When she first arrived at tryouts for California Storm Team Taurasi, it's safe to say Aly Beebe was pretty much clueless.
"I didn't know what was going on," Beebe recalled, laughing. "I thought [Storm coach] George Quintero was a guest speaker he was talking so much, there were all these people in charge, I felt like I didn't know anything."
That was two years ago, when Beebe was a shy, 6-foot-3, 14-year-old post player. A rookie to the national club scene, Beebe had a total of three post moves: a drop step, an up-and-under and a turnaround jump shot. But Beebe also had a long, athletic frame and could jump all over the gym, which caught Quintero's eye.
"When I pointed out she was 14, the kids all kinda freaked out because she was already so physical and aggressive," Quintero said. "But she didn't have much of a skill set."
Originally, Beebe wasn't planning to play with the Storm. Her parents, Rochell and Greg, thought Beebe was too young to go out on the national circuit, and didn't see the need for her to travel at such a young age. The Beebes live in Santa Maria, Calif., a three-hour drive to Los Angeles, and didn't like the idea of a long commute. But then Storm standout Chelsea Gray -- who enrolled at Duke this summer -- reached out to Beebe, befriending her. They exchanged numbers, and Gray assured Beebe that even without a lot of club experience, Beebe could find a place with the Storm.
College recruiters should probably send Gray a thank-you note.
The No. 13 prospect in the ESPNU Super 60 for 2012, Beebe joined the Storm more than a year ago and saw limited minutes, but emerged this past summer. She's become a force in the paint defensively and her offensive skill set is constantly improving. She showed flashes this summer of dominance, finishing through contact and hanging in the air longer than almost anyone to change her shot if necessary. Beebe jokes that she has since added a handful of additional post moves since her introduction to the Storm, though at first she had no idea what Quintero was talking about.
"It was mind-boggling," she said. "He was telling me, 'You're gonna do a step-away, dribble, spin, then shoot' and I was like, 'What? What are you talking about?' We were doing stuff you only see on TV."
The Storm weren't as dominant this summer as they have been in summers past, but Beebe is already gearing up for next year. She says she didn't do much work on her individual offensive game as a sophomore. Just a week after the Storm's final tournament in Augusta, Ga., Beebe said she was already missing practice and games, and itching to get back in the gym. Volleyball came first, but Beebe can't wait for the basketball season to start at St. Joseph High School.
"The circuit highlights all your weaknesses," Beebe said. "Last year I didn't do anything after summer ball was over, I just sat around. I don't want to do that this year.
"It's hard to only play against really good players two months out of the year. I wish July would have lasted longer. I really miss it already."
In Santa Maria, Beebe struggles to find pickup games against other top prospects. She plans to continue to train with the Storm through the fall, though, and after this summer, she knows how much she is capable of.
Though she is a young 2012 prospect -- she just turned 16 in June -- Beebe says she is learning how to take over games. Now, it's a matter of learning consistency.
"These past two years I've been pretty passive," Beebe said. "Now that I know I can take over games and score and be a leader I want to do that more."
Quintero said, "I really think she's in full control of her destiny. She's been given enough information about the game; now it's on her. Will she go out and shoot 1,000 shots, will she work on her ballhandling, work on her post game?
"If she does those things she won't need anybody else."
But perhaps the biggest sign of growth in Beebe's game has nothing to do with how many post moves she knows or how many shots she can block -- it's how she's taken over as a leader.
Last summer, Kendall Cooper, a 6-foot-4, 2013 superstar in the making joined the Storm, and Beebe took it upon herself to reach out and make Cooper feel welcome.
"I don't really consider her a teammate, I consider her more of a sister," Cooper said. "She really took me under her wing and showed me all the secrets and let me know I can do the same for someone next year."
Chelsea Gray would probably approve of that move.
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