davis also will try to catch the eyes of college coaches so one day they might have an opportunity to earn a scholarship to play basketball in college.
"It has been great," Cunningham said. "We have faced a lot of competition and we all have to work hard. There is no success if you don''t work hard."
Cunningham, a 5-foot-11 guard/forward, said she has gotten stronger and improved her ability to take the basketball to the basket in her second season with Mississippi Hoop Dreams. She hopes to show college coaches at the adidas event she can do even more.
"I have been doing pretty good, but I can do better," Cunningham said. "I play hard. I have a couple of schools looking at me, but I am trying to get more."
Donald, a 5-11 guard/forward, already has plenty of the nation''s high major Division I schools recruiting her. She said she is using her second year with the Mississippi Hoop Dreams to get a better feel for the game and to raise her level of competitiveness.
"I have grown tremendously since last year," Donald said. "My ballhandling skills have gotten better and I have a better IQ for the game."
Moses James, executive director for Mississippi Hoop Dreams, said helping the girls develop their basketball skills to improve their chances to earn college scholarships is his main goal. He has served as a coach in the organization for the past three years.
"It is tough (to assemble a team of quality players from all over the state)," said James, who lives in Tupelo and is an quality engineer for Ashley Furniture. "Mississippi, as a whole, is not as advanced as some of the other states when it comes to girls basketball. It is just a matter of getting the good kids, getting them to practice, making sure they can get to practice, making sure they are available to go to practice, and making sure they can afford to play and make it to tournaments. It is a challenge just getting all of the kids together to do it."
James said Mississippi Hoop Dreams is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations -- used to help defray the cost of travel to tournaments -- are tax deductible.
James said he watched more than 100 high school girls basketball games this season recruiting for his teams. He said most of the kids see the benefit of joining an AAU team that has quality players from all over the state.
Mississippi Hoop Dreams teams also will participate later this month in a tournament in Suwanee, Ga. The 16-and-under team has been invited to play in the Candace Parker Invitational on July 29-31 in Greenwood, S.C. That event is for the top 24 adidas teams.
"We have quite a few players who are being recruited by quite a few teams, some high major, some mid major, and some low major," James said. "I have seen them grow during the course of the season. We have some of the best players in the country in our program, so college coaches follow you."
Other members of the squads are: Jasmin Hampton and Morgan Vickory (Bruce High), Mecha Washington (New Albany), Amber Jackson, Antoinette Riddle, and Faith Cook (Tupelo), LeAndra Gray (Lake), Tyisha Amos (Scott Central), and Haroldlyn Riels and Narissa Hooks (Southaven).
James said he is pretty excited about his teams'' chances in Indiana. He said his teams have been in the top five in the past, and he believes his current teams can duplicate those finishes.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.