Fab Frosh Four and S.I. Varsity Girls Take Court by Storm

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

FAB Frosh Four/ SI Girls Varsity Basketball

A quiet storm is brewing at 2001 37th Ave. in San Francisco, one that is approaching in the form of four freshmen girls. This fall, unheralded by any celestial milestones, or the trumpet blasts of cherubims and seraphims, four freshman, Soon Ja Elzy, Jackie Acosta, Sabrina Ma, and Mali Ennis, quietly took care of business and made the Saint Ignatius Girls Varsity Basketball Team. Any time a freshman makes a varsity team that is a special event, but four all at one time is unheard of.

What makes this event even more remarkable is the lack of remarkability of each of the players. They are all talented athletes, but there is not a Kareem Abdul Jabbar or a Lebron James among them. Not one of them is freakishly tall or is jumping over the basket, but each fits the mold of the perfect teammate and that of the favorite player a coach ever worked with. These types of teammates/players come along once in every player's or coach's career, maybe once every ten years if lucky, but they never come in a four pack.

Ironically, these players are unique in their uniformity. Though each girl is quick to smile, their quiet and unassuming dispositions belie their passion for the game which is evidenced by their sober and tenacious approach to training, and by the ferocity and fundamental soundness of their play.

To make matters worse for Wildcat opponents, the four freshman are not on the varsity team in order to acclimate so that they can realize their potential next year or at some point in the future. Although each of the freshmen is loaded with plenty of, as of yet, undeveloped talent, each stands ready to contribute on the court right away, and in fact, each of them already has. To put it frankly, they've got game now.

MAD Strength and Conditioning Coach Emily Easom is uniquely qualified to comment on the S.I. Girl's Varsity Team as a whole and on its freshman phenoms. Coach Easom has been working with the S.I. girls in the weight room since tryouts began, and adding to her basketball bona fides, Easom starred at Marin Catholic where she was named MCAL Basketball Player of the Year in both her junior and senior years and the S.F. Chronicle's North Bay Athlete of the Year in her senior year. Coach Easom assessed the Fab Frosh Four thusly, "It can be typical for freshmen in high school or college to have less of a role on varsity basketball teams. They tend to have less experience and need more direction. That is NOT the case with these freshman."

The Fab Frosh Four

Each of the four freshman believes that their MAD training has benefitted their play, and yet each has had a slightly different training experience. Prior to the start of basketball workouts at S.I. this fall, Soon Ja, Jackie, and Sabrina all worked with Ali Thomas, MAD's Director of Player Development, and with MAD Head Coach Eric Bringas. Mali had expressed interest in training with MAD during the summer, but scheduling conflicts precluded it, so her MAD training did not begin until workouts commenced at S.I.

Thomas worked with the Wildcat hopefuls to hone their basketball skills, and from the very beginning he thought this group showed promise. When Ali Thomas says he sees talent in a player, it carries weight. After starring at S.I. and U.S.F., he played in the EuroLeague for eight years, winning seven Pro-Am Championships in the process, more than any other player in history, and a Pro-Am M.V.P. along the way. Even Coach Bringas, who is used to working with college and professional athletes was struck by the girls' demeanor, "I have been impressed by their maturity in the weight room and their exuberance towards training. These 'FAB Frosh' are going to be a handful for the competition this year.”

Soon Ja has been training with MAD since the end of eighth grade, and during that time she has gained over 175 lbs. of strength and increased her vertical by 2 inches. Jackie began training with MAD during the summer, and in the fall, when she played field hockey, she refused to let her participation in that sport interfere with her preparation for the upcoming basketball season. She would rush off to the gym immediately after her field hockey practices or matches, often training with MAD until 7:00 p.m. With such commitment to her training, she was able to increase her strength by over 150 lbs. Sabrina Ma came to MAD at the beginning of the school year to rehab a foot injury. Determined to be ready for her first high school basketball season, she has increased her strength by more than 100 lbs., and she shows no signs of her original foot injury. According to Sabrina, "From head to toe, I feel stronger and ready for our first varsity season.

For the past three seasons MAD has been working with the S.I. Boys Varsity Basketball Team, and this is the first year that MAD coaches have worked with S.I.'s Girls Varsity Basketball Team. MAD's training regimen for the teams is based largely on its Mind, Body, Skills Program; for a more detailed explanation of the program visit https://www.madtraining.org/mbs. In a nutshell, the Mind, Body, Skills Program integrates mental training and physical conditioning with sports specific skills development. Its primary goals are to prevent injury, to promote long-term athletic development, and to enhance athletic performance.

The MAD staff has been impressed with how quickly the S.I. Varsity Girls' Team has adapted to the new training regimen. MAD Director John Murray noted that teams usually require much longer to fully embrace the program. "It's not that the players have difficulty learning new concepts. Usually the impediment is their resistance to letting go of old habits and ideas. Generally speaking, as a species, we struggle with change." He recalls that Darrion Trammell, a very talented S.I. player who started training with MAD in his sophomore year, did not completely buy in until the middle of his junior season. After that, he became a lifting fiend, transforming into a powerful leader both on and off the court. Coach Bringas remembers that once Darrion began performing windmill dunks in practice, the light bulb went on for the gifted young Wildcat.

MAD Strength and Conditioning Coach Ryan Muñoz, who has also been instructing the Girls Varsity Team since S.I.'s basketball workouts began, attributes the team's quick adaptation to the new training program to the influence of Soon Ja, Jackie, and Sabrina, “All three of these girls work incredibly hard in the weight room. Their energy is contagious and their MAD mindset has carried over to the rest of the team." Director Murray agrees that the influence of the three girls has been one of the keys to the successful integration of the training program, but he also believes that Mali Ennis has played an instrumental role.

Coach Mike Mulkerrins and the S.I. Girls Varsity Basketball Team after winning the Lady Cat Classic with Tournament MVP Maddie Ennis front and center

Murray observed that Mali bought into the new training program from day one, and she quickly melded with the other three freshman, becoming the "fourth Musketeer." He sees Mali as having a similar temperament as the other three girls. "Mali is very athletic, but she is quiet and unassuming. She also works hard, very hard. You can't help but notice. On top of that, she has a passion for the game, and is a fierce competitor." Murray thinks that Mali's starting the MAD training fresh with the veteran players on the team may have been an important factor in the successful, teamwide acceptance of the new program.

Although she started the new training regimen concurrently with the older girls, she came in fresh with no preconceived notions of how things ought to be done; everything was new for her. On the other hand, the older players had to let go of the teams old methods, and that process of letting go is not always easy. He suspects that Mali's embracing of MAD's training subtly influenced her older teammates. Then again, on a not so subtle note, it is hard to imagine any veteran player letting a freshman outperform her.

MAD's director is very impressed with the four freshman, but he also thinks that much credit should be given to the team's veteran players who have accommodated a lot of change in a short amount of time. In a very brief period, they have accomplished what other smart, gifted athletes have required the better part of a season or more to accomplish. In a matter of weeks, they have familiarized themselves with new coaches and learned a new training system, completely immersing themselves in it. They have incorporated four, new, freshman players into their ranks, and they are already playing like a cohesive unit. Having seen them play twice, Murray believes they are for real. So far, the S.I. Girls Varsity Team has physically dominated its opponents with sound fundamentals and solid team play.

Murray likens the circumstances to a perfect storm. First, S.I. Boy's Varsity Basketball Coach Rob Marcaletti, who not only thinks outside the box, but who also has the courage to act outside the box, introduces MAD's revolutionary training program to S.I. basketball with the support of S.I.'s Athletic Director, John Mulkerrins. Then there is Coach Mike Mulkerrins who cares enough about his program to keep it on the cutting edge, and who, also with the support of A.D. Mulkerrins, secures MAD training for S.I.'s Girls Varsity Team. Next, you have the four freshmen who arrive in the same year as the new training program, and together they are able to act as an accelerant in its implementation. Finally, the freshman girls are fortunate to be joining an already successful and talented team with great camaraderie and veteran leaders such as Maddie Ennis, Emily Jones, and Angie McGrath. "This is an unusual group of athletes. If they continue working hard and supporting each other, they have the opportunity to accomplish something very special."

MAD Coach Emily Easom hooping for the Portland State University Vikings

Coach Easom, Coach Muñoz, and Director Murray ventured over to Marin Catholic to watch the team compete in the Lady Cat Classic and were pleased to see how the girls' training was already translating into self assurance and assertiveness on the court. Coach Easom enjoyed sitting among opposing coaches and players and eavesdropping on what they had to say about S.I. and their play. "Boy, was I proud to say I was working with them all in the weight room. The intensity and grit that these girls played with shocked fellow coaches and players. Coaches kept whispering to their players that this is how we need to play. We need to match this energy. Talking in transition defense is possible!" Easom had to laugh.

She laughed partly out of amusement over the comments she heard in the stands, but also due to her own giddiness over her young trainees' performances on the court. Easom has played and seen a lot of basketball, and she was impressed with the team play. "It was obvious that every girl trusted each other out on that court. They picked each other up after mistakes. They let their teammates know when they succeeded. It was a pleasure to watch."

Easom emphasizes that basketball is a team sport, and this bodes well for the S.I. Girls Varsity team where from the starting lineup right through to the end of the bench, each player contributes on the court. This includes the Fab Frosh Four with whom she is particularly pleased, "They provide a spark right off the bench that creates the fire that is the S.I. girl's basketball team." Coach Easom is bullish on the teams prospects for this season and beyond.

As stated earlier, Coach Emily Easom knows more than a little bit about the game of basketball. She still holds Marin Catholic's record for most threes made in a career. After graduating from Marin Catholic in 2012, she attended Portland State University where she started for three years earning Big Sky Conference Honorable Mention in 2014 and 2015. Easom also holds two Portland State records: most three point shots made in a career (135) and most three point shots made in a single game (7). In order to take advantage of academic opportunities, for her final year of college, she transferred to Sacramento State University where she finished her college career playing basketball for the Hornets and graduating Cum Laude with a degree in Kinesiology. Below are the highlights of Coach Easom's record setting performance for P.S.U. in which she demoralizes the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks with a barrage of three pointers including the game winner in the final 30 seconds.