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Fifth annual U.S.E. Basketball Family Reunion set for Sunday puts focus on girls basketball

The fifth annual U.S.E. Basketball Family Reunion, featuring a panel discussion about how young girls can use the game to achieve their dreams no matter what level they aspire to reach in the sport, will be held Sunday at Pikesville High School.

They daylong event also features games from the elementary school level to a post-college game that showcases some of the area’s best former high school girls players.

The Family Reunion began as an idea between former St. Frances players Briana “Breezi” Hutchen and Shatyra Hawkes to give back to the younger girls who play basketball in the Baltimore area. They wanted to showcase local role models and give the younger players and their parents more knowledge about how to follow in their footsteps through a panel discussion.

The discussion starts the day at 10 a.m. and will include a slate of recent college graduates. Al Schell, director and founder of the girls basketball website 695Hoops, was in on the Family Reunion from the start but has taken over more responsibility for it as Hutchen moved into a job as an assistant basketball coach at Iona. NCAA regulations prohibit her, as a coach, from having direct contact with potential recruits, so most of her work is behind the scenes.

Hutchen, The Baltimore Sun’s 2010 Player of the Year who went on to play at Rutgers and Alabama, said U.S.E. stands for United, Strong and Empowered. While a lot of the young girls who attend the Family Reunion dream of playing at top level colleges and in the WNBA, Hutchen said the event is not all about that.

"Literally use basketball as a gateway to your future. That doesn't mean you have to play in the WNBA; it means you can use all the effort you put in all these years to get a scholarship, go to college and pursue whatever you want to pursue," she said before last year’s event.

While the rosters for the games are closed, anyone can attend the panel discussion and stay to watch the games that follow. First is the Baby Ballers Game for elementary school girls at 11:30 a.m., followed by the Middle School Showdown at 12:45 p.m. The College Alumni game will tip off at 2 p.m. and the High School Showdown of rising juniors vs. rising sophomores at 3:30 p.m. Games may begin earlier if the previous games finish quickly.

Schell said this year’s panel will include Amber Singletary, Seton Keough and University of Mississippi graduate; Lindsey Spann, a Good Counsel graduate who played at Penn State before finishing her career this past winter at South Carolina while working on her master’s degree; Aivah Parham, a Poly and Norfolk State graduate who sat out her senior year of college after an injury; St. Frances assistant coach Nyteria Burrell, a St. Frances graduate who played at Frank Phillips College in Texas before two ACL tears ended her career after junior college; youth basketball development coach Breaira Barksdale, a City and Tusculum graduate; and Amateur Athletic Union coach Talen Watson, an Arundel and Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate.

Schell said this year’s panel skews younger for a reason.

“In the past, we’ve had a variety of different coaches and players that played many years ago, so we just wanted to try to get some fresher perspective — those kids that are just now out of college, so everything is fresh in their minds,” Schell said. “They’re all involved [in basketball], and we wanted to let the girls hear from someone who’s doing stuff right now. They all have different pasts, some with injuries and things that took them different places. Some transferred from one school to another. They have a lot of stories that kids want to hear and that hopefully motivates them to follow their own path and not always think that it’s going to be similar to somebody else’s.”

Admission is $10 for the day with children under 10 free.

The College Alumni Game is expected to include past local high school stars such as Hutchen, Barksdale, Daisy Alaeze, Roland Park; Maggie Morrison, Archbishop Spalding; Achiri Ade, Seton Keough; Deanna Harmon, St. Frances; Maya Wynn, McDonogh; La’Shay Taft, City; Tee Tee Robinson, Poly; Lakiah Huff, Joppatowne; Shaquilla Curtis, Archbishop Spalding; and Brielle Ward, Western; as well as Maryland graduates Brene “Bones” Moseley and Laurin Mincy.

In the High School Showdown, Pikesville’s Mike Dukes will coach the rising juniors on the 2020 team. The rosters is expected to included Rain Green and Mir McLean, Roland Park; Eniya Russell and Ajae Petty, Institute of Notre Dame; Charia Roberts, Pikesville; Kaniyah Harris, Flowers; Dasia Townes and Jourdyn Ayers, Poly; Larri Sydnor, Catonsville; Hope Evans, Bishop McNamara; and Morgan Moseley, St. James.

Coppin Academy’s Chris Hardy will coach the 2021 team, including Jayla Oden, McDonogh; Messiah Hunter, Hopewell; Aniya Gourdine, St. Frances; Taylor Gibson, Bishop McNamara; Niyona Smith, Institute of Notre Dame; Sophia Diehl, Westminster; Jasmine Johnson, St. Timothy’s; Kayla Cabbagestalk, Chesapeake-BC; Ashlyn Bender, Glenelg Country; Dakota Fisher, Sanaya Gray and Vashae Rideout, Western; Kristen Sterling, Pikesville; Tenea Robinson, Poly; and Sammy White, Dulaney.

To see the younger game rosters and for more information, go to the 695Hoops website.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kdunnsun

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