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Photo by Kyle Parmley.
Cortez Hall says he is the best all-around player of the Hoover “scout team.”
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Photo by Kyle Parmley.
DeCarlos Hurt normally claims the role of the opposing team’s best shooter while helping the Hoover girls basketball team prepare for the next game.
The idea of a female basketball team competing against a male basketball team is no longer a new idea, as many colleges — such as perennial champion UConn — have adopted the practice. But having major contributors to a Class 7A state football champion offers quite the challenge for Hoover High School’s Lady Bucs.
And that challenge falls to a group of seven guys affectionately dubbed the “scout team.”
Football players Cortez Hall, DeCarlos Hurt, Christian Edge, Ricky Palao, Jimmy Turner, Kam Ford and RJ Randle combine to give the Hoover High School girls basketball team an edge over the competition.
“We just push them in practice,” Hall said.
“When I was in college, we had a scout team [composed of men],” said first-year Hoover coach Krystle Johnson.
The football coaches encouraged the decision to help the girls team, and the idea has taken off from there, she said.
“At first, I was kind of reluctant, because I don’t want them to get hurt, because they should all be going to play football in college,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘If you can get me seven or eight people, so you don’t have to be there every single day, I’ll let y’all do it.’”
So what exactly is the scout team’s role?
“To get after them,” said Palao, one of the top defensive linemen for the Bucs. “To make them better, so when they play girls, it’ll be easier, their mindset will be better.”
But it is not a bland practice squad. The scout team has its own uniforms, a combination of white and black jerseys and shorts. They live and die with the team’s successes and failures.
“They are definitely 100 percent a part of the team,” Johnson said. “I don’t have to tell them anything. If practice starts at 3:45, they get here at 3:45.”
The biggest advantage that Hoover’s girls team has now is the toughness that it takes to compete against a physical group each day in practice. Most teams are forced to practice with a second-tier team to make up a full practice.
“That’s the thing,” Johnson said. “We should never face anybody that’s as physical or as fast or as athletic than who we face in practice every day. Because of that, we know that when we make mistakes, they’re mental.”
That mental challenge is an important and high hurdle for the Lady Bucs. They may not ever clear it, but that’s fine with Johnson.
“If it can ever be easy against [the boys], then against girls it’ll be super easy,” Johnson said. “I doubt it’ll ever be easy against them, but the more we get accustomed to playing more athletic, stronger, faster people, then we should see it carry over in the games.”
The guys are starting to take notice as well. Hurt said he has noticed the team has gotten tougher since the beginning of the season.
The practice unit is certainly competitive as well. The guys know their role but do not take it lightly. Palao makes it his mission to make the post players work hard for everything. Hall has no intention of letting a ball handler get by him. Hurt can bury 3-pointers and wreck a defensive set.
Palao boastfully takes claim to the title, “assist king.” Hall said he believes he is the “best all-around player” among the scout team. Hurt shrugs when he is told of his role while helping the Lady Bucs scout their next opponent.
“If [Johnson] tells me I’m the shooter, then I’m the shooter,” Hurt said.
The scout team takes opponent scouting seriously.
“I actually send them film sometimes,” Johnson said. “I can tell them [about the next opponent], and they can just figure out who’s best for each role.”
Publicly, the scout team will not take a ton of credit for the Lady Bucs’ early-season success. But more than anything, its goal is to do whatever it can to bring another state championship back to Hoover, just as the football team did.
“They constantly tell them little stuff,” Johnson said. “Especially since we’ve got so many young players, they kind of tell them the stuff they need to do.”
But if the Lady Bucs can bring another map back to the school, the scout team can stake some sort of ownership in the honor.
“Ultimately, they’re all Hoover High School students, and they want to see them be successful, too,” Johnson said.