MIAMI GARDENS – One by one, players from the Miami Rain semi-pro women’s basketball team entered the high school style gymnasium at the Miami Job Corps Center. Some began chatting with teammates and putting up shots. Others sat on chairs off to the side of the court trying to stay off their feet before practice began.
These women have played at different levels of college basketball with different levels of success.
Now pros, the players have come together as a team but with the individual goal of playing professionally full-time either in the United States or overseas. Some players such as Telisha Quarles and Cherelle George have played in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Others such as Daphne Frieson, Jamie Skinner and Charmaine Clark have played overseas.
Now they are all members of the Miami Rain of the semi-pro Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League. The team started in 2007 when owner and founder Kofie Wynter was looking for an outlet for women to play competitive basketball in South Florida.
“I was searching for something to do,” Wynter said. “We didn’t have a vision. It was just a hobby.”
The Miami Rain became a member of the league with help from Willie McCray, its president and founder. Running a women’s semi-pro basketball team has not come without challenges. The team has struggled to obtain robust corporate financial support. the South Florida Times is a corporate sponsor.
“It’s a man’s world athletically,” Wynter said. “They don’t see we have talent. They don’t see that they can be attractive and get down and dirty on the (basketball) court.”
The players are not paid during their time with the team. Despite the difficulties, the community has embraced the Rain.
“They have supported us,” forward Jamie Skinner said. “We are getting bigger and bigger crowds.”
The Rain’s goal is to see its players advance their basketball careers.
“My main goal is to help them get to the next level,” Rain coach Lester Patterson said.
Skinner, who was a member of the Rwanda National team, and first-year player Frieson use their time with the Rain to sharpen their skills during the summer.
“I want to be in tip-top shape when I go overseas,” Frieson said. She plays for BC Beroe of the National Basketball League in Bulgaria. Other players joined the Rain to keep their hoop dreams alive.
"I needed a fresh start,” George said of coming to Miami last year. “I’m looking to get overseas and make a name for myself.”
George says that she has attracted interest from teams overseas.
After a 2012 season in which the Rain completed its regular season with a perfect 10-0 record, the Rain suffered an early first-round playoff loss. This season, the Rain have a 5-0 record so far.
“We have better shooters,” guard Christina Rozier said. “We share the basketball a little bit more and we invest more on defense.”
The Rain have three games remaining in the regular season, two of them at home at the Miami Job Corps Center. Their next home game will be against the Fort Lauderdale Lions on July 6.
The team will host a regional tournament on July 20.
*Miami Rain guard Christina Rozier goes to the basket for a layup against the Tampa X-factor on June 22.