Bjorklund is Star of Stars

Stanford has already corralled two commitments for the 2006 class, so we're not quite getting ahead of ourselves when we take a peak at the elite targets of '07. Angie Bjorklund is at or near the top of any 2007 prospect list, and this summer the Spokane (Wash.) guard stepped into a leadership role and kept her storied Spokane Stars team among the country's elite.

If you do not know Spokane, Wash., you should. That medium-sized city near the Washington-Idaho border produced a pretty good former NBA point guard named Jon Stockton, as well as one of the country's top girl's summer club basketball teams the past two years, plus a decent amount of college basketball players. That team is the Spokane Stars and they have one of the nation's best guards in Angie Bjorklund.

Tracing the history of the Stars back to its inception in 1982 you will find a pretty unique group that has come through Ron Adam's program – Andrea Lloyd (Texas), Tanya Lamb (North Carolina), Trisha Stevens (Stanford), Kate Starbird (Stanford), Heather Owen (Stanford), Stacey Clinesmith (Santa Barbara), Loree Payne (Washington), Emily Westerberg (Arizona State), Reagan Pariseau (Arizona State) and, last year, Jami Bjorklund (Gonzaga) and Briann January (Arizona State), among many others, all played in the Stars program. As good as all those players were in the Stars' blue, it is Bjorklund who continues to open eyes and mouths. The list of collegiate programs hoping to land this latest Star is as impressive as any.

Bjorklund was on last summer's Spokane Stars squad that went an impressive 51-1, losing only to the Arizona Elite in the spring. That Stars team won the renowned End of the Trail tournament in Oregon City, Ore., where Bjorklund put herself on the map with a great showing that landed her on the All-Tournament team. After losing her older sister Jami to graduation along with standout point guard January, the vocal leaders of last year's squad, Angie found herself not only with a greater responsibility as a scorer but also as the team's leader.

"We lost some key players from this past year," Bjorklund said. "I was thinking I've got to step up a little. We had captains every year and this year I was a captain."

Becoming a vocal leader on the floor isn't easy for everyone, but Bjorklund has taken the new challenge in stride. While her team this year isn't 51-1, nobody expected it to accomplish as much as it has this spring and summer. The Stars won the Arizona Elite Spring Classic beating perhaps the west coast's most talented team, the Cal Swish-Black, then made the championship games of two of the country's most elite tournaments.

Spokane returned to defend its championship at the End of the Trail this year and found as tough a field as the tournament has ever seen, sporting powerhouse teams from east to west, including the Texas Jammers led by Allison Hightower, a talented DFW-Elite team led by Brittany Raven, a stacked Boo Williams Summer League squad with Monica Wright and Jessica Breland, to name a few, and Maya Moore's Georgia Metros team, as well as the Cal Swish Black with Dymond Simon and Jeannette Pohlen among others.


Angie Bjorklund (photo by Glenn Nelson)
The Stars made it to the bracket finals, a rematch of their earlier exhibition game against the Metros. Spokane won the first meeting despite the Metros holding Bjorklund to fewer than 10 points, a seemingly impossible task for most teams. It was in this game that Bjorklund began to realize how special a player she is and what it takes to be the real deal. While not scoring well, she worked hard all game to get open in their offense and then found the open teammate to keep her team in the game.

"I thought it was neat how our team really stepped up," said Bjorklund, whose team has a few Division I caliber players in forward Heather Bowman and point guard Sarah Morton – maybe a few more, but nowhere near the number of D-1 athletes that the Metros or Boo Williams have. The game is still a team game and her understanding of that showed on the floor where the tendency for many players is to try to stand out individually in front of the hoards of coaches. "You see a lot individual play and a lot of one on one," Bjorklund added. "We worked hard on defense and did the little things. We played more as a unit. We didn't need to have individual one-on-one … I think that's what kept us in the game."

Bjorklund would come out blazing in the bracket finals, scoring 35 points and bringing her team from 20 down to make things competitive late. She continued to compete despite the growing deficit and showed her toughness in bringing her team back. The Stars would lose the game, but both Bjorklund and her teammates would learn from it and forge ahead into another tough tournament at the Nike Nationals.

The field consisted of only 24 teams, but every team was solid competition, which is not always the case in the summer evaluation tournament circuit. Bjorklund and the Stars would land in a bracket with the eventual champions, The Family, which is as talented a squad as you will find in the country with Ashley Barlow, Ta'Shia Phillips, Dee Dee Jernigan and Amber Harris. Also in their bracket was the top team from New England, the Crusaders. and the Texas Express.

Bjorklund would step up to the challenge, leading the field in scoring for the tournament at more than 22 points per game. She also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists a game in leading the Stars to the championship game for their second shot at The Family. Bjorklund scored 27 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had six assists and three steals before fouling out in the championship game as the Stars finished up a great summer run with a runner-up finish.

One of Bjorklund's big goals this year in both high school and club ball was to always lead by example and not only on the days when her jumper was on. "Going into the summer I really wanted to work on taking it to the hole more if my shot wasn't on," Bjorklund said, " and having a complete game. Especially going against the higher competition … sometimes I shied away from going to the basket."

This goal really hit home at the Nike Girls Skills Academy where she was one of 22 selected by Nike as being the best in the country. Instead of getting by her defender, then facing a 5-foot-11-inch defender at the basket, she found the likes of 6-foot-6 Ta'Shia Phillips or 6-foot-4 Tina Charles waiting to try and send her shot into the bleachers. Bjorklund admitted that she missed some shots she usually makes at the Academy because the presence of the imposing post defenders isn't as prominent in high-school ball. "It was different, taking into the trees," she said. "I would think about the defense too much."

Bjorklund, a top 2007 prospect, has not begun the process of narrowing her options for college – and who can blame her. Next month she can officially start receiving mass mailings and later in the year the weekly phone calls will start rolling in. She wants to go through the entire recruiting process and not join such early commits from the 2007 as Italee Lucas, Rebecca Gray and Ta'Shia Phillips. With the success of the Stars, it is not unusual to see the nation's top schools watching their games, but whether the modest Bjorklund wants to admit it, having Pat Summitt sitting on almost every game you play, as the legendy head coach at Tennessee did this past summer, is an indicator of your status.


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