Brooklyn stars snubbed in Miss Basketball selection

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The process for picking Miss Basketball in New York needs to change because neither of the top two players in the state won this year. And one of them wasn’t even put in the running.

Even worse, the members of the Basketball Coaches Association of New York, who select the winner, are okay with that.

“We are hoping that it would be both, a leader on the court and a leader off the court,” said the association’s executive director Dave Archer.

Oneonta guard Mariah Ruff, who is headed to St. Bonaventure, is this year’s winner. She averaged 17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists playing for a Class B school, yet she beat out Christ the King wing and Brooklyn native Sierra Calhoun, a McDonald’s All-American.

I’m sure Ruff is a fine player and person, but I’m sorry, one of the best players in the country, who is headed to Duke, should be voted as tops in her own state. Calhoun, who said she was surprised by the snub, was named New York’s Gatorade player of the year and is also a member of USA Basketball.

Nazareth guard and South Carolina signee Bianca Cuevas, also a McDonald’s All-American, wasn’t even among the finalists because she wasn’t nominated to the committee. That’s a bad job by Nazareth coach Ron Kelley.

I’m told that members of the media can also nominate a player — but the first time yours truly, who has covered high school sports for eight years, was made aware of this well-kept secret was just before writing this column — otherwise I would have nominated Cuevas myself.

Archer didn’t even know who Cuevas was. When I spoke to him, he asked what school she played for.

Murry Bergtraum guard Aaliyah Jones was a finalist, despite having sat out her senior year because of a knee injury. But hey, she was nominated, and apparently that’s all that matters.

“Years ago we use to scour [newspaper] pages then we said the heck with it, if she is that good, we should have a nomination process,” Archer said.

The selection committee that selects the finalists has done a good job in the past getting the award right, and it did so this year on the boys’ side, tapping Lincoln’s Isaiah Whitehead. Still, the process is flawed. Online voting by members of the Upstate-based coaches association ended on Feb. 1 — just two days after the McDonald’s All-American selections were announced.

Of course, Miss Basketball isn’t just a pure basketball award. Archer did mention stats first when asked about the criteria, but the committee also asks about a player’s community service, leadership and character. But that didn’t stop Lincoln’s Lance Stevenson from being a co-recipient of the boy’s award back in 2009, even after run-ins with the law.

There needs to be better communication about the process between the association, the coaches and the media. Also, the selection committee needs to include more knowledgeable people, so players like Cuevas don’t fall through the cracks. In the world of social media, it isn’t hard to take the time to also inquire about potential award winners beyond those formally nominated.

We owe it the players, and the time and effort they put in, to make sure the most deserving one of them is rewarded.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
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