Getting basketball coaches to agree on anything isn’t always easy.
But few girls basketball coaches in Southern Nevada will dispute there being large gaps in team talent levels throughout the area.
Why that exists and why it’s on a much larger scale than boys basketball, though, isn’t quite as clear.
“It really is a matter of haves and have-nots,” said Valley girls coach Orlando Glover.
Through Jan. 23, a total of 87 of the 575 girls basketball games (15.1 percent) involving at least one Southern Nevada team this year went to a running clock, meaning one team had at least a 40-point lead in the second half.
Twenty-four of those games were decided by 47-49 points as winning teams attempted to stay away from a 50-point margin that sees them writing a letter to the Clark County School District and the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.
It’s an increase from last season, when through the same time period 11.5 percent of girls games went to a running clock and only nine games were decided by 47-49 points.
“Back just a few years ago, there was a lot more parity,” said Bishop Gorman girls coach Sheryl Krmpotich. “The kids I have now, they do travel teams, they have private trainers. It’s the mold of the kid, the desire and the tradition of the program. Some kids just don’t work on their game.”
The gap is much wider than in boys basketball. Through Jan. 23, only 39 of 644 boys games (6.1 percent) went to a running clock and only two were decided by 47-49 points.
“There isn’t as big of a gap between elite guys and average guys teams as there is for girls,” said Palo Verde girls coach Phil Clarke. “Boys seem to be able to compensate a little easier than girls.”
It’s not just a difference between elite and average, though. There are multiple gaps.
Clarke’s team is 4-2 in games decided by running clocks, one of 15 Southern Nevada teams that has both won and lost a game in which the scoring margin reached 40 points.
Part of the reason for the disparity, coaches say, is the kids’ desire to play the game outside of the high school season.
“When I was coaching girls, the girls were playing more basketball and at an earlier age,” said Green Valley boys coach Lorenzo Jarvis, who spent five years as the Gators’ girls coach. “Boys play pickup basketball all the time. When I coached my daughter’s team, those girls just played. They always wanted you to open the gym.”
It’s not quite as simple as desire, though. Opportunities exist in droves for boys to play club basketball. For girls, there are fewer chances.
“It’s all about club basketball,” said former Foothill girls coach Mike Collins, now an assistant coach for Bishop Gorman’s boys. “The kids who want to get better and go play college ball are playing AAU and playing on the better programs. The talent in boys isn’t so much AAU-driven because there are so many more opportunities for boys. It’s more dispersed.”
Coaches agree there is talent in girls basketball in the city, but maybe not enough of it to go around, especially when some of that talent opts to play another sport.
Flag football is in its fourth year as a CCSD sport, and has pulled some athletes away from basketball.
“When you take a city like ours and you have major high schools every 5-10 miles apart and you keep taking that female athletic ability and you keep dispersing it and spreading it out everywhere, it makes it tough,” said Centennial girls coach Karen Weitz.
Much of the talent is found on three teams — Centennial, Bishop Gorman and Liberty — the top three teams in the Southern Nevada coaches poll.
“Liberty and Centennial and Gorman, they’re getting kids that prepare themselves for high school,” Glover said. “Kids are going to those schools because they have a chance to win championships. I don’t get the kids that went to the playoffs in middle school.”
And those programs keep getting better because the bulk of their teams play year-round.
During the high school season, most teams play 20-30 games. The athletes who play travel basketball often play in 75 or more games a year.
“I doubt that there are teams that work as hard as our teams, and that could be one of the differences,” said Liberty coach Chad Kapanui. “The hours of shooting and running plays, that’s what helps you get better, and some people don’t get it. I talk to other coaches who start on tryout day, and that’s not how you get better. You have to develop from a younger age.
“Some of my top players are playing about that much, and it shows. The more game experience you have, the better you become.”
To play club basketball, though, costs money. Lots of money.
And it’s another reason why some players and some schools just simply can’t keep up.
“I get the hardship some of those kids have in those areas with just being able to come to practice,” Weitz said. “They don’t come to practice or games unless we carpool everyone. I get that. I appreciate coaches that are willing to do that. That’s tough in some areas. What we do year-round costs money. You have to have the funds to travel and participate against these teams.”
Said Glover: “If you look at the demographics, the teams that do well are in good neighborhoods, Centennial, Liberty, Foothill, Green Valley, Arbor View.”
The quick fix doesn’t seem to be on the horizon, either, as the top players and their parents migrate to schools where championships can be won and where players can be seen by college recruiters.
“(The gap in) girls will get worse before it gets better,” Collins said.