When the East Tampa Thunder program started four years ago, the organizers were facing a stiff challenge. The top young players in the Tampa had traditionally left the area and joined one of the more well-known programs in the region. The Thunder wanted to change that tradition.
“We are trying to keep that talent home, and we’re happy with what we’ve accomplished so far,” said Thunder president Rob Walker. “The first two years were difficult because parents had never heard of us, and they thought they needed to leave the area to have a quality experience.
“This year, we were able to bring in some talented players we didn’t expect to get. We’ve reached the point where the local parents feel like they need to at least investigate our program. When they do investigate the program, they usually like what they see. We are already generating a lot of interest for next summer.”
The 2013 edition of the Thunder will be showcased at the upcoming FILA Nationals. The event, which will include over 100 national teams, will be played at the Suwanee Sports Academy outside of Atlanta from July 6-8. This is one part of a series of previews for the FILA Nationals where we will highlight the outstanding programs who will be competing.
The Thunder will be led in Suwanee by a quartet of talented young players. Kayla Kivinski is a 5-9 guard from the Class of 2014; Jordan Berenbaum is a 6-0 wing from the Class of 2014; Peyton Walker is a 5-10 forward from the Class of 2015; and Hayley Duren is a 6-4 post player out of the 2016 Class.
“Kayla is a very aggressive, attacking perimeter player,” Walker said. “She has a great frame, so she doesn’t get pushed around inside and she is a great rebounding guard.
“Jordan plays with her back to the basket for her high school team, but she is a traditional three for us. Jordan has a great wingspan and that helps make her a great defender. On the offensive end, she has three-point range and a nice mid-range game.
“Peyton (who is Rob’s daughter) is a prolific scorer. She can score from the inside or the outside, and she generates a lot of our offense.
“Hayley (who is rated as the No. 119 prospect in the Class of 2016 by the All Star Girls Report) is kind of a hybrid player, and she has a very bright future. She is a lefty, and she is another player who has her back to the basket for her high school team and then does more facing the basket with us. She has a nice shooting touch with her mid-range game, she is a good passer, and she can put the ball on the floor.”