The Summer Tune Up, hosted last weekend by Stockton Lincoln head coach and respected girls basketball analyst Chris Roemer, saw an upstart Team Mariani come away with the championship.
The fact Team Mariani won may be a bit of a surprise, but the buzz at Lincoln and Delta College where the event was held June 27-28 was about a 6-foot-1 incoming freshman who everyone that sees her play comes away thinking she might be the next superstar from the Stockton area.
The Girls of Summer Caravan did not see Aquira DeCosta play since we didn’t make the Tune Up event, but Marissa Holbert of Passthaball did.
“She was cool, very athletic, but she struggled a bit against older girls her height, but as an eighth-grader everyone thought she was awesome”, said Holbert, who has been a volunteer correspondent for the Cal-Hi Sports Girls of Summer tour the past three years.
And when Stockton St. Mary’s and Stockton Mavericks head coach Tom Gonsalves talks, we listen. Gonsalves, who has won six state championships since 2003, has also had three Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Basketball State Players of the Year since that time — Dominique Banks (2003), Jacki Gemelos in 2006 and Chelsea Gray in 2010.
“She’s unbelievable,” he said of DeCosta. “She’s still not even a freshman yet so she’s not thick and gets pushed around inside by the big girls. But she’s 6-1 with a 6-5 wingspan, can jump out of the gym, handle the ball, shoot the three. She can do it all.”
“She’s already special. The only two I’ve had at this stage that were this special were Jacki and Chelsea, and that’s saying a lot.”
The Mavericks lost 57-27 in the semifinals to the Cal Ballaz and DeCosta did get a lesson from 2015 post Destiny Graham (Eastside Prep, East Palo Alto) but Graham already has five D1 offers.
The Ballaz went on to lose 53-49 to a Team Mariani team that has been playing without arguably its best player, incoming Piedmont senior post Kalea Pickeral-Denis. She tore her ACL in April after sitting out her junior season because she was declared ineligible after transferring from Oakland Tech (Oakland) to Millennium, a specialized school within Piedmont.
Another Mariani girl that had to sit out for the same course of action, and who was a standout at the Tune Up was a girl that caught our eye in last year’s Girls of Summer, incoming Piedmont junior Ny’dajah Jackson. A third girl that went the same route and plays for Mariani is incoming senior Amelia Li.
According to John Phillips, who founded Team Mariani last year, the MVP for the Tune Up was 6-foot Rebecca Williams from Woodland Christian of Woodland.
“With Kalea injured, Becca stepped up and had to do things she hasn’t been asked to do before,” Phillips said. “She was consistent every game both inside and out.”
More standouts from the event from Marissa at Passthaball:
Nyela Cade (Oakland Tech, Oakland) 2016 Team Mariani
Ashanti Coleman (Sacred Heart Cathedral, San Francisco) 2015 Cal Ballaz
Jaimoni Coleman-Wech (Berkeley) 2015 Cal Ballaz
Sammy DeHart (Nevada Union, Grass Valley) 2015 Cal Sparks NorCal
Alyssa Gable (St. Joseph Notre Dame, Alameda) 2015 Blythe Basketball
Gigi Garcia (McClatchy, Sacramento) 2016 JBS Elite
Jaiana Harris (Redwood, Larkspur) 2017 Team Mariani
Loretta Kakala (East Union, Manteca) 2017 Stockton Mustangs
Destiny Lee (McClatchy, Sacramento) 2015 JBS Elite
Kian McNair (Salesian, Richmond) 2015 Cal Ballaz
Dajanay Powell (McClymonds, Oakland) 2015 Team Mariani
Ashleen Quirke (Los Gatos) 2015 EBX
Aisia Robertson (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) 2015 Team Mariani
Carlissa Shipp (St. Mary’s, Stockton) 2015 Stockton Mavericks
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend