By ZACH BOLINGER
Daily Record Sports Writer
BERLIN — Cierra Bravard was taller than her kindergarten teacher.
These days, the 6-foot-5 Sandusky Perkins junior continues to shoot up the charts.
Despite her state-ranked team losing to both Cincinnati Princeton and Cincinnati Oak Hills this weekend, Bravard did what many players at the Classic in the Country IV had hoped to do. From a prospect standpoint, the value of her stock raised with strong play.
She averaged 22 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots per game.
“When I saw all those college coaches I didn’t get nervous. I got excited,” said Bravard, who was 6-foot tall as 13-year-old but now insists she’s done growing. “Once the game starts, I seem to forget they’re even there. I try to play the way I always do, no matter who’s watching.”
Bravard showed nimble feet and an ability to handle the ball and shoot the outside jumper. The college coaches were drooling and couldn’t wait to make their pitch. It didn’t happen at the CitC, though, where coaches were seen but not heard.
The NCAA requires separate seating for coaches at high school events. Away from their respective campuses, coaches are not allowed to interact with players and/or their parents. A pre-recorded message before each game is played, reminding players and parents to refrain from approaching coaches and engaging in conversation.
“You’ve gotta be here. You’ve gotta at least show your face,” said University of Southern California assistant Kai Felton. “We will get a lot of our kids out of our back yard, but we currently have three kids from the Midwest on our team and we’re interested in some more. You show them that by being here, then worry about the rest later.”
Most college programs start to heavily pursue players as juniors. Colleges can send letters at the beginning of that junior season, but can not call or meet face-to-face with a player until March 1. Players can visit the campus at any point throughout their high school career.
After a player’s junior year is finished, college coaches and the individual can correspond via e-mail or letter at any time throughout the remainder of her career. Coaches and players can talk three times a month between July and November, and by then players normally make a decision on what school to attend.
Cleveland Central Catholic senior and Ohio State signee Jantel Lavender knows the process. She is also well aware of what the CitC event, and the few others of its kind, can do for high school prospects.
“I tell everyone on our team, everyone on other teams that I know, to bring their all because you can get some great looks down here,” Lavender said. “This is a great tournament to show off what you have to offer, really get your name out there. Especially if you don’t play AAU ball.”
Lavender, an athletic 6-4 forward, didn’t have to prove much. Since junior high she has been considered the best post player in the country at her age.
Notre Dame Preparatory Academy junior Christina Lesane wasn’t so lucky. While gifted, and getting looks from many lower mid-majors, Lesane is not ranked amongst the top-tier hoopsters where she feels she belongs. But with 29 points in 29 minutes against Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame Sunday and solid all-around effort against Dayton Chaminade-Julienne Monday, she raised some eyebrows.
“I looked at this as a great opportunity to play in front of a lot of college coaches — show them my style of play,” said Lesane, who has received mild interest from South Florida, Syracuse and Ohio amongst others. “I really wasn’t expecting anything like this. … There were a lot of girls here trying to get to the same level I’m trying to get to. It was a battle out there on the court.”
That wasn’t the case with the recruiting wars at this year’s Classic in the Country. The off-court competition was hush-hush.