A.L. Brown hoops standout Aaliyah Spears is completing a season in which she will have played in at least 26 games. But things will get much busier for her in terms of basketball when the high school schedule is complete.
The sophomore guard is heavily entrenched in the showcase basketball arena. Starting in March and continuing through the end of the summer, she says she will play in between 100 and 200 games as her team travels to numerous tournaments this side of the Mississippi River.
The showcase tournaments are designed to expose players to college coaches, but Spears is likely to receive even more attention coming off a fine high school season in which the point guard has averaged nearly 15 points and three assists per game.
Spears has played on AAU teams since she was 7. She arrived at A.L. Brown last year with a good reputation as a middle school player.
It's rare enough for a high school freshman to crack the starting lineup, but Spears had the extra challenge of running the offense from her point guard position. Adding a greater degree of difficulty was the Wonders' program's rebuilding status.
"She had a pretty good season," said A.L. Brown coach Tosha Robinson. "She was learning the style of play that we like to run. She's played AAU for years and played middle school and came into our system. She had to make some adjustments (to) the speed of play."
Spears started drawing attention from college coaches playing in showcase events last summer. Playing for Phoenix South, Spears says her team played in tournaments at least every other weekend.
"When we go to tournaments," said Spears. "(College coaches) are sitting on the sidelines taking notes. The only thing we can say is 'hey' and they can say 'hey' back. They can't approach us."
Spears has received letters of interest from some college programs - not unusual for many players her age and ability level. Robinson says she has sent game video tape to specific schools and they have responded with letters of gratitude.
By NCAA rules, high school players are not allowed to take official visits to colleges until their senior year. Spears says she has taken several unofficial visits and adds she is most in favor of Tennessee Tech and Winthrop at this time.
Entering her sophomore high school season, Robinson's expectations of Spears centered around her play as a point guard.
"I expected her to continue with leadership at the point position and to distribute the ball and see the whole floor," she said. "... using the key components that a true point guard has and to be a leader."
But with her scoring ability and her skills as an outside shooter, Spears has sometimes been shifted to shooting guard by Robinson. She has responded by lighting up the scoreboard in several games this season.
Spears was named to the all-tournament team at the Carolina Day Christmas tourney in Asheville even though the Wonders lost two of three games. She scored 12 points against Cannon, had 23 points on 10-18 shooting in a win over Adelphi Christian Academy (S.C.) and notched 20 points and six rebounds versus Rabun Gap-Nacoochee (G.A.).
Spears matched her season high of 23 points in an early season game against Lexington but her most important contribution came Feb. 9 against Jay M. Robinson.
Spears tallied 19 points, eight assists and four steals as the Wonders upset the Bulldogs 67-62 to secure a 7-7 South Piedmont 3A regular season record (11-13 overall entering the conference tournament).
By finishing in fifth place in the SPC, the Wonders had secured a berth in the state playoffs which were scheduled to start this week. When the season concludes, Spears will join her team with the Carolina Basketball Club.
The team's first tournament will be Mar. 18-20 in Greensboro.