The rhythmic bounce of a basketball echoes across arenas filled to capacity as the nation watches the most refined and skilled collegiate female basketball players compete. As the spectators cheer from tip-off to final buzzer, there is bound to be a girl on the edge of her seat, dreaming of her turn to walk out on that court. What is often lost is the road from childhood pick-up basketball to emerging as a collegiate basketball player.
Gurlz Got Game has worked to fill that gap with wholesome basketball development experiences, featuring individual athletes and skill testing, competitive play, and opportunities athletes dream of.
The founders of Gurlz Got Game know a thing or two about finding, training and showcasing America’s elite youth athletes. Their résumés include the creation of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl (televised by NBC), featuring the nation’s top prep football talent, and the McDonald’s All-American Game (ESPN) showcasing America’s prep basketball elite. They have now turned to creating a national platform to present the nation’s next generation of female basketball stars.
For the training, they lined up Impact Basketball, which features Joe Abunassar and the IMPACT Basketball Team, the nation’s top basketball development experts who train top NBA and WNBA athletes and provide elite and world class development at top AAU events. For the exposure side, they enlisted Bret McCormick from All-Star Girls Report (ASGR), which provides the most comprehensive athlete evaluations of the nation’s top female basketball players to several hundred college coaches to assist them in recruiting.
Kicking off in December, Gurlz Got Game All-Star Showcase will host its first 100-athlete event in Easton, Pennsylvania, with nationally ranked players from the East Coast, including North Carolina’s Reigan Richardson, New York’s Nicole Melious, and Maryland’s Kiyomi McMiller.
Hailing from North Carolina, 8th grader Reigan Richardson has a love for the game that is undeniable. Her mother, Angelina McCall, admits to not being thrilled when Reigan began playing basketball in the 5th grade, but she could not deny her dreams. Reigan’s church league basketball team was only the beginning for this talented athlete, as she has progressed to exposure events, where she found the competition to be better and skill development paramount. Reigan dreams of a future involving college basketball and later coaching the game that has taught her so much.
“Being a coachable, selfless player, never about her or her scorecard, but all about the girls she is playing with,” said McCall, when asked what sets her daughter apart from other kids. Reigan Richardson’s national ranking is a direct result of her training, devotion, and passion for the game of basketball.
The number 10 on the jersey of 11-year-old Nicole Melious of Staten Island, New York, is a reminder of the impact of relentlessness. The jersey number is a tribute to her trainer, Candice Bellocchio, a standout Hofstra guard, who has been a pivotal influence in her basketball career. Refining her skills and fitness has been crucial to Nicole’s basketball development, but her father Danny Melious believes her success is a direct reflection of her competitive nature and her relentlessness. “A great example of her relentless drive,” says Melious, “is her shooting in the driveway on her own for three hours in the cold following a loss.”
Her competitiveness has fueled her to train six days a week and attend showcase events to reveal what she needs to improve. She has been pleased with early interest she has attracted from several Division I programs. With dreams of playing college basketball for Duke University, the University of Notre Dame or Saint John’s University, she continues the devotion and conscientiousness that allow her to pursue that dream.
For Kiyomi McMiller, size has never been a limiting factor. This 4-foot-10-inch athlete recalls having played for several years and always being the smallest player on her team. Her speed, agility and sheer natural talent for the game have allowed her to excel beyond what anyone would have expected. Her father Mike McMiller attributes her success to having started playing in kindergarten and her dedication to the gym. Mike and Ravilia, Kiyomi’s mother, have been feeding her talent since she was a young child, when she was eager to stretch with them, play ball with them, and practice the sport of basketball.
When asked what sets her apart from other athletes, Kiyomi has a simple answer: how much I practice.” With Ravilia and Mike at Off-Season Athletics, a basketball training and development company, Kiyomi trains at least five days a week to ensure she is continually sharpens her basketball IQ. This young, talented athlete has received letters of interest from schools in several conferences, including the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 10, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Southeastern Conference and others. Her father applauds Kiyomi’s open mind and desire not to limit herself to a specific conference or program. The basketball court has become her home, where every moment she is working to create her basketball future.
Gurlz Got Game is eager to continue to empower athletes like Reigan, Nicole and McMiller. The Forks Township Facility in Easton, Pennsylvania will be the stage on December 16-17 for the hottest, emerging female basketball talent.
Visit Impact Basketball where nominations are accepted for elite 5th through 8th graders.