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The time is right for the Tampa Bay Inferno program. After working diligently with younger players for the past few years, TBI is looking to make some noise on the national scene this spring.
“We have been a program that has done very well in local tournaments here in Florida, and now are transitioning into a program that is built to compete against the powerhouse programs on a national level,” said Coach Milton Santiago. “Our main focus the past three years has been on our middle school teams. We put a lot of emphasis on working with them and developing their fundamentals.
“Now, those teams are ready for the spotlight. Our job now, as coaches, is to get them in games with the top competition. They want to go play against the best, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Inferno will get its first taste of elite competition at the 2015 Deep South Classic, where TBI will have four teams in action. The event 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.
TBI’s top team will be paced by Mia Blocker (2017, 5-7, PG) and Imani Thomas (2017, 5-11, F).
“Mia is a leader and a floor general, and she is a very powerful, very aggressive player,” Santiago said. “Mia is a dynamic athlete and a great defensive player. Imani is a rebounding machine. She has to be one of the most powerful players in the state of Florida. She is aggressive and tenacious, and she thrives on contact. She is fundamentally sound with good post moves and a very effective jump shot from 15 feet.”
Bret McCormick, the analyst for the All Star Girls Report, also added his perspective on the TBI leaders.
“Blocker is a good athlete and an intelligent basketball player,” he said. “She takes charge on the offensive end, and she is a very good defender. Thomas is a blue collar type of player who does a lot of little things, and she is a strong rebounder.”
The Inferno will also have talented teams in the younger brackets, with prospects such as Ashley Sieper (2018, 6-2, P), Tanyia Gordon (2019, 5-8, G) and Lenise Santiago (2019, 5-6, PG).
“Ashley has great ball skills and a variety of post moves,” Coach Santiago said. “She is very aggressive on the boards, and she has good shooting range out to about 17 feet. Tanyia is one of the fastest players in the state. She is the type of player that can be moving to her left, and then she’ll explode to her right. She is an explosive athlete with a lot of skills. Lenise has been playing the point and distributing the ball for a long time. She can score when she needs to — she has a great three-point stroke — but she thrives on getting her teammates involved.”
“Sieper has good footwork and she knows how to score inside. She can also face up effectively from about 17 feet,” added McCormick. “Gordon is an ultra-athletic guard. She is very good in the open court, and she can score in traffic. Santiago has a point guard mentality, and she shoots the three well.”