The Fairfax Stars U16 Girls Nike Elite team completed another long summer of AAU travel basketball on Monday night with a fifth-place finish at the 2013 Nike Nationals Invitational Tournament in North Augusta, S.C. Playing in arguably the country’s most prestigious AAU girls summer tournament, the Stars fell 52-49 in the quarterfinals of the Gold Bracket on Monday against the Cy-Fair Shock, a Texas team that went on to beat the Cal Stars, 69-59, in the championship.
This marked the 10th straight year that Fairfax Stars Founder Aggie McCormick led her U16 squad to the Nike showcase tournament, which hosts more than 700 college coaches watching 20 of the best teams in the country do battle. The Stars finished second in their difficult first-round pool with a 4-1 record to advance to the Gold Bracket championship round.
“It’s the best tournament in the country, there’s no doubt about it,” said McCormick, whose program is the third oldest official Nike affiliate of the bunch. “There are so many college coaches at Nike Nationals, which is one big benefit, but the other benefit is that it’s run extremely well. Unlike the other tournaments during the summer you come right into pool play and you’re playing the toughest teams in the country. You better be playing your best basketball or you’re in trouble.”
With practices held 3-4 times per week throughout the summer, the 11 players on the Fairfax Stars’ U16 roster are dedicated to realizing their dreams of playing competitive college basketball. Showcase tournaments around the country get them looks from college coaches throughout the summer months, but they hardly compare to the attention lavished on last week’s Nike competition.
“We had done multiple tournaments before that, and there would be about 20 coaches at each game,” said Kelly Koshuta, a rising junior at Madison High. “But at Nike Nationals there were hundreds of coaches watching each game. There were chairs set up around the court, so you’re within like two feet of them when you’re on the court, and then there was a second level where the coaches could watch you from above. It was overwhelming to see how many coaches there were and to see all the big names on their T-shirts.”
Coaches are not allowed to initiate contact with players until Sept. 1, but they can reach out to McCormick to get in touch with prospects in the meantime. Koshuta, a 6-foot-2 power forward, has garnered increased interest from college coaches throughout the summer, and her high-scoring performance at Nike Nationals didn’t hurt matters. She had already impressed earlier this summer at tryouts for the USA U16 National Team in Colorado Springs, where she made the final cut of 40 players remaining from an original pool of about 200. Koshuta didn’t make the team, but her status as a top 50 prospect for the Class of 2015 is impressive considering she was cleared from an ACL injury in March.
Koshuta has been grateful for the presence of Marta Sniezek, the Stars’ standout point guard with a knack for feeding the ball into the post at opportune times. Sniezek, a McLean resident going into her junior year at National Cathedral School, solidified her status as one of the DMV’s top players with several stellar performances at Nike Nationals. Karlie Cronin of Oakton High and Lindsey Oblitey of Paul VI Catholic were the other area standouts participating in the tournament.
“For me it’s all about the kids,” McCormick said. “It’s an enormous amount of work to build relationships with these college coaches - when they get in touch with you to respond immediately, get back on the phone, do all that work. It’s constant. You’ve just got to be on top of it to be able to take care of your administrative responsibilities and make sure you’re there for the kids.”