Senior Natalie Tomerlin, Hinsdale South’s starting center, is looking to play for an AAU team this month after her previous team disbanded.
Natalie Tomerlin quit softball to concentrate on AAU basketball in the spring.
But as the AAU season progressed, Tomerlin could sense that her high expectations at the beginning of the season in March had dwindled by the end of it in May. Her team, Addison-based G-Force, was down to two players by the time the all-important July recruiting season had begun.
This is the most important month of the offseason for the area’s top seniors, who will sometimes play in as many as five tournaments all across the country in front of college recruiters.
Tomerlin is hoping to play Division III basketball after next season. But the 5-foot-10 senior from Darien is without an AAU team this month. Tomerlin is struggling to find a spot on another team since many teams already have set lineups entering the tournament season.
The first major AAU tournament Tomerlin would like to enter is the Nike Summer Showcase from July 11-15 at various Northwest suburban sites, including Elgin, Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates. The players from Tomerlin’s former team did not show the same commitment as Tomerlin and slowly quit the team. Tomerlin said the roster included 12 players at the beginning of the season.
Tomerlin’s experience with G-Force, her first AAU team, has not ruined her offseason. With Tomerlin and four other returning starters, the Hornets (15-11 last season, 9-3 West Suburban Gold) hope to challenge Proviso East for the conference title after finishing second last year.
“I benefitted more over the last couple of months [playing AAU] and improved more as a player the last two years,” Tomerlin said. “I’m more aggressive and I’m not afraid of dribbling the ball. AAU ball is totally different than high school ball. It’s far more run and gun.”
Tomerlin said her high school coach, Jen Belmonte, is attempting to find enough available players to field a temporary AAU team. Meanwhile, Tomerlin will compete in an couple of individual scouting combines starting with the Adidas Jamboree July 6 in Bourbonnais and the X-plosion Exposure July 10 in Schaumburg. Each of those events feature pickup games created by randomly assigning players.
One of Tomerlin’s Hinsdale South teammates, senior guard Andrea McNally (pictured right), also was looking to play on an AAU team when July began, but is hoping to land a spot on a team within the next few days. McNally has never played AAU, which conflicts with the high school’s spring badminton season. McNally is the Hornets’ top singles player and is favored to medal in next year’s state meet.
“I have not played for an [AAU] team since eighth grade,” said McNally, a Burr Ridge resident. “I have not traveled to do other individual things.”
McNally has balanced both badminton and basketball high school camps during the summer. Her badminton tournament schedule conflicts with many AAU tournaments, which are also held on weekends in the spring.
Tomerlin would like to play basketball in the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), particularly at Carthage or Augustana. Without an AAU team, Tomerlin has been unable to let coaches know what tournaments she will be playing in this month. She has received interest from eight other schools, including St. Xavier and Lewis.
“I’m trying to figure it out. It’s a lot for me, the whole recruiting process,” Tomerlin said. “I’m the oldest [in my family]. Coach Belmonte has been a great help for me.”
Belmonte played soccer at St. Xavier, but encouraged Tomerlin to try AAU basketball. Tomerlin started the high school softball season as a designated hitter in the first week of the season.
AAU coaches that would like to contact Tomerlin about playing this month can reach her through Belmonte at Hinsdale South.
Tomerlin was one of two girls as sophomores at Hinsdale South selected to receive the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Award. Tomerlin scored 26 on the ACT and owns a 4.9032 GPA on a 5.0 scale.
“I played softball since second grade and basketball since fifth grade,” Tomerlin said. “I have a more intense feeling toward basketball. The mechanics of the sport get me excited about it. I love doing [practice] and I love playing the sport.”
The Hornets recently completed play in an Addison Trail Shootout and will finish the Glenbard South summer league this month.