No one knew who they were. Everyone thought they could beat them. Going into every tournament in its inaugural season, Troop West girls basketball was determined to gain respect and attention.
“People said ‘We can blow them out, we don’t know who they are, they have no name, so it’s got to be an easy win for us,’” said Troop West player Skylar Ingram. “And in most cases, we beat that team.”
Now, Troop West has established itself as a premier girls basketball travel team in Southern California. What started in March as a two-team program has expanded into a four-team system that’s sponsored by Adidas.
Troop West coach Derek Ballard saw a need for a quality girls travel program in the Santa Clarita Valley after taking his daughter, Mailey, to Los Angeles on a regular basis for basketball practice.
“It was just something that was borne out of necessity,” said Ballard, a former Saugus boys varsity coach. “We did have to travel all the way down there and we could do something like that in this area and that this area has been in need of high-level girls travel program for quite some time.”
Mailey, who also plays for the Valencia varsity team, was instantly supportive of the idea.
“There were multiple girls that I was playing with and we all had the same dream,” she said. “I went to my dad one day and I said, ‘Do we have to do it their way? Can we do it our way?’”
Girls from the SCV and the surrounding area quickly signed on, creating a national and a regional team, both of which had about 10 players.
Ballard sought out national tournaments and built a schedule that would challenge his fledgling national team. The group developed quickly, beating teams like Nike EYBL team Cal Swish and Adidas-sponsored GBL.
Soon after the season ended, Adidas showed interest in sponsoring the team and adding them to the Adidas Gauntlet, a series of tournaments designed to expose some of the best basketball talent in the country to college recruiters in addition to tough competition.
In September, Ballard received a text message from the head of the Adidas Gauntlet that welcomed them to the Adidas family.
“After we were offered that from Adidas, it really helped validate that we are good players and that we do belong in a circuit where we’re able to be seen and we should have the same chance as everyone else to be seen,” Mailey said.
Troop West players and coaches are not just focused on building the skill of individuals, but the skill of the team as a whole. Ballard said that the team clicked after a few weeks of practice despite being from different places.
Ingram said the welcoming but competitive environment has helped her become a better player all around.
“It’s definitely built my confidence on the court and outside of the court,” she said. “Before I was kind of timid in certain situations and coach had definitely improved my skills and made me more confident in those situations.”
As Troop West grows, the program is seeking donations for its upcoming season, which includes trips to Dallas, Indianapolis and Atlanta. Those looking to help can visit gofundme.com/troop-west or visit troopwest.com for more information on the team.
“We love the program, we love the girls, I know all the coaches want to continue this indefinitely and we feel like we can really make it a national brand,” Ballard said.