CaliforniaPreps - The Mamba National Showcase: Bring Yo SHAQ SIZE Game!
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The Mamba National Showcase: Bring Yo SHAQ SIZE Game!

What’s your wild rabbit? Ever seen that Hennessy commercial featuring rapper Nas, him looking into the eyes of passengers on the NYC Train?

What’s my wild rabbit, what is E-Woods chasing? That killer performance, tourney, venue so breathtaking that the readers will be inspired to go check it out.

Come here, lean in, and I’ll whisper in your ear the holy grail of AAU tourney experiences I’ve found at the Mamba Sports Academy.

That spot is hotness, located a 1/2 hour north of LA. The event? Cal Storm Girl AAU Nationals in early July.

As I walked in the Mamba July 8th, high noon Sunday, I spied with my lil eye, my guy Shaqir O’Neal and his lil sister Me’arah. She’s a rising 9th grader, all 6-3 of her. I say “What’s good Shaqir, did you like grow 1/2 a foot taller last month bro? I can’t wait to see you and our guy TJ Muhammad killin’ it at Xrds next season.”

I sit down to see Me’arah’s squad, my first time watching how they get down. They’re called LA’s Finest. The gym erupts with “Oohs and ahhs” as the crowd sees Shaq enter the gym.

Fans are stacked people on top of people like chips at a casino to watch it all, I’m like “spin the roulette wheel, watch the metal ball skip around, I’m letting it all ride on red #23.”

LA’s Finest’s coach is Dominique Scott, who used to ball out nice for USC a few years ago. You might ask is Dom a dope coach E-Woods? Yezzir, Dom rolls as hard at coaching as our guy Olin Simplis does at being a DOPE trainer: both a cold piece of work at their craft. 100

LA’s Finest is freaking loaded, #5 and #13 got me like, “daaaang!” Just imagine the AAU version of Goliath incarnate, they have their own version of the death line up. Imagine what was going through their opponent’s head in pregame. Santa Clarita based Troop West White squad was playing that David role fosho.

Shaq pays a visit to the bench and delivers some knowhow.
Shaq pays a visit to the bench and delivers some knowhow.

1st half? Ish went down crazy! Why? Lizzy Dreher, a rising soph guard for Troop West, nearly melted my face off as her jumper went pop, pop, pop, AK-47 style. She emptied her clip by nailing 5 treys in a row.

From where? Like 40 feet out. Guarded? Like double teamed. For the whole game? No, like all in the first freaking half, drop the mic son!

What do you think Shaq was fixing to do after witnessing all that in the first half?

Shaq Daddy himself, with his blue Diesel Bros shirt attire, flipped the script and went from watching the game court-side to deciding that he was going to sit on the bench and help coach a lil.

Can he do that? Whose gon stop him? 2nd half Shaq gets all animated, high fiving the girls on the bench, fist pumping, hyping up his baby girl’s team, his eyes wide, energizing everyone like only HE CAN. Does it matter who won? We all won, just by being there.

#Coach Shaq Daddy

Back to Lizzy. I ask #10,, who was shooting like #30 for the Golden State Warriors, her nasty, certified sniper stroke, I asked Lizzy, “What was in your head as you did your rain dance out there? You actually forced Me’arah O’Neal to come out beyond the arc to try and block you. They were triple teaming you out there girl, what were you feeling?

She said, “I just shot my shot Erik, I locked in for our Troop West team to ride the groove. That game gave me good confidence, I’ll try to keep the streak going for our Moorpark High team next season. It was just a moment I won’t soon forget.”

What things happen at Mamba National Showcase? Stars are born.

#Sprinkle some of my ashes at The Mamba Academy

What does The Mamba Sports Academy represent? It’s more than modern gleaming glass and steel gym, more than just a state of the art facility that holds its own with the vaunted IMG in Florida.

It makes other spots like The MAP gym pale in comparison. Ever wonder what the genius of Kobe Bryant was? He once said if he were eating lunch with you and you had food hanging from your mouth, he’d care enough about you to tell you wipe your mouth. Point is, Kobe wants you to be the best version of yourself as a person and as a basketball player, that dude is a caring perfectionist.

The Mamba Academy is run by the tireless and joyful George Quintero, who reps the spirit of fair competition. Why is George like the MF man to me? Like Kobe, he works step by step for kids to improve skills in his Cal Storm AAU program.

Firsthand, I’ve seen many improve dramatically. He’s a master developer of talent and takes pride in setting up tournaments because he has love for all the participants, all the squads. George also directs The Mamba Academy. Just get to know the man, he’s a blessing, you’ll soon see what’s up, big time!

Lizzy Dreher
Lizzy Dreher

Who else did your humble correspondent E-Woods appreciate? GBL coach and director Sherri Pegues. She commands the court in-game and her girls responded to her passion and instruction. She displays pure knowledge of the game, so much so, that Laker legend, Derek Fisher puts his stamp on the GBL organization.

Who else did I appreciate? I was in awe of seeing Michelle and Andre Chevalier coach their West Coast Elite squad. Each kid gets their utmost attention. They go all the way in for each player as much as for their own awesome kid, Ashley Chevalier, who just committed to play for Texas.

I was floored by WCE’s player from Corona Centennial High, rising junior guard Jayda “Lil Chef” Curry. She’s so fast on court, you might as well try catching smoke in your hand. Don’t start smoke with someone named Curry, my free advice to you.

Click here for Jayda Curry video:

What else impressed me? Teams came all the way from Hawaii and they often travel from Japan to hit the Nationals.

I loved getting to know the Melbourne Warriors squad from Australia. I asked their director Brett Hamilton to break down what the Mamba Academy Nationals meant to them, flying all the way to LA to be there.

He said “We appreciate the physicality and skill of the teams here. It’s a whole other rugged level for us to learn from. The fair and helpful refs took the time to educate us, we got a lot better here.”

I asked his player Ella Hamilton which college she wanted to play for, maybe one in the US, to which she said, “Whichever program gives me the best scholarship offer, that’s the one I’ll pick.” Smart girl.

I asked Quincy Quintero, George’s capable son, to explain the mentality that makes up Cal Storm and The Mamba Sports Academy. I asked him what they were trying to accomplish.

Quincy explained, “We just care about kids. We strive to have ALL the tourney participants see each other’s level, rise up to meet each other’s challenges. This is where that spark of the competitive environment begins. Kids and their families maybe noticed that 60 D1 coaches were on hand in Spring to scout out top players in each team.

“They seem to bring their A game when coming here, feeding each other to an upward spiral in ability. Here at the Mamba we want to be a one-stop shop for training and recovery. We offer a cryo chamber service and just want to support all those who seek excellence. We’re inspired to meet their passion.”

GBL Coach/Founder Sherri Pegues
GBL Coach/Founder Sherri Pegues

I’ll never forget meeting this 8th grade girl “JP” who plays for a red and yellow team. She absolutely refused to let me publish her name. She said, trembling with urgency, “When I’ve earned the respect of my peers, only then will I earn the right for you to print my name.

“I played like trash this weekend, like a bum. I just need to grind more. If only I could afford a trainer. When I step in the Mamba next summer, I want people to put some respect on my name. I need to earn looks from college coaches because I can’t afford college without a scholarship.

“I can’t believe we lost so much this weekend, that’s unacceptable. I’m trying to look inside myself and pull out a baller, a leader my little sister can look up to. I dream of being ranked on ESPN Gurlz or Prospects nation.

“Our team needs to learn to be ready and whoop some a** by next year. We were the ones taking a whooping. Please don’t forget about us man, in 2020 I just know will be our time. Next year man, maybe then you can print my name E-Woods.”

#JP wanting it so bad, made me cry a lil inside, real talk.

Now do you see? Mamba National Showcase, it’s that special spot. Does London just have a bridge? Is the Eiffel just a tower? The Mamba brings it, it features Kobe’s HEART, and Shaq’s SIZE. When unified: unstoppable.

Being at The Mamba, me E-Woods I am Nas, he is me, both Ilmatic in our bag. Nas shares how I feel about The Mamba, “I see stories in people’s faces, in their hands, in their eyes. People tell me stories without saying one word. So I just listen, and I give it back.”

#forever in my heart, girls play harder than boys

I’ve been to The MAP gym in LA, been to all the major facilities in Cali that hold hoop tourneys. Most are pretty cool but why do I feel The Mamba Academy is less a gym and more a Parthenon temple of hoop out west?

The Mamba Academy Nationals, it creates b-ball with no borders, one love. All the freaking shoe company teams come out to cross pollinate. National teams that come here: Nike, Adidas, Under Armor, and teams with no sled sponsorship go at each other’s necks, gladiator style, under one roof.

Does Kobe’s legend deserve any less? You already know.

People inside the Mamba? They chill, it’s that rare place where hoop heads get to mingle, share their love for the game.

The metal benches are set up 20 feet from the entrance and say to the people, sit on me, socialize and engage your fellow humans beyond just clicking a smart phone device.

Which other gym features lush indoor sand volleyball courts, some loooong benches that run a hundred yards deep court side? I saw ballers, fans, kids maxing and relaxing with their peeps. Kids giggling, dreams rising out of craniums.

Cal Storm 16U
Cal Storm 16U

I sat to watch my fav team ever of girl youngsters, Cal Storm 16 under. I asked a girl named Betty who was about to play the Storm if she was ready to win or lose? She told me, “If we beat The Storm 16U, we’ll just rise like cream.”

I told Betty, “Godspeed toward your goals, but if you play bad these coaches are unforgiving. Getting shown up is like drinking spoiled milk.” I’m real with kids, because life is real to them.

Why do I recommend people go out and see that Cal Storm 16 under squad? They have dope talent, like rising 8th grader guard Serenity Johnson. She “got next”, emanating fire in her belly. Her mentality impresses me a lot, reminds me a lil if our guy Skyy Clark in the making maybe.

Then there’s 6-3 rising 9th grader Omamoke Okah. She’s knock you out tough and plays harder than her size 14 men’s shoe size. Let’s not forget the aspiring Med School physician, rising 9th grader Queen Ruffin. She’s already cutting up comp and operating on court. I’ve decided to do full stories on all 3 of these youngsters, when time allows.

Why am I so passionate about this tourney? About Cal Storm? The Mamba you might ask? Is it personal for you E-Woods?

Yup. My day job is teaching lil kids, how young? Barely out they mamma's bellies and only a 1/2 decade old. How much do you think I care about them? I pray my students grow up to be sweet and caring people that I’ve come to respect like Lauri Quintero, George’s wife and executive director for Cal Storm.

The world needs more empathetic and caring angels like her. You’ll often find Lauri manning the Mamba concession stand near the entrance.

I hope my students grow up smart, getting to be like 6-3 Alyssia Brewer. How can someone be so elegant and sophisticated, yet so physically gifted? A-Brewer is as strong and athletic in the female form as Shaq is as a man.

Alyssia is a great overseas pro baller, did her thing at Tennessee and UCLA, even a lil for the WNBA. She does more than train Cal Storm kids, just meet her and you’ll feel like you’re in presence of dope-ness itself.

She told me the secret sauce as to why Mamba National Showcase is real to the game, “Our tournament success rests in the experience of all the staff and employees we have. All our people know the EYBL circuit well and the competitive nature of AAU basketball. They’ve worked for many various teams.

“Each person for Cal Storm is a puzzle piece needed to be brought to the table. Each year offers a new adventure for our team, the kids and tournaments we service. The cool part is it’s only the beginning.”

If you step to the fantastic National event, maybe you’ll start a new chapter to your journey, start your own adventure, maybe your star will be born.