After running through some offensive plays with the starters during Wednesday’s practice, Capital Prep coach Tammy
Millsaps called out for the defense. She wasn’t calling for the bench players though — four male players and a recent Providence
College graduate, Symone Roberts, took to the floor to challenge the Trailblazers.
“That’s what we do,” the coach said.
Capital Prep also does a lot of winning. They have been the No. 1 team in the state since the final poll of last season, have a 56-6 record the last three seasons, won the Class S title last year and have won so much, so convincingly, that they even played a part in a major rule change.
After the Trailblazers ran roughshod through last season’s Class S tournament, winning games by an average of 54.4 points per game, including a 100-27 quarterfinal drubbing of Valley Regional, the CIAC ditched the enrollment system to decipher which non-public schools belonged in which class and went to a performance-based system.
The new system, which requires non-public schools that advance to the state quarterfinals in two out of the last three seasons to move up in class, pushed Capital Prep up from Class S to Class L.
“We anticipated that a move was going to be made,” Millsaps said. “We just want to play against good talent that’s going to challenge us.”
The Trailblazers backed up that statement with a tough non-conference schedule. Capital Prep plays six non-conference games against out-of-state teams. Millsaps did not schedule pushovers, instead playing teams like Capitol Christian Academy, the No. 23 team in Maryland which the Trailblazers topped 80-66, and an upcoming game against Archbishop Williams, the no. 15 team in Massachusetts.
“All it does is make us better,” Millsaps said. “It makes us playoff ready.”
It also gives her players a chance to get more exposure. Playing in Paterson, N.J., the Bronx and Nazareth, N.Y., doesn’t just benefit Division I prospects like junior Kiah Gillespie and sophomore Desiree Elmore. It also sheds light on the up and coming Capital Prep stars.
“It’s not like people don’t know who our top kids are,” Millsaps said. “But I want them to know the kids who may not be at a high level yet. They have the potential to go on and play at the Division II or Division III level.”
However for Millsaps, it all starts in practice, where her Trailblazers did something they don’t do too often: lose. Still, the chances that they’ll be matching up against four boys and a college grad in a game any time soon are pretty slim.
Capital Prep boasts one of the strongest core’s in the state with Fairfield University-bound Taylor Williams, Gillespie and Elmore. However, the Trailblazers have other talented players, too. Here’s a closer look at the talented Trailblazers’ roster.
Case and point: Gillespie averages 21.3 points per game and 9.4 rebounds. The post player can score in the paint, but is a point guard at heart.
“I can rebound and go to the basket,” she said. “I’m not afraid to do things like other players who limit themselves. I think I can do everything a point guard can do.”
Gillespie is garnering interest from schools all over the country. As for the attention her team is getting state-wide, it doesn’t phase her.
“It’s a good thing,” she said. “They can either talk good about you or bad about you, but either way we’re still on their minds.”
Senior point guard
Can’t take it from me: Williams has been all smiles lately. In the spring, she will sign to play at Fairfield University. However, the senior forward-turned-point guard isn’t done working on her game.
Capital Prep’s starting and back-up point guards from last year transferred to Weaver. Williams, who averages 15.3 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists, is running the show and learning the ropes.
“It’s only going to benefit me,” she said. “I’ll know what’s coming (in college).”
Roberts took the ball from her a few times in practice, but Williams wasn’t ready to quit.
“As a captain and a leader, and a point guard is a leader, I know that I can’t hang my head,” Williams said. “I have to get my team back together.”
Rise and shine: The freshman is in the starting five and playing alongside three Division I players, a daunting task.
However, Rodriguez has been posting 8.1 points per game and is shooting 82 percent from the free throw line. She attributes her success to some extra work in the gym.
“Coach pushes me everyday in practice and in games,” she said. “She tells me what I need to work on. I try to work on that when I’m on the court practicing and getting up early and working out.”
Sideline story: Wallen tore her ACL during lacrosse season and will miss the basketball season. However, she is still optimistic.
“I love our bond from freshman year,” she said. “I knew some of the girls, like Kiah, from fourth grade. So its having fun and being around them. They’re like my second family.”
Wallen excitedly joins in on team huddles, runs the scoreboard during scrimmages and said she can’t wait to get back on the court next season.
“You learn more when you’re on the bench,” Wallen said. “Now when I come back my senior year, I’ll have more skills.”
You know what they say about pressure …: Elmore has been heavily recruited dating back to the 8th grade. However, the pressure to perform hasn’t gotten to her.
“It’s chaotic,” she said. “But, it just shows me that people appreciate my game.”
She’s averaging 17.6 points, 11 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game and is focused on keeping her grades up and winning games at Capital Prep.
Freshman point guard
Just like Fall League: Morgan turned heads in the fall league running point guard for the Trailblazers. This season Morgan is coming off the bench and confident after what she’s accomplished.
“I felt like I could play with this team,” she said. “Now I have to step my game up in order to get more playing time.”
Although she has only scored eight total points in seven games, Morgan is hopeful she can stand out this season, much like she did in the fall.
Cool, calm and collected: Ward is going through the recruiting process and said Providence College is looking at her. Every non-conference game is a chance for the guard to secure a scholarship somewhere.
Ward, who averages 6.8 points and 4.5 assists per game, said her teammates have been helping her keep it all in perspective in big games.
“If I make a bad pass or something they bring me back up,” she said. “They encourage me to do better.”
Always ready: Cottrell studies the playbook with her teammates and coaches. She comes off the bench but knows it’s important to know her stuff.
“It’s really important that you pay attention in practice and know all of the plays,” she said. “When you come in the game, we all have a very important role to play.”
If Cottrell continues to hit the playbooks, when she hits the court she may play an important role in the Trailblazers’ Class L title hopes.
At first you don’t succeed: Storey didn’t think she’d get much playing time this season. However, the freshman got into a game and things didn’t go so well.
“I was nervous,” she said. “I thought I was going to mess up and I did.”
Storey turned the ball over, however, she rebounded on the other end.
“Back on defense I did what I had to do,” Storey said.