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The Rivals program in Massachusetts has been on a long, steady climb, and recently that rate of improvement has accelerated.
“We are getting bigger and stronger. We have started to get more middle school kids involved, and our arms just seem to keep reaching out farther and farther,” Coach Scott Hazelton said.
One element in the Rivals growth has been their annual participation in the elite Deep South Classic.
“The Deep South is definitely one of the best tournaments in the country, especially for the spring,” Hazelton said. “The venue is phenomenal, it’s a great draw for college coaches, and we’ve had several kids use the Deep South to really get their name out there.
“The Deep South will always be special to us because it’s an event that helped put us on the map.”
The 2017 Deep South Classic will be held in Raleigh, NC, from April 20-23. The event, which will feature some of the finest travel teams in the nation, will be played at the Raleigh Convention Center. There will be 20 courts in the building, keeping the entire event under one roof in downtown Raleigh.
When the Rivals organization comes to Raleigh, they will have joined forces with the United Conquerors program. The Conquerors, who hail from Malden, Mass., will be collaborating with the Rivals group this summer. Some of the key players for Coach Ushearnda Reynolds will be Olivia Nazaire (5-11, F, 2018), Menel Lamadzema (5-7, SG, 2018), Taneja Drayton (5-6, PG, 2018) and Meghan Carney (6-2, F, 2019).
“Olivia is a very versatile player,” Reynolds said. “She handles the ball well enough to bring it up the court for us, and she has a very good mid-range game, but she absolutely loves to compete in the paint.
“Menel is a quick two guard who shoots the three very well. She also finishes well against contact, she is a very smart player, and she will give you 90 feet of strong defense.
“Taneja is very creative off the dribble, and she sees the floor well. Taneja always seems to be thinking two passes ahead of everyone. She is very good at getting into the paint, and then she can score or create an opportunity for a teammate.
“Meghan has become more of a complete player because her outside shot has really improved. She can finish in the paint, she had a good mid-range game, and she is an impressive ball handler.”