Luckily, the St. Anthony’s girls basketball coach has unlimited minutes on his cellphone plan.
“His bill probably would have been through the roof,” Friars forward Jayla Jones-Pack said. “The amount of phone calls he has received about all of us, that’s a lot of minutes.”
Lots of minutes. Lots of calls. Lots of Division I players.
St. Anthony’s has five seniors — Jones-Pack, Sarah Edmond, Taylor Goode, Ally Murphy, and Etalyia Vogt — who will play D-I college basketball. With five players simultaneously being recruited, coach Ken Parham’s phone was usually high in minutes used and low in battery life. College coaches just kept on calling.
“I did have unlimited minutes so that was a good thing,“ Parham said with a laugh. “But it was time-consuming. Lots of calls, emails, text messages.”
Lots of talent. Lots of options. Lots of wins?
That last one comes, temporarily, with a question mark. While having an abundance of talented players is a luxury, it doesn’t guarantee success when the goal is a state championship. St. Anthony’s learned that last season after being eliminated in the state CHSAA semifinals by Christ the King. But with continued development, improved chemistry, and a sense of urgency, the Friars’ seniors are determined to see their careers end with a championship.
“We were all a part of each other’s recruiting process, making one another better,” Murphy said. “Now we have to continue to do that by playing together.”
Together. That word is heard frequently when talking to members of the Friars. They’re embracing an up-tempo style of play that stresses ball movement in hopes of wearing opposing teams down. By playing together.
“That’s the whole key, to get the players to buy into sacrificing some of themselves for the betterment of the team,” Parham said. “If we can do that, we can have some good success. If we don’t, the ‘I’ monster kills the whole project.”
The project, of course, is having so many D-I caliber players on the court with only one basketball. One of the catalysts in getting everyone involved will be Vogt, who’s bound for Towson University. With her elusiveness off the dribble, Vogt can create for herself or others.
“It’s just a matter of playing together, being unselfish, and doing what we have to do to win,” Vogt said.
Vogt is one of three point guards from the Friars’ Fab Five of D-I seniors. Goode, headed to Central Connecticut State, and Murphy, bound for Sacred Heart Academy, are playmaking point guards who must occasionally play off the ball. When doing so, they make their impact by spreading the floor with their ability to shoot from the perimeter.
“It’s easy in a way because everyone knows their responsibilities,” Goode says. “Our basketball IQ is very high as a team considering we are all D-I players. We manage to move the ball well and play together as team.”
Edmond, headed to Howard University, makes that a little easier by bringing a different skill set. An shooting guard who can also slash, she brings athleticism and aggressiveness.
“When we play together and play smart,” Edmond said, “we can be hard to defend.”
Hardest of all to defend could be Jones-Pack, a 6-4 shot-blocking forward headed to the University of Central Florida. Her outside shot forces defenders to stay close, yet her quick first-step helps her blow past opposing bigs. And when she draws double teams, she has plenty of options on the kick out.
“You have confidence in your teammates because you know they are so good,” Jones-Pack said. “Having other Division I prospects on your team gives us more confidence to win a state title, and possibly a Federation title. If we play hard and play together, we can beat everyone.”
As they do so, the phone calls will continue. Not for the seniors. But for players like junior Jasmine White, a 6-2 face-up post player. And junior Maia Moffitt, arguably the team’s best all-around player. And sophomore Lauren Hackett, a pass-first point guard.
All of whom are D-I prospects.
“Sometimes, as a coach, you’re limited because you don’t have the personnel,” Parham said. “I have the personnel to kind of do whatever I want on the basketball court. They all have different strengths. And they are all capable of having an explosive game at any time.”
Which is why his phone never stops ringing.