Caroline Doty of Fencor
HAMPTON, Va. - Two teams upset their seeding and advanced to the Gold Division Bracket – the Cal Swish-Black upset Maya Moore and the Georgia Metros Saturday morning to win pool D an the Alabama Lady Roadrunners-Nike beat the Spokane Stars Saturday afternoon to advance the Gold Division quarterfinals. Gone from the Swish are the likes of Dymond Simon, Lauren Greif, Hailey Dunham, Kayli Murphy and Taylor Lilley; all of which signed last year with Pac-10 schools. Jeanette Pohlen has taken over the reigns as the leader of the team, and while not flashy in her approach, the kid continually gets it done. The same can be said for many of her Swish teammates, three of which go to California powerhouse Troy High School.
The rest of the pools played out according to seeding with the Orlando Comets led by Duke-commit Krystal Thomas, the West Coast Elite with Briana Gilbreath and Italee Lucas, Fencor with Elena DelleDonne, Boo Williams and their onslaught of talent including Maryland-commit Kimberly Rodgers, the Tennessee Flight with crafty point guard Cetera DeGraffenreid and the Jasmine Thomas led Fairfax Stars all advanced to Gold Bracket play.
The West Coast Elite had an interesting road to the Gold Division. They came out sluggish and dropped their opening game to Team Ichiban who out hustled their left coast opponents and took a 64-59 win with them. Three teams ended up tied at 2-1 in their pool – WCE, Ichiban and the GA/Lina 76ers. Based on point differential WCE advanced, as the loss to Ichiban seemed to wake the sleeping giants so to speak.
On the other side of the bracket, a loaded Boo Williams Summer League team rolled with a 14-point quarterfinal win over Elena DelleDonne and her Fencor team. BWSL, with Marah Strickland, Tierra Pratt, Kimberly Rodgers and Lynette Ziser, to name a few tough player,s look to be the most talented squad in the elite division. They will face the Tennessee Flight-Silver who has been very impressive. They beat the West Coast Elite in the quarterfinals 66-62.
Not that you need me to tell you this, but, Jasmine Thomas from Fairfax, Va., is the best point guard in the tournament and probably the best in the country when you look at all the things she does on the floor. She plays both ends of the court with passion and fire. She makes great passes and knows how to get to the right spots on the floor to make those key passes. She directs her team on the floor and her pull up jumper is a thing of beauty. Her speed with and without the ball are matched by very few and at full speed with the basketball she's still under control. She stepped up big time and helped lift her team after Shegog went out in the quarterfinals, which is exactly what big-time players do.
Three other point guards stood out through Saturday - Lorin Dixon, Cetera Graffenreid and Alli Smalley. Dixon is the household name out of Springfield Gardens, N.Y., and her lightening quick moves in the lane and unthinkable speed on the quart have her known from coast to coast and have prompted Connecticut to offer her a scholarship. Her team, the Liberty Belles, struggled a little bit getting used to life without Tina Charles but, with Dixon and shooting guard Sky Lindsay, they will remain a very competitive team on the select circuit.
Graffenreid and Smalley are names you might not recognize. Graffenreid is a 5-5 junior from Cullowhee, N.C. and plays for the Tennessee Flight Silver squad. Think of a Dymond Simon in terms of energy and relentlessness attacking the basket. She has great change of direction moves and can make plays for her teammates when she does penetrate. She's not quite the shooter that Simon is right now but she makes up for it by playing phenomenal defense, especially on the ball D. When she paired up with Flight teammate Kerri Simpson, a 5-8 junior combo guard from Charleston, Ten., managed to frustrate and slow down stand out guard Khadijah Rushdan of the DBL Phoenix, which is no simple feat if you know how strong and good with the ball Rushdan, from Wilmington, Del., is.
Smalley is a 5-8 junior from Arab, Ala. and plays for the Alabama Lasers. In high school she's an accomplished scorer with the Alabama 5A Tournament single-game scoring record with 41 points. She put her scoring skills on display against The Family, Saturday morning but it wasn't enough for the Lasers to pull of the upset. She can handle the ball with both hands with equal skill and finishes at the cup. She is also a solid perimeter shooter. She single handedly kept her team in the game against Ta'Shia Phillips and The Family.
Off-guards and Wings
Stephanie Gilbreath, a 6-1 2007 prospect from Katy, Tex., showed she has another level she can take it, which was scary and exciting at the same time. When she decides to turn it on with her size and quickness she is almost impossible to stop. If the defender bodies her up she's strong enough and quick enough to get by most. Off the bounce or in a catch and shoot she is hard to defend because of her height and the nice high release on her jumper. She gets good elevation on her jumper too making it a real weapon. Defensively, she's long and has quick hands and good speed. She seems to thrive in the middle of a zone press.
Tyra White, a 6-0 2007 wing prospect from Kansas City, Mo., showed a lot of offense and plenty of energy on defense. She's got a good shake when she handles the ball and she can create space and get into the seams. When she attacks the basket she attacks it hard and doesn't seem to be mind taking tough shots. She put on a three minute scoring show in a losing effort against Fairfax. After getting the basket a couple of times she showed the ability to jab-step and pull the trigger from three-point land with much success.
The most impressive 2008 guard was 5-11 April Sykes from Crawford, Miss. She's got handle, size, a sweet stroke and she's capable of creating shots for herself. Another sensational sophomore was Brittany Carter from Covington, Ga. At 5-9, she has decent size and plays very strong and aggressive. She creates off the dribble and finishes, primarily with her strong hand. Her athleticism gives her a lot of upside.
Kelley Cain, a 2007 prospect from Atlanta, Ga., looked very good in the post showing that she's not just 6-6, but that she has some real talent. The most impressive thing she showed was her hands. She catches passes that most posts – nearly all posts – can't catch. If she gets even a third of her hand on the ball I'd bet she comes up with it which makes her a great target when Moore gets doubled. She's using her body better to get post position than she did last summer while recovering from a knee injury.
Krystal Thomas, a 6-4 2007 prospect from Windermere, Fla., showed flashes of brilliance and a real understanding of how to get low and establish good post position with her body. At this level most of the post play is done the arms and backs but Thomas drops her hips, gets her feet wide and uses her body to pin defenders away from the passing lanes. It's a part of post play that is not prevalent in high school and makes the game much easier for her as that solid post position limits tipped post entry passes. She can also finish around the basket and is very athletic for her size.
Chay Shegog, a 6-4 2008 prospect from Stafford, Va., was tough until she injured her hand Saturday night. She is very mobile and with good length and timing a good shot blocker for the Fairfax Stars. Her movement on both ends of the floor is fluid and she has soft touch on her shots around the basket.
Chris Hansen is the National Director of Scouting for Women's Basketball at HoopGurlz.com and Scout.com. Chris leads the panel that evaluates and ranks girl's basketball prospects nationally for HoopGurlz, Scout.com and Full Court Press (www.FullCourt.com). Chris has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.