Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Duncanville’s pipeline for players keeps it positioned for perennial success
DUNCANVILLE — Cathy Self-Morgan scheduled a handful of scrimmages to help prepare her team for the upcoming basketball season.
But the veteran Duncanville coach knows that she doesn’t even need to leave Sandra Meadows Arena for healthy competition.
Last week the varsity team concluded practice with two half-court scrimmages between the varsity and junior varsity teams. Those games provide some of the best competition Duncanville can get.
“When I put the junior varsity kids against these guys, they don’t ease up,” Self-Morgan said. “They know they all have to step up.”
A pipeline of success from freshman teams to JV and varsity competition is part of what makes Duncanville one of the top girls basketball programs in the country.
Duncanville enters the 2013-14 season on a 70-game winning streak after claiming the last two state championships. It can become the state’s second 5A team to win three straight championships.
The first team to accomplish the feat, of course, was Duncanville, which won 134 consecutive games on its way to three state titles from 1987-89.
Duncanville returns arguably the best backcourt in the state behind guards Ariel Atkins and Tasia Foman, both of whom committed to Texas during the off-season.
“You can’t really compare all three of these teams,” Atkins said. “You have different personalities, different bodies and different mindsets.”
But at least two things seem to always remain the same: the quality of Duncanville’s sub-varsity programs and the assistant coaches who prepare them.
Self-Morgan’s assistant coaches have been with her for a combined 26 years. Varsity assistant Elesha Walker has been at Duncanville for each of Self-Morgan’s 13 seasons. JV and Freshman B coach Nicole Villarreal has been with Self-Morgan for eight seasons, and Freshman A coach Carla Denning has been with the program for five.
There are also six middle school coaches, two of whom have been in Duncanville for more than eight seasons, and two that were former varsity players.
“These coaches know what it is to be a Pantherette and to be a part of this program,” Self-Morgan said.
Four more coaches have worked with Self-Morgan since her arrival 13 years ago. Three of them went onto head coaching jobs.
With the help of her assistants, Self-Morgan’s sub-varsity programs have been about as successful as possible at each level.
The program’s success ripples down, but more important, it ripples up.
“We have good freshman teams. Real good. They either go undefeated or lose only a couple games,” Self-Morgan said. “They really step up to the plate.”
Having talented athletes and successful students like Atkins and Foman around is a boon to all of Duncanville’s teams. Their confidence and leadership rub off on the junior varsity players.
Both seniors were part of the last two Duncanville championships. And while they’re glad the pressure of the recruiting process is over, nothing has changed regarding their commitment as Pantherettes.
“We’re not done here yet,” Foman said. “It’s good that we’re going to college and stuff, but we’re not thinking about that. We’re just thinking about getting that third ring right now.”
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN.
News and notes
Watch out for sophomores: The 2016 recruiting class is shaping up to be a good one throughout the Dallas area. Three local kids are among the nation’s top recruits, according to ESPN’s HoopGurlz.
Flower Mound sophomore Lauren Cox is the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2016. Cox is drawing interest from some of the country’s top programs.
Cedar Hill forward Joyner Holmes is the fifth-ranked recruit. She’s athletic enough to play all five positions.
Plano West sophomore Natalie Chou clocks in at No. 12. She was SportsDay’s newcomer of the year last season.
McKinney North has strong freshman class: A trio of freshmen are making McKinney North coach Michael Oldham excited about his program in 2013 and beyond.
The talented group includes 5-8 point guard Breah Powell, 5-9 guard Stephanie Jackson and 5-10 forward Tia Wright. All three will be contributors to the varsity team, which finished last season as the second-ranked team in the area.
“We’ve got a lot of kids coming back, and these freshmen are going to be a great supplement to them,” Oldham said.
District 7-5A still loaded for bear: The most talented district in the area is sure to once again be District 7-5A, where Duncanville, Mansfield Timberview, DeSoto and Cedar Hill all have state-title aspirations.
Those four teams combined for a 127-25 record last season, and eight of those losses came against state champion Duncanville.
Preseason all-area team
Ariel Atkins, Duncanville
Sr., 5-10, Guard
The Texas pledge averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 steals, 6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the two-time defending Class 5A state champions last season. Atkins received almost every top honor, too, including District 7-5A MVP, SportsDay’s player of the year and Gatorade player of the year. Atkins shot 55.4 percent from the floor and 49.2 percent from 3-point range.
Terriell Bradley, Mansfield Timberview
Sr., 5-9, Guard
Bradley is a quick, athletic guard who will take charge of one of the most potent offenses in the Dallas area. Bradley was a combo guard last season, but she’ll shift primarily to the point after the departure of Stanford-bound Lili Thompson. The senior was a first-team all-district selection in 7-5A, and she scored in double figures in all three Timberview playoff games. Bradley is committed to Kansas.
Kennedy Leonard, Southlake Carroll
Jr., 5-9, Guard
Leonard has been a mainstay in Southlake Carroll’s starting lineup since her freshman season, when she was named SportsDay’s newcomer of the year. The junior averaged 12.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists during the regular season on the way to earning District 4-5A MVP honors. Leonard holds offers from Baylor, Oklahoma State, Colorado and SMU, among others.
Alisha Washington, Lincoln
Sr., 5-7, Guard
The senior point guard averaged 17.2 points and 3.2 steals for Lincoln, the Class 4A state runner-up. Washington’s speed makes her a matchup problem for defenses, and she’ll be able to feed the ball to a pair of talented forwards in Jalah Walton and Jasmine Cooper. Washington backed away from a commitment to Texas A&M during the off-season and is now committed to New Mexico State.
Micayla Buckner, Gar. Naaman Forest
Sr., 6-3, Forward
The 6-3 post has great court vision and an ability to post up under the basket or bury jumpers from 12-15 feet out. Buckner averaged a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds last season and was a first-team all-district selection. She received a scholarship offer from Baylor this summer and promptly accepted.
Teams to watchSouthlake Carroll
Coach: Teri Morrison
2012-13 record: 23-10, regional quarterfinalist
Expectations are high in Southlake. The defending District 4-5A champions return six all-district players and four starters. Point guard Kennedy Leonard was the area’s assist leader last season. Leonard has 408 career assists and is on the verge of breaking Kristi Eveland’s school record of 502. Shooting guard Gretchen Morrison averaged 12 points and buried 76 3-pointers. Carroll has size, too, in 5-10 senior forward Savannah Nauwelaers, and 6-0 junior post Madison Drescher. Keep an eye out for 5-10 freshman forward Priscilla Smeenge, who should make an impact during her first season.
Coach: Kristen Perry
2012-13 record: 36-4, regional semifinalist
Perry, a first-year head coach, has big shoes to fill. She replaces veteran Don Patterson, who built West into a state power during his 14 seasons. “I was with Coach Patterson for 10 years, so our philosophies are pretty much the same,” Perry said. “A great defense is better than any offense we can set up. We’ll run a full-court press the entire game if we can do it.” West has two of the best shooting guards in the area in Tyara Warren and Natalie Chou. Warren, who is committed to West Virginia, averaged 12.8 points last season. Chou, a sophomore She averaged 9.9 points last season and was named SportsDay’s newcomer of the year.
Coach: Cassandra McCurdy
2012-13 record: 29-10, regional semifinalist
Skyline has a strong core of returners in junior post Daija Thomas, senior forward Charisma Matlock and junior guard Christalah Lyons — all of whom played key roles in the squad’s run to the regional semis. The biggest impact for Skyline, though, is likely to come from junior Alexandria Gulley, the 5-8 guard who committed to Baylor as an eighth grader. Gulley sat out last season with a knee injury after transferring from Triple-A Academy. Gulley’s younger sister, freshman guard Jaylan Gulley, will be a contributor, as well.
Coach: Kit Martin
2012-13 record: 31-6, regional quarterfinalist
Timberview has as strong a core as any team in the state. Senior Terriell Bradley, a Kansas pledge, is a spark plug on both sides of the floor. She was a combo guard last year, but will primarily play the point this season. JaLea Bennett, an Arizona pledge, is a 6-0 power forward, and she’ll be joined in the post by 6-2 forward Dayo Olabode, who is committed to Texas Tech. “This group has been a heralded class for a long time,” Martin said. “We feel like this is their opportunity to get it done.” Timberview finished behind state champion Duncanville in District 7-5A and lost to Flower Mound Marcus in regional quarters.
Coach: Carlesa Dixon
2012-13 record: 36-5, state runner-up
An up-tempo offense and a full-court pressure defense has worked pretty well for Lincoln, so don’t expect anything to change. But the team is looking to finish the job it started last year, when it lost a 65-60 heartbreaker to Georgetown in the state finals. “Finish. That’s our motto,” Dixon said. “Just finish. We incorporate that into everything we do, whether it’s running lines in practice or knocking down shots. We just want to make sure to finish.” Fleet-footed guard Alisha Washington and 5-10 senior forward Jasmine Cooper are both committed to New Mexico State. Forward Jalah Walton was a playmaker off the bench last season, averaging 7.7 points and nine rebounds.
Coach: Courtney Phillips
2012-13 record: 28-8, regional quarterfinalist
The three seniors and three juniors returning to Seguin have all been on the varsity team since they were freshmen, and there’s no substitute for that kind of experience. “We have three years of veteran status,” Phillips said. “There’s not a whole lot of new stuff that we have to go over or teach these kids. The girls know what we do, and we do it quite well.” Seguin enters the season as the second-ranked team in Class 4A, according to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. Point guard Aundra Stovall and forward Alarie Mayze averaged double digits last season, and Mayze was the leading rebounder with 7.5 per game.
Coach: Jordan Davis
2012-13 record: 27-7, regional semifinalist
Celina enters the 2013-14 season as the top-ranked team in Class 3A, according to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. The news was a bit of a surprise to Davis, whose squad tied for second in District 10-3A last year and didn’t make the state tournament. “I don’t know if the kids saw it, and I didn’t tell them,” Davis said of the ranking. “I was really surprised. I realize we didn’t lose anybody from last year, but it seems we have some respect from the people around us.” Senior guard Sarah Cantu, who is committed to Air Force, is a four-year varsity player. She’ll be joined in the backcourt by guards KJ Stastny and Callie Wells. Junior forward Kynese Davis will be an impact player in the post.
Other players to watch
Getting looks from major-college recruiters
Averaged 10.2 points, 4 assists last season
Committed to Louisiana Tech
Committed to UT-Arlington
Flower Mound Marcus
Averaged 12.2 points, 4 rebounds
Averaged 11.3 points as a freshman
Committed to Arkansas State
Plano John Paul II
Committed to Iowa State
On ESPN’s watch list for 2017 class
First-team all-district, averaged 8 points
Monday: First day of games
Dec. 26-28: Sandra Meadows Classic
Feb 8: District certification deadline
Feb. 27-March 1: UIL state tournament
Feb. 28-March 1: TAPPS state tournament