Program Changer

Louisville's Elite Skills Camp was loaded with talented high school prospects Thursday, but one player, Mercedes Russell, stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Louisville's Elite Skills Camp was loaded with talented high school prospects Thursday, but one player, Mercedes Russell, stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Russell, a 6-foot-5 center from Springfield, Oregon, is considered the No. 1 prospect nationally in the Class of 2013. A program changing recruit, Russell is being courted by the nation's elite women's basketball programs, including Louisville, Tennessee and North Carolina.

What makes Russell a special player? Her size and advanced skill-set.

"When she was younger, she was shorter just like Anthony Davis and then she grew," said Brett McCormick, the editor and publisher of All Star Girls Report. "She's 6-5, can back people down in the post and score. She's a true difference-maker. She's not going to be a guard, but she can handle the ball."

Russell's offensive skills were apparent during Louisville's camp. She showed the ability to put the ball on the floor with both hands, made adept passes from the low post and displayed excellent footwork and post-moves.

"She can score inside with either hand and people muscle her around and she can still score," McCormick said.

Can Russell impact the women's game similar to Brittany Griner, who led Baylor to the national title last season?

"I think she [can]," McCormick said. "You can throw the ball into her and she will score. She's a program changer just like Brittany Griner. She will come right in and help immediately."

As dominant as she is offensively, McCormick says Russell could play with more aggression on defense.

"She can block shots, but needs to do better at the defensive end. I don't think she's figured out yet that she could be more dominating. Offensively, she can dominate. Defensively, she needs to be a little more aggressive."

On the recruiting front, McCormick believes Louisville is well positioned with Russell, but will have to fend off Tennessee and North Carolina for her services.

"If Jeff gets her she's definitely a program changer," McCormick. "It will be interesting to see [where she goes]. I know [Louisville] is right in the mix."

As a junior, Russell averaged 26 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks and five assists while leading Springfield to a second consecutive Class 5A state title.

Other Camp Standouts

Jeff Walz is one of the elite women's coaches nationally, and he's assembled a top-notch coaching staff. That's why Louisville's Elite Skills Camp was loaded with talented prospects, including 6-3 Rebecca Greenwell from Owensboro, Ky., ranked No. 6 nationally in the Class of 2013 by ESPN.com. Makayla Epps, a UofL commitment from Marion County, was also in camp, as was promising rising sophomore Nora Kiesler, a skilled 6-6 center from Louisville Assumption.

"She needs to get in better shape, but she's going to be really good," said McCormick of Kiesler.


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