From their very beginning in 2000, the Miami Suns have been a factory for girls to make the jump from high school to college and, down the road, the WNBA.
Just look at the Suns’ inaugural roster. It featured Sylvia Fowles, Eriana Larkins, Eric White and Valeria Berezhynska. Fowles and White went on to play at LSU, Larkins went to North Carolina and Berezhynska went to Rice. All four were WNB draft picks.
Miguel Diaz, Obel Cruz and Paul Torres started a program that has evolved into a powerhouse on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit, but they’ve had some help from their former players. Fowles and Larkins now sponsor the programs top two teams. Team Fowles will play on the EYBL’s 17-and-under circuit this spring and summer and Team Larkins will participate in the 16-and-under group.
In addition to the Suns’ first class, the program also has produced some big-name talent. The Suns have sent 141 players to college on basketball scholarships and the list of names includes Raigyne Moncrief (LSU), Kai James (Florida State), Beatrice Mompremier (Baylor and Miami) and Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan (South Carolina), who all were WNBA draft picks.
The program draws its players from throughout the talent-rich South Florida area. But it draws more than talented players. Miami Country Day head coach Ochiel Swaby, the 2019 Naismith and USA Coach of the Year, will enter is third year heading Team Fowles. Swaby will be assisted by overseas pro and former Auburn and Duke player Crystal Primm and Somerset coach Benjamin Drummer.
The program’s past is rich in history and the future looks just as bright with a host of talent from the 2023 and 2024 classes making up this year’s roster.
“We are excited about the depth and versatility this group has headed into the season,’’ said Diaz, who is Director of the Suns. “We have players that will impact the program and off the court and they are led by a great staff.’’
The Suns’ top team will be led by veteran guards D’Yanis Jiminez, who will be playing for the program’s top team for the third consecutive year and, Kristina Godfrey (ranked No. 427 in her class by All-Star Girls Report) and Tyra Kennedy who played on the under-17 team last year.
“D’Yanis is an aggressive combo guard who is at her best when playing downhill, attacking the basket and facilitating for others,’’ Diaz said. “Kristina is also a combo guard and she’s at her best in transition and she also knocks down the three ball. Tyra is a knockdown three-point shooter.’’
They’ll be joined in the backcourt by 5-10 wing Karina Gordon (No. 308), who Diaz described as a knockdown shooter with the ability to put the ball on the floor.
The frontcourt will be led by 6-4 post player Kyhala Ngodu who is a newcomer to the program.
“Kyhala has a versatile game for her size,’’ Diaz said. “She has good touch from the mid-rang and scores inside. She also is capable of initiating the fastbreak after rebounds and is a good defender in the paint.’’
The Suns also have three members of the Class of 2024 that are expected to make major impacts this summer. Forward Kayla Nelms (No. 163 in All-Star Girls Report’s 2024 rankings) has been in the program since middle school and wings Eris Lester (No. 311) and Emely Rodriguez are new to the program.
“Kayla can score from all three levels,’’ Diaz said. “Eris plays with a non-stop motor that will create problems for opponents on both ends of the floor. Emely is looking to establish herself on the national stage this summer. She also has a high motor and is always looking to attack using her strength and finishing ability to score.’’