The gymnasium wasn't packed, but the Rogers Lady Mountie team camp at King Arena had a little state tournament-type atmosphere for a few minutes on Friday afternoon.
Maryam Dauda hit a turnaround jumper to give Bentonville a 40-38 sudden-death victory over Conway in a rematch of last year's Class 6A state semifinals.
The 6-foot-4 rising junior already has several scholarship offers in hand, but she's getting set for a summer that includes playing at various AAU tournaments across the country with college coaches watching intently.
"It's going to be pretty crazy actually," Dauda said. "I play on a team from Missouri, and we practice whenever we can, and I drive to Columbia, which is like five hours."
That's become almost the norm for players today. But Fayetteville's Sasha Goforth has been looking forward to the team camp, which in a way kicks off her senior season.
"It's not really a super-big deal, but I'm excited to play with our team," Goforth said. "Some of my best friends are my teammates."
The 6-0 guard is rated the No. 4 guard and No. 21 overall prospect in the nation for the 2020 class according to ESPN and has 30 scholarship offers. But Goforth has narrowed the field to Arkansas and Oregon State and expects to make a decision soon.
"It's definitely hectic and stressful, but what we're getting is a full-ride scholarship," said Goforth, who recently made an unofficial visit to Arkansas. "So many people don't get the opportunities we have had."
Coriah Beck, Goforth's Fayetteville teammate, is a 5-10 rising senior also with multiple scholarship offers, but she admitted her college decision is still a ways away.
Beck said there's probably less pressure playing locally with her high school team, but the chemistry and bonds that are formed are special.
Bentonville coach Tom Halbmaier acknowledged it's difficult at times to get most of his team together for team camps in the summer. But he understands it's an opportunity for players to be seen by college coaches. But only to a point.
"Some of the tournaments, I feel like are a waste of time," Halbmaier said. "You're playing every weekend, and it takes away a lot of their summer."
Rogers High coach Preston Early said he's tried to take his team to a few team camps just in June to keep from possible conflicts when the AAU schedule ramps up in July.
"We try to give our kids the best of both worlds, but at the same time we still give them plenty of time off," said Early, who completed his 26th season.
But the veteran coach said summer work as a team is a bigger deal than it used to be.
"It's a deal where if you're not making progress in the summer, you're getting behind," Early said. "It used to be coaches who could get their teams in there in the summer could get ahead of folks. But now you've got to get a baseline of where you are so you know what to grow on in the fall."
But he also said the summer experience playing on the AAU circuit is valuable, too.
"We want to expose our best players to other high-level players because that's going to raise their level," Early said. "What you have seen, you can aspire to be like. If you haven't seen how fast somebody can play or how big those kids are. I love coming back and hearing our kids talk about 'I saw this kid' or 'I played against this one.'
"That kind of exposure you just can't buy until they've been on the court and felt it and learned to compete with it. Then they can work toward that. We see a lot of growth in our kids' confidence when they go off and play with teams like that."
Sports on 06/01/2019
Print Headline: Top prep players enjoy team camp experience