Nike Skills: Day One

18 of the country's top girls basketball players assembled at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. There are no college coaches in attendance, which attests to the purity of the event and desire of the girls to improve their skills and knowledged this weekend. On hand are elite 2006 and 2007 talents, including Stanford recruit Jayne Appel.

Ballhandling drill (photo by Chris Hansen)

BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Nike Girls Skills Academy kicked off Thursday night at the Bo Jackson Gymnasium on the Nike World Headquarters. In all there are 22 kids here, 18 today with the remaining four slated to join the group tomorrow. Unlike an exposure tournament or USA Basketball trials, this event has but one goal _ to make the best better.

Names you may know such as Jacki Gemelos, Tina Charles and Jayne Appel are all here, but there are no college coaches to impress, just a gathering of some very talented prep players and some excellent instruction as only Nike can do. Helping out in the Skills academy are WNBA analyst and former professional player and coach Nancy Lieberman, 2002 WNBA All-star and current ESPN analyst Stacey Dales-Shuman and the NCAA's all-time leading scorer and 2001 WNBA Rookie of the year Jacki Stiles - all joining Nike Skills Academy's National Director Kevin Eastman. Eastman is a former collegiate coach and currently is the Director of Player Development for the NBA's Boston Celtics.

Jacki Gemelos (photo by Glenn Nelson)
One of the camps' biggest stars, Elena Delle Donne, is out for at least the first few days being under the weather. She is hoping to get rested and shake her illness if not for the last few days of the academy at least for the End of the Trail tournament next week for which her reigning AAU National Championship team, Fencor, in entered.

The structure of this camp is much different than an exposure camp or tryouts. There are a limited number of participants and each one has an evaluator assigned to them. At the end of the camp these evaluators will sit down with each player and go over the details of their games that could use some work. Most of the academy is spent on drill work and the first day ended with a series of scrimmages.

Today there was a great deal of time spent on ball handling, and yes even the kids 6-foot-3 and up had to work on their handle. The posts were undoubtedly relieved when they split into post and perimeter groups and were able to work in the paint.

One thing is evident - all of these kids are athletic. Some are ahead of others in skill set and basketball IQ, but all of these kids can move. In the coming days their athleticism will be put to the test with a new evaluating system called SPARQ. They will be tested in four different agility, strength and quickness tests, and their times will all feed into a scoring system. While these test claim to evaluate athleticism, they do have their limitations and their critics. Nevertheless it is another way to compare and contrast these young athletes as they strive for the next level.

Nike Skills Academy Participants:
Jayne Appel Pleasant Hill, Calif.
Angie Bjorklund Spokane, Wash.
Jessica Breland Kalford, N.C.
Tina Charles St Alban's, N.Y.
Elena Delle Donne Centreville, Del.
Jacqueline Gemelos Stockton, Calif.
Amber Harris Indianapolis, Ind.
Allison Hightower Arlington, Tex.
Delaquesa Jernigan East Chicago, Ind.
Whitney Jones West Monroe, La.
Jantel Lavendar Euclid, Ohio
Italee Lucas North Las Vegas, Nev.
Cait McMahan Maryville, Tenn.
Morghan Medlock Harbor City, Calif.
Maya Moore Lawrenceville, Ga.
Porsha Phillips Stone Mountain, Ga.
Ta'Shia Phillips Indianapolis, Ind.
Brittany Raven Fort Worth, Tex.
Dymond Simon Avondale, Ariz.
Jasmine Thomas Fairfax, Va.
Monica Wright Virginia

More Coverage:
Nike Skills: Day Two

The Bootleg Top Stories