On to College Station

Cinco Ranch's Russell takes next step in illustrious career

Russell established a plan to graduate high school early and get to College Station Via Vype

Originally Appeared on Vype

Cinco Ranch High girls soccer coach Fredy Sanguinetti knew he wouldn't get star player Ali Russell's services for a full four years.

And though Russell told Sanguinetti during her freshman year three years ago that she would not play her senior season in 2019, instead electing to graduate early and enroll at Texas A&M to get a head start academically and athletically, Sanguinetti didn't think it would come to that.

He thought she'd be gone even before then.

"From day one, I always thought the USA team was going to take her," Sanguinetti said. "I knew she was at Cinco on borrowed time, whether it was to graduate early or the U.S. team was going to pick her up."

In three years at Cinco Ranch, Russell, who also played for the U.S. national team from 2015-2017, was a three-time all-state selection at forward. She set district and school records for goals (120) and assists (51). She led the Cougars to the state tournament twice, each time being named to the all-tournament team.

And yet through it all, Russell hardly wavered in her decision to bypass her senior season.

"The only moment I ever second-guessed myself was when we lost state last year," said Russell, referring to a loss in penalty kicks to Flower Mound Marcus in the state semifinals. "I was like, OK, so if I stay, do you think we could win state? It was a big thing. I wanted to win state so bad, and we were so close so many times. Even my dad, for the first time ever, asked me, 'OK, so are you sure?' And I just had to be strong. I know, in the long run, this would be better for me."

It is the norm, if not the standard, at Texas A&M for women's soccer players to graduate high school early and enroll in the spring to get a head start.

"I'm not nervous for the school part, at alI," Russell said. "I also don't want to go into college having the mindset that I'm going to play. I want to be able to work for my spot. I'm nervous for that soccer aspect of wanting new people to like me, and for the first practice. I don't want to play like trash, because that's the first thing they remember. Once I get through that, I'll be fine."


Read more on Ali here

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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