Now entering its fifth year, the East Tampa Thunder is headed toward its finest travel season. The foundation has been developed, and this year the Thunder should be rolling.
“We’re very happy with the way the program has grown,” said director Rob Walker. “We really feel like we have gotten better every year. We’re very confident that this is going to be our best year. We’ve gotten taller and more physical, and we have a very versatile roster.”
The Thunder will get its first test when they host the Tampa Bay Invitational on April 12-13 at the University of Tampa. The event will be limited to 36 teams.
“Our goal is to create a tournament that helps prepare teams for the spring evaluation period,” Walker said. “We want to limit the size of the tournament so that we can control the types of teams. We want everyone to face the type of competition that will really help them prepare for the spring.”
The Thunder will have an opportunity to showcase its talent on a bigger stage in Raleigh, NC, on April 25-27 at the Deep South Classic. Now in its 17th year, the Deep South Classic annually hosts many of the nation’s elite travel teams in a field that will eclipse 200 squads, and hundreds of collegiate coaches will be on hand searching for talent. The 2014 event will mark the second year that the Deep South Classic has been held at the Raleigh Convention Center. The venue was a tremendous success in its debut last year, with all games played at one site on 18 courts, and it is in a convenient central location.
The Thunder will be led by a strong quartet that includes three players from the 2015 class — 6-2 wing Emily Lines, 5-10 wing Peyton Walker and 5-5 point guard Camille Giardina — plus 6-4 2016 power forward Harley Duren. The All Star Girls Report has Lines listed as the No. 303 ranked recruit in the 2015 class, and Duren is at No. 135 in the 2016 class.
“Emily is a highly-regarded, versatile player who gives us size on the wing, and she is a good defender,” Walker said. “Peyton (Walker’s daughter) is a very accomplished player who is off to a great start with her high school team, and she has about 30 mid-major schools that are following her.
“Both Camille and Hayley have transferred to new, more competitive high schools this year, and I think that is really going to help them. Camille is at Sarasota High School, and Hayley is now at American Heritage. They are getting better coaching this year, and they are playing against tougher competition, and I think they will take a nice step forward this winter. Camille averaged about 27 points per game for her high school team last year, but now she has more talented teammates and she is improving her overall game. Hayley is being recruited by most of the top schools in the Southeast. She generally plays with her back to the basket now, but she will probably face the basket in college. She has that versatility, and we’re very excited about what Hayley is going to be able to do on the court.”
Veteran ASGR analyst Bret McCormick also sees plenty to like in the Thunder leaders.
“Emily Lines is a player with a good feel for the game. She is a good athlete and a very good shooter with range, and she could play the two, three or four spots,” McCormick said. “Peyton Walker is a smart player who goes hard all the time, and she has a nice shot. Hayley Duren is the best prospect on the team. She is a long, athletic lefty who can score inside, and she can step out to 16 feet. Camille Giardina knows the game, she can use her quickness to attack the basket, and she can hit the three.”
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