Girls turning basketball into an education is the prize at the Calabasas Showcase

CALABASAS — As a youth basketball player, Calabasas guard Maddy Tauro frequently second-guessed herself, rarely entertaining the idea that she could one day parlay her skills into a collegiate scholarship.

Coyotes varsity girls basketball head coach Destiny Melton did her best to convince Tauro that it was an attainable reality, though it didn’t entirely feel that way until she played in front of college coaches and scouts this past summer as a member of the Chatsworth-based AAU team, California Basketball Club.

“Once we started going to these showcases and I saw all these college coaches in the stands, it’s now or never, in a way,” she said. “I had to make myself motivated.”

Tauro’s attention to the minute details — her body language on the bench, her leadership — heightened. The increased exposure spurred a scrupulous approach to her game. She signed with Cal State Fullerton a few weeks after the final showcase of the summer.

Chances to turn basketball into a college education, like Tauro did, is what Melton hoped to deliver with the first Calabasas Showcase, which took place Saturday, Dec. 9. It featured a 10-game slate — five junior varsity and five varsity matchups — that provided a platform for girls basketball players.

“I want every kid to come here to get better,” Melton said. “I think (the exposure) has changed the whole dynamic. I’m just grateful that I was able to reach out to these coaches and that they were down to play on a Saturday.”

The scheduling for Saturday’s Showcase started months ago. Melton called coaches, booked scorekeepers and diligently pitted teams against one another to create a competitive atmosphere.

It was a challenge she set for herself in part because of the gap she felt in girls basketball when she played a little over a decade ago. The lack of publicity the sport received left athletes bereft of opportunities.

“It’s better now for women,” Melton said. “I see a lot of coaches who are reaching out to these colleges.”

Melton said scouts from Long Beach State, Cal State Northridge, Oxnard College, Pierce College and Santa Monica College were in attendance or tuning in via stream. Athletes who competed could display why they could fit on one of those teams.

Tauro missed Calabasas’ game with a right thumb injury that will keep her out another two weeks. It left the Coyotes shorthanded, as they lost to Crescenta Valley 76-58, but paved the way for her teammates to earn looks they may not have received otherwise.

Joceylnn Townsend led the Coyotes with 26 points, while Kylie Ray’s 31 points boosted the Falcons to victory.

“It lets them show their skills off and lets other people see that,” said Ray, who committed to the University of Utah as a sophomore.

The Showcase certainly offered that to Townsend.

The awareness that she’s playing to improve her future has sparked a certain conscientiousness regarding her routine: Waking up earlier to run, being one of the first girls in the gym, preparing especially for the moment Saturday offered.

“Opportunities like this could really help me in my future,” she said. “We can’t take it for granted. I’ve been working this whole week, leading up to this tournament.”

That much showed in her post moves, her ability to drive into the lane and finish at the rim. In Tauro’s wake, she took the role of Calabasas’ primary source of offense.

Though she couldn’t play, Tauro’s newfound leadership was present on the Coyotes’ bench, supporting her teammates, encouraging Townsend to challenge her defender.

Tauro is the first Calabasas girls basketball player to earn a Division I scholarship, Melton said.

Prolonging and increasing the amount of events similar to the Calabasas Showcase can offer similar opportunities for her peers and ensure she’s not the last to do so.

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