Each month Eastbay is highlighting a top high school athlete by spotlighting their accomplishments both in and outside the game. This month’s winner is basketball player Elizabeth Elliott from St. Mary’s Academy in California. Elizabeth is a four-year team captain and starter who was named Camino Real League MVP in her freshman and sophomore seasons. She also displays an incredible work ethic in the classroom, posting a 4.33 weighted GPA, which is one of the best in her class. Elizabeth earned St. Mary’s Student-Athlete of the Year award three times and has accepted a full-ride scholarship to play basketball at the University of Pacific. Elizabeth was nominated by her basketball coach Tramon Steele for being a tremendous athlete on the court and even better student in the classroom. Here’s Elizabeth, in her own words, on her experience as a high school student-athlete.
What is your definition of a successful student-athlete?
My definition of a successful student-athlete is a person who competes on the court and in the classroom. If one can manage a hectic schedule while juggling demanding AP commitments along with being the best teammate and player they can be, then that person is definitely working towards success. I believe a successful student athlete also has a backup plan or can rely on their academics when the ball stops. Lastly, a successful student athlete knows their limits on and off the court and still manages to love the sport while merging it with school requirements.
What has been the highlight of your athletic career so far?
I have a few highlight moments that I will cherish forever. The biggest one is receiving a scholarship to play basketball at a Division 1 University. There are over 399,000 plus girls that play high school basketball and only 1.3% get to play at the Division 1 level. So, receiving a scholarship to play basketball is a huge highlight of its own. The other highlights in my athletic career are being recognized as a top 100 player by ESPN HoopGurlz, winning league MVP as a sophomore, and being recognized by my city as one of the best players.
Who is your role model in athletics?
I would have to say my father, Kevin Elliott, and my high school coach Tramon Steele. They’ve both been there for me throughout my high school and travel ball career. They both took the unconventional route to play college basketball, so their knowledge is real and raw. They work really well together to make sure I have everything I need to be successful. I can go to them for advice on different things and they always have my best interest in mind. They’ve really shown me that there’s more to the game than just getting buckets, like showing up for my team, making lifelong connections, and representing those who’ve come before me.
What do you love most about competing in athletics?
Being in a team atmosphere. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. From putting your jerseys on to picking the pregame music, having teammates that you can call family just makes competing ten times better. I also love playing in big games. I like to prove others wrong when we play teams that are “better” than us. It allows you to test your limits and shows your teammates that you have their back—win, lose, or draw. Breaking boundaries and expectations is one of the best parts of competing.
What are some goals you’d like to achieve after high school?
After high school I will be attending the University of Pacific on a full basketball scholarship. For a long time, my main focus has been to get to college. Now that I’ve achieved it, the work finally begins. One of my goals is to win the West Coast Conference championship and to compete for a starting position. I also have ambitions to play overseas for a while. Academically, I would like to pursue a master’s degree or even a doctorate degree in psychology.
College basketball is in full swing and despite some canceled games and empty stadiums, there have still been several excellent battles so far. With March Madness rapidly approaching it’s time to test your knowledge on the history of several of college basketball’s premier programs and standout performances in the tournament. Take the quiz now!
If you’ve ever run, jumped, zigged, zagged, cut, or just plain walked on Zoom Air, you know the feeling. If you’ve tried on a sneaker designed for KD, or Kyrie, or PG, or Giannis, or the Brodie, you’ve felt it. You’ve experienced the ultra-responsive, super-lightweight cushioning cradling your foot and then springing it forward with every step. It’s been over 25 years since Zoom Air first made its way onto the sneaker scene, and it’s pretty impressive that a once radical technology we now take for granted has been so prevalent in sneaker design for this long. Zoom Air was certainly a risk when Nike started utilizing it in 1995. After all, everyone wanted Air Max sneakers – and the more Air, the better. Why would I want a skinnier Air bag that you couldn’t even see? Why would I want my foot lower to the ground?
Like everything else Nike does, Zoom Air came as a response to the athlete’s needs. Sure, Nike Air Max cushioning was great, but it was also bulky and heavy. Smaller, quicker athletes needed something lighter and more responsive – something that would give them an edge over their competitors. Zoom Air solved that problem by introducing an ultra-thin Air bag with hundreds of tiny synthetic springy fibers inside that cushioned the foot and provided better responsiveness than Air Max. The thin yet bouncy Zoom Air allowed the athlete’s foot to be closer to the ground for quicker movement.
At first, Zoom Air was called ‘Tensile Air.’ I was first introduced to the new technology in 1995 with sneakers like the Air Go Flight LWP (for basketball players like Penny Hardaway and Mitch Richmond), the Air Challenge LWP (for Andre Agassi), and the Air Zoom LWP running sneaker. LWP stood for Lightweight Performance and featured Tensile Air cushioning inside rather than the bigger Nike Air bags. Another early basketball sneaker that featured Tensile Air was the incredibly popular Air Zoom Flight 95, which was worn by players like Jason Kidd and Tim Hardaway. Clearly, implementing the word “Zoom” in the shoe’s name was a hit, and Nike quickly changed the name of the cushioning from ‘Tensile’ to ‘Zoom.’
In 1996, Nike released models like the Air Zoom Alpha for running and the Air Zoom Flight 96 for basketball. With the ‘96 Summer Olympics in the USA, it was the perfect opportunity for Nike to showcase their newest technology with models like the Air Zoom Flight ‘96 (worn by Penny Hardaway).
In 1997, Zoom Air was incorporated into pretty much every sneaker category – from Ken Griffey, Jr.’s cleats, to Andre Agassi’s Air Zoom Ablaze, to Barry Sanders’ turf trainers, to Penny Hardaway’s Foamposite. Zoom Air was even featured in soccer shoes and hockey skates. Because you couldn’t actually see the Zoom Air through a window like you could with Nike Air Max, designers got creative and added hypnotizing circular patterns on the bottom of the sneaker soles to give you a visual idea of what Zoom Air looked and felt like.
The Air Jordan line actually took a few years to incorporate the low-to-the-ground cushioning into the soles of their shoes, but once MJ started rocking Zoom Air, he never went back. Starting with the Air Jordan 12, designer Tinker Hatfield swapped out full-length Air soles for Zoom Air. Jordan loved the cushioning so much, he convinced teammate Scottie Pippen to try them out. Scottie also loved the cushioning so much, he asked Nike to swap out the Air Max cushioning in his Air Pippen 1 for Zoom Air, which they did for him during their ‘97 playoff run.
In ‘99, Nike began incorporating visible Zoom Air into their sneakers. This way, we could see the ultra-thin fibers that were packed inside and provided the springy feel. By this time, Nike’s Alpha Project was well underway. Alpha Project was an opportunity for Nike to further test and experiment with new designs and technologies like visible Zoom Air in sneakers and DRI-F.I.T. in clothing. Some of the more popular sneakers featuring visible Zoom Air were the Air Vis Zoom Uptempo (worn by Allan Houston and Patrick Ewing), the Air Zoom Citizen running sneaker, and the Air Zoom Beyond (worn by Agassi).
For the next 20 years, Zoom Air would be incorporated into the Air Jordan line, as well as Kobe and LeBron sneakers. Basically, all the signature basketball sneakers today – from the PG’s to the KD’s to the Kyrie’s – feature Zoom Air. For running, Nike continues to tinker and improve upon Zoom Air from modest running sneakers like the Air Zoom Pegasus line to flashy and aggressive runners like the Air Zoom Alphafly Next%. Zoom Air is simply the best cushioning money can buy and has more than lived up to the hype it created over 25 years ago.
2021 is already looking up thanks to the upcoming release of the PG 5 on 1/21. This season is all business for Paul George and LA as they try to overcome the stinging loss to Denver in last season’s playoffs. George’s commitment to staying focused on basketball shows up with the announcement of the new PG 5 launching on 1/21.
Starting off with a simple black and white colorway, the real splashiness comes from the technology that makes up the PG 5. It starts with a reimagined cushioning system that is more lightweight and flexible than in previous models. Stretching the full length of the sole, the Nike Air Dot Weld Strobel gives George the cushioning and comfort he values game in and game out. The increased flexibility allows George to transition smoothly from go-to scorer to lock down defender.
This season is all about controlling what you can control and a new multidirectional traction pattern on the outsole will help George have better balance and footwork. The improved grip is sure to help players when they cut off or around screens and players who rely on a lot of stop and go in their game.
Make sure you head to eastbay.com to grab a pair of the 5s when they launch on 1/21. You can also browse our vast selection of basketball apparel and other shoes.
Basketball is back after a very short break and this season promises to be one of the weirdest yet. It is impossible to not see COVID affecting every team at least once throughout the season. Many of the top teams will be coming off a heavily abbreviated offseason which might force coaches to adjust rotations to lighten the load for some veterans. Today we’re looking at eight teams that have a shot at winning the title this season. The list is in no particular order, and before Brooklyn fans get mad at me let me explain why they aren’t on this list. I know Kevin Durant has looked good so far, but I just want to see him play for a month at this level and then I’ll be all the way in. I also am extremely suspicious of Kyrie Irving staying healthy for a long stretch this season. I’m sure Brooklyn will make me eat my words by the end of the season, but I want to see it before I believe it.
The rich get richer. Title winning teams almost always get objectively worse the following offseason: players get older, some are traded, some sign elsewhere for more money or a larger role. These teams also rarely have the assets or cap space to replace lost players or make any significant upgrades. This is why what LA accomplished is so impressive. It’s hard to quibble when a team wins the title, but it was clear LA lacked ballhandling juice throughout the regular season and playoffs. Their offense was an adventure, and not in an exciting way when LeBron was on the bench. Adding Dennis Schroeder, who was dynamic as the 6th man and third guard in Oklahoma City last year, is a nice upgrade. His 3-point shooting may regress from his career high last year of 38% (his previous high was 35%), but he’s still a better option than Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso. Signing fellow 6th Man of the Year Award finalist and winner Montrezl Harrell for the midlevel exception was also a good piece of business. The fit with Anthony Davis is questionable, but he is clearly going to provide more energy and better offense than Javale McGee and Dwight Howard. Finally, getting Marc Gasol to come over from Toronto and delay a return to Spain was huge. Though he’s near the end of his career, Gasol was still able to spearhead an elite Toronto defense thanks to his IQ and savviness. With LeBron and Davis back and healthy again for another season, it’s hard to find a reason that LA shouldn’t be the favorite for another title this season.
Miami had a pretty lowkey offseason. There was a lot of noise about whether they would hoard their cap space for the loaded free agent class of 2021 or would they throw Houston a massive offer for James Harden. In the end they lost some rotation pieces and added other role players to replace them. Losing Jae Crowder to Phoenix hurt, but Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless should give them 70-80% of what Crowder did. While Goran Dragic certainly won’t play at the same level he did in the bubble, it’s not hard to imagine Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson taking a step forward. While their run to the Finals was semi-surprising, it wasn’t built on a foundation of unsustainable play. They play with a purpose and flow on offense that generates easy looks for their shooters. As long as Jimmy and Bam are healthy and playing, their free throw rate should be near the top of the league. Their defense may be weak at the point of attack, but it’s elite on the wing and backline, and Erik Spoelstra is adept at developing game plans that stifle opposing offenses. There is no reason they shouldn’t be considered a contender for the Finals again.
The playoffs were an absolute disaster for the Clippers. Blowing a 3-1 to Denver, double-digit leads in multiple closeout games, Paul George bricking everything, and chemistry issues bubbling up left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Doc Rivers, who took a lot of heat for his lack of in-game adjustments, is gone, as is Montrezl Harrell who was a massive disappointment in the bubble and gave voice to the chemistry issues that plagued the team. In are Ty Lue, who knows how to lead a team with interesting personalities to a championship, and Serge Ibaka, one of the more sought-after free agents for contending teams. Ibaka provides a cleaner fit than Harrell, thanks to his shooting and rim protection. The Patrick Beverly, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka lineup will instantly become the group that every reporter will clamor to see in crunch time. The pressure will be immense this season. George re-upped his deal to stay locked into LA, but Leonard still has a player option following this season. It wouldn’t shock anyone to see him leave if the team disappoints again.
Speaking of pressure. Milwaukee’s playoff performance only ratcheted up the stress on the front office and Coach Budenholzer this season. Milwaukee will most likely be the #1 or #2 seed again. Their style of play, letting Giannis play downhill while spacing the floor with shooters, and a defense that prioritizes protecting the rim will always be a winning formula. Jrue Holiday is an upgrade over Eric Bledsoe, and they signed some quality bench players for the regular season in DJ Augustin, Bobby Portis, and Torrey Craig. Ultimately the regular season doesn’t matter. This team needs to show up and make serious noise in the playoffs. This season will be about integrating Holiday and building chemistry between him, Giannis, and Khris Middleton. Brook Lopez needs to prove he can hit threes more consistently, and Donte DiVincenzo needs to make another leap.
Though not as talked about as other teams out west, Denver enters this season as Finals contenders. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are as dynamic a pair as anyone in the league, and Michael Porter Jr. has the chops to be the third star the team needs. He’ll need to prove to coach Mike Malone he can be trusted on the defensive end, but he won’t be exposed as badly during the regular season as he was in the playoffs. Will Barton should be back and fully healthy, giving them another option on the wing, and hopefully, Gary Harris discovers his shot again. Jerami Grant leaving for Detroit hurts, especially considering it wasn’t because of money, but JaMychal Green is a fine substitute in the regular season. The playoffs will be another story, but hopefully MPJ will be able to handle those minutes. Continuity will be Denver’s greatest strength and should carry them to a top 3 seed in the west.
Luka Dončić is nothing less than an MVP candidate this season. The third-year player is a bona fide superstar, and Dallas has done an excellent job putting a team around him. Kristaps Porziņģis will miss the beginning of the season as he recovers from his torn MCL, and his health is a huge factor in how much noise they make in the postseason. Trading for Josh Richardson strengthens their defense, and he has more upside as a secondary playmaker than Seth Curry does. James Johnson finished last season strong in Minnesota, but whether any of that will carry over to Dallas is hard to predict. Rick Carlisle is still a top-five coach in the league and will be more adept at managing player absences than others.
Boston enters the season a slight notch below Milwaukee and Miami but is still a real threat to come out of the East. Losing Gordon Hayward for essentially nothing (they got a massive player exception, but that doesn’t help them right now) and having Kemba Walker go down until January after an injection in his knee puts a damper on their season. However, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart are all really freakin’ good. Tatum is a superstar, Brown an All-Star, and Smart is their best defender and heart of the team. Even with an average supporting cast, those three are good enough to carry a team to a top-three seed in the East. In such a compact season, it helps that Boston’s core is younger and may not require the tactical rest and games off as some of the more veteran teams, giving them a leg up in the regular season.
When was the last time Philly had a quiet offseason? Every year, no matter what, Philly always creates a ton of talking points before they even take the court. Doc Rivers comes in to replace Brett Brown, and Daryl Morey is hired to run basketball operations. Rivers will be responsible for creating a culture of accountability and organizing an offense around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid while Morey addressed and will continue needing to improve the team’s shooting and playmaking. Bringing in Seth Curry, who is an elite marksman, and Danny Green should give Embiid and Simmons more room to operate. Saying goodbye to Al Horford means Tobias Harris should get more run at the four and opens up more minutes for Matisse Thybulle. This team just makes much more sense than it did a year ago and should expect to compete for the conference finals.