Just 17 seconds into the game against Friends Academy Wednesday, Tamara Simpson forced a steal. Then she had an assist, got two more steals and scored on a three-point play in the first 2:30 minutes.
Even a basketball novice could figure out that the Portledge sophomore guard plays above her competition. Simpson transferred from North Babylon, which has been one of the most successful girls basketball programs on Long Island in recent seasons. Portledge is not a school that attracts upper-echelon talent for basketball.
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"I love the school," Simpson said after a 48-23 win over Friends Academy. " . . . I'm learning and they make sure you succeed."
Simpson is hoping to attend a school like Princeton or Stanford for the academics and basketball. She wants to go to medical school and become a doctor.
While the school will help her education, she is aware the competition in the IPPSAL is not at the same level as North Babylon's. She had 21 points, 14 steals, and 5 rebounds Wednesday in 25 minutes. Simpson is averaging 24 points, 9 steals, 7 rebounds and 2 assists in five games for Portledge (5-0). Often she just took the ball out of an opponent's hands with ease.
"I am not concerned about the competition," Simpson said. "I work out with my trainer Jerry Powell and I play good competition playing AAU with the Philadelphia Belles. I wasn't even thinking about the basketball when I came here. It was about academics."
Simpson picked up her second foul with 4:50 left in the second quarter and sat the rest of the first half. Portledge scored three points in her absence. When Simpson came out for the third quarter, she had eight points and four steals in the first four minutes.
"You can't describe the talent gap," Portledge coach Walter Amadio said. "Our league is down right now. She's head and shoulders above anyone else in the league. The fact she was willing to come to Portledge for academics and give up the powerhouse basketball that North Babylon has shows her level of maturity."