Kayla Ware squeezes off a shot during Tuesday’s practice at Marshall Junior High. CNJ photo by Rick White.
By Rick White
Forward Kayla Ware sees herself as an ambassador on and off the court.
Diminutive point guard Sarah Johnson worries about the caliber of players she’ll face.
Delany Ware has heard stories about 6-footers from all over the country. As the tallest player on the Clovis Wildcats 11-under AAU girls basketball team at 5-5, that makes her nervous.
The Wildcats are one of 102 teams from around the country that qualified for the AAU national 11-and-under tournament starting Friday in Kenner, La.
Clovis, 28-12 this season, will go as the New Mexico state champion.
“I want to go there and meet people,” said Kayla Ware, who is no relation to Delany. “Then when I get older I can tell people I went to Louisiana.
“We want to go down there and represent New Mexico and show people that we play hard.”
Delany Ware said the Wildcats are used to playing against bigger players — they played in the 12-and-under division most tournaments this season.
“We just have to be aggressive and take the ball to the basket even if they’re bigger than we are,” she said.
The Wildcats will play six games in pool play the first two days, with the top two teams advancing to the winners’ bracket of a double-elimination tournament.
“They don’t quit,” Clovis coach Lanier McElrath said in describing his team. “Sometimes they’re a little lazy in practice but they never stop trying in games no matter what.
“They play really well together and they don’t mind sharing the ball.”
Kayla Ware and Catharine Cordova usually carry the scoring load for the Wildcats while Delany Ware and McElrath said it is Johnson who makes the team go.
“We pass the ball really well,” Delany Ware said. “And our point guard really does a good job of seeing the floor.”
Johnson, the team’s smallest player at 4-9, knows the chances of the Wildcats winning a national title are slim.
“We want to go down there and show them how good we are,” she said.