By Carl Adamec
Recee’ Caldwell came out of the semifinal game of the Fort Bend (Texas) girls basketball tournament for the final time Saturday afternoon with 2:06 left and her C.T. Johnson High team comfortably in front.
It didn’t mean her work was done. As the Jaguars wrapped up their 52-27 win over Hightower, the 5-foot-7 junior point guard made her voice heard in support of her teammates whether it was calling out a play or defense or congratulating on a good play.
“It’s important to me because you can see as a group that we have each other’s back,” Caldwell said. “If I see something on the bench, I can help out my teammate. We have a close group of players. And it’s a big part of being a leader — talking, being vocal, leading by example.
“I’m a point guard. I have to be a floor general.”
Later Saturday afternoon in Pasadena, Texas, 6-3 forward Brianna Turner was leading her Manvel High squad to a third-place finish in the silver bracket of the Texas Invitational Tournament of Champions with a 70-51 win over Pearland.
“I just do what I can to help my team be as successful as it can be, whether that’s running the floor, or posting up, or dribbling the ball, or getting rebounds,” Turner said.
How ironic the weekend that the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team is visiting Texas A&M for Sunday’s nationally televised game, two of their top recruiting targets are playing about 20 miles apart in the Houston suburbs about a 90-minute drive from College Station.
Caldwell, from San Antonio, did not return home with her teammates after Saturday night’s final so she could go to the game. Turner and her teammates were headed to the game Sunday, according to Manvel coach Bryan Harris.
Both have scholarship offers, with Caldwell’s coming during a recent unofficial visit to Storrs.
If UConn does not sign any recruits this spring, it will have six scholarships available for the Class of 2014. One is going to Courtney Ekmark, a 6-0 guard from Phoenix who committed last May.
Caldwell averaged 17.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 6.1 assists as a sophomore at Johnson High. She was a member of the U-16 national team in 2011. In August of that year she gave an oral commitment to Baylor but reopened the recruiting process three months. She does not have a final list but says she has offers “from everyone she wants.” Among the schools she has made trips to are UConn, Duke, UCLA, Texas, Texas A&M, and TCU.
“We’re taking it slowly,” Caldwell said. “We’re not making any mistakes anymore. We’re open to anyone. We’re getting there. I want the right fit. In this (recruiting) process you have to be selfish. This is about where you’re going to be for four years.”
While visiting UConn, she met with coach Geno Auriemma and his staff and watched practice. Then it was time to meet the players.
“I loved it,” Caldwell said. “It wasn’t as cold as everyone said it was going to be. I talked to Coach Auriemma. I talked to the whole coaching staff. The girls were really cool. It was just a good experience.
“If it’s an unofficial visit, it’s just how everything is. I saw practice, I saw how the girls interacted with each other, it was just a regular day. The red carpet wasn’t rolled out for me.”
Caldwell said she likes to model her game after Hall of Famer Magic Johnson along with current NBA stars Deron Williams and Stephen Curry.
What about her hometown standout Tony Parker from San Antonio?
“He’s a Spur. I’m a Lakers fan,” Caldwell said with a smile. “I’m from California (originally), I’m going to stay true to my roots.”
And she’s true to herself as a point guard.
“She’s a floor leader, a student of the game, and passionate about the game,” Johnson High coach Randy Evans said. “Just a good team player.”
Manvel’s Harris speaks as highly about his star Turner.
“She can play any position,” he said. “She’s a great student, a great kid, a great personality. The best thing about her is she has no idea she’s that good. She doesn’t have the swag most kids do at that level. The sky is the limit for her. Wherever she goes she’s going to be a diamond.”
Turner, a former AAU teammate of UConn freshman guard Moriah Jefferson, averaged 20.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 4.7 blocked shots as a sophomore.
Last summer, she played for the United States national team that won a gold medal at the U-17 world championships.
“It helped me a lot because I got to play with great players like Diamond DeShields and Taya Reimer and it was a good experience,” Turner said. “I learned a lot beacuse they were older than me. It was unbelievable.”
Turner said a number of her USA Basketball teammates have reached out to her to give her advice about the recruiting process. She was asked how many suggest she go to the school that they have signed with.
“All of them,” Turner said with a laugh.
“Next year, that will be me. It’s only a year away. It seemed like so far but it is coming up quick. All my USA teammates have already committed and it’s like, ‘I just played with these girls two months ago and they know where they’re going the next four years.’ I don’t feel any pressure. I’m just trying to find the best school for me as far as acadmeics and basketball.”
Turner’s mother and father played Division I college basketball. She will likely narrow her list of colleges by the end of the month, though she expects to take official visits next year. Among the schools she’s made unofficial visits to are UConn, Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, LSU, and Tennessee.
The eyes of Texas are upon Caldwell and Turner. So are Connecticut’s.