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They say that success breeds success, and that has certainly been true for the BWSL Richmond program. However, BWSL’s success has also been fueled by hard work and humility.
“We have had the same core group of coaches together since 1989. We’ve worked under a few different program names, but it’s been the same group,” noted Coach Maxwell Coats. “We have been fortunate to have a great deal of success at putting kids into college ball, and that has helped us continue to attract the top kids.
“I think another key to our success has been that we do a lot of development work with our coaches. We have college coaches and top AAU coaches watch our games and critique all our coaches, including me. We are constantly trying to improve, and as a byproduct we have had unprecedented success on the court.”
The focus on improvement only begins with the coaches.
“We have principles that we abide by, and they make playing for this club enjoyable for everyone,” Coats said. “We demand that our players are great teammates, not just good teammates. We want the kids to all have the same expectations when they come in, and we want to attract kids who want to play that way. That’s why we play as a team, not just a lot of one-on-one.”
Those principles will be on display at the 2015 Deep South Classic, which will be played in Raleigh, NC on April 24-26. The Deep South Classic, which annually features the nation’s top travel programs, will once again have the entire tournament in one facility — the tremendous Raleigh Convention Center.
“We try to play a variety of different events, and we are excited about going to the Deep South Classic,” Coats said. “We think the Deep South is going to give our kids additional exposure with the college coaches, and we think it will be a great experience. The ASGR people do a phenomenal job running events, we like that the whole event is under one roof, and our kids have really been helped by the exposure they got at past ASGR events.”
BWSL Richmond will be bringing an impressive group of top-flight prospects to the Deep South Classic, including 2016 standout Anna Wilson (5-8, PG, ranked No. 15 nationally in her class by ASGR). Wilson, who is the sister of NFL star Russell Wilson, has verbally committed to Stanford.
“Anna is a smooth, quick, very skilled point guard,” said ASGR analyst Bret McCormick. “She has a great feel for the game. She has the ability to score the basketball, and she can be very effective running the team.
“I think she is going to be a great fit at Stanford. That was a very good, and very early commitment for Stanford.”
Wilson is the star, but BWSL’s top team is loaded with talent. The long list of outstanding players includes 2016 standouts Tyra Whitehead (6-3, PF, No. 74), Bria Stith (6-1, WF), Imani Bryant (6-2, PF) and Nyra Williams (5-6, PG).
“Tyra is like Karl Malone,” Coats said. “She is 6-3, 275 pounds, and it’s all muscle. She is one of the best power forwards in the country, and she is a wonderful kid who helps coach our younger teams. She has committed to Wake Forest.
“Bria is the daughter of (former NBA player) Bryant Stith. She is an extreme athlete with long arms and a versatile game. She could play shooting guard, small forward or power forward.
“Imani lives in Williamsburg now, but she recently relocated from California. She is a rare find. Imani is extremely athletic, and just a ferocious rebounder and shot blocker. Nyra is a true point guard who has started for us for three years. We give her a lot of freedom on the court because she is a tremendous decision maker. She is always making the right play at the right time.”
Coats is particularly excited about his 2017 class, calling that “the best team I’ve ever had. We have 15 talented kids that are completely interchangeable parts.” Leading the way for the unit are Stephanie Seaman (5-7, SG), Jaden Morris (5-9, G), Alexis Houston (6-1, PF), Jeane Camp (6-5, C) and the 5-7 Justice twins (Whittney and Birttney).
“Stephanie is the best shooter I have ever coached. She is ridiculous,” Coats said. “We have yet to establish what is too far for her. She is left-handed and she has perfect form. Off the court, she is like a cheerleader, always friendly and giggling. On the court, she is one of our toughest players.
“Jaden is a new player who is a lock down defender. She could play the one, two or three because she has a great handle and she can score. Alexis is a gifted athlete who can jump out of the gym.”
“Jeane wears a men’s size 22 shoe, and she is still growing. She has a very long wingspan, and she is one of the best shot blockers around. Offensively, she is a true post player who is phenomenal with her back to the basket.
“Whittney and Brittney Justice are talented, savvy and competitive players from West Virginia. We played against them and couldn’t stop them, so we asked if they would like to join us. They can shoot the three, they are crafty, and they are very good passers.”
The BWSL program will also feature emerging prospects Samantha Burnelle (2019, 6-3, F), Rochelle Norris (2018, 6-5, C) and Charne Lilly (2018, 5-7, PG).
“Sam is an amazing player,” Coats said. “She is ultra athletic, she is an absolute monster in the post, and she has step back NBA three-point range. Rochelle is a freak athlete who can jump out of the gym. She is a classic center, and I think she will be one of the best post players in the country. She is also a hard worker, so she will be special. Having Rochelle together with Sam is just amazing.
“Charne is a cat quick point guard who can really light it up. She played on her high school varsity team last year as an eighth grader, and she scored 34 points against an outstanding Riverdale Baptist team.”