Everybody wins in historic girls’ hoops tourney

Tara Starks
Courtesy of YouTube

A piece of “she-tory” took place in suburban Twin Cities last weekend. Three Black females led their nationally ranked girls’ high school basketball teams in the four-team 2022 Girls Basketball Invitational hosted Jan. 21-22 at Hopkins High School: Minneapolis North grad Tara Starks (Hopkins), Andrea Robinson (DeSoto, Texas) and Tamika Dudley (Sidwell Friends School, Washington, DC). 

Two of the four games last weekend featured two Black female HCs versus each other: Sidwell vs. Hopkins and Sidwell vs. DeSoto in the championship game, won last Saturday by Sidwell 60-55.

All three coaches have teams currently ranked in the nation’s top five: No. 1 Sidwell, No. 2 DeSoto and No. 3 Hopkins. All four squads featured several top-100 players who have either signed to play college ball next season or are being highly recruited.   

Tamika Dudley
Photo by Charles Hallman

Minnesota Coach Lindsay Whalen told the MSR, “To get this many good teams together for a tournament here in the middle of the season, to bring this much talent together, I think is really inspiring, and it keeps growing our game.  

“This whole weekend is gonna be fun,” added Hopkins senior guard Amaya Battle after her team’s 67-55 loss to Sidwell. Hopkins later defeated Grandview (Colo.) 66-37 in the third-place game.

Coaches Robinson and Dudley both told us that it was their first time being in Minnesota. “This is the first time that we’ve ever really traveled nationally,” said the DeSoto coach.  

Added Dudley, “It was a great experience for our kids. A great platform for girls’ basketball.”

“It is surreal,” admitted Robinson. “It is beyond important [that three Black female head coaches have top-ranked teams competing against each other], because we have to work so hard for everything that we do. We have to always excel and be exceptional.”

Photo by Charles Hallman Helen Williams

“I think they are all tremendous leaders, very competent and great communicators,” stated ESPN Basketball Analyst Helen Williams, who called the nationally televised games. “They have the ability to build relationships with their players and get them to buy in, and that’s what makes them successful.

“The college coaches who recruit their kids know they are disciplined, that they have high basketball IQs, and that they are prepared for the next level,” added Williams.

Starks led Hopkins to the state semifinals last season in her first season as HC. “It’s a credit to what Coach Starks has done and what she’s done here for Hopkins,” said Whalen.

Robinson won her 500th game in November and won DeSoto’s first state championship in 2021. She had previously won two state titles at Fort Worth (TX) and Dunbar (2007, 2009) and reached the 2010 semifinals at Cedar Hill (TX) High School.

“My goal is to do right by kids, care about kids, create a platform for them to be successful young ladies,” said Robinson. “I’m doing my job. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years.”

Andrea Robinson
Photo by Charles Hallman

Before she came to Sidwell in 2019, Dudley won 20 or more games four times, reached four straight state tournaments, and won a regional championship in her 15-plus years of coaching. She told the MSR after her team’s victory over the host school, “I have a lot of respect for Hopkins. Their players are really, really good.

“I think what I love is coaching against women, just women in general, because there’s a lot of males in the sport, in the women’s game,” said Dudley. Grandview was coached by Josh Ulitzky. “So when you do face another female, that’s great.

“And then to have a [Black] female… It’s such a historic occasion. This is a win-win situation.”