USA Cup Day One Report

Some of the best talent in the country has come to Elgin Illinois for the Nike USA Cup. In the first day of competition, some great players dominated to show the Division I coaches why they should be playing for their teams.

Some of the best talent in the country has come to Elgin Illinois for the Nike USA Cup. In the first day of competition, some great players dominated to show the Division I coaches why they should be playing for their teams.


The teams, all 200 or so of them, are divided into brackets, one of which is the Nike Elite bracket. I watched a number of games from that bracket, unfortunately missing the most exciting one of all.


The match-up between the Illinois Hustle and Georgia 76ers went to several overtimes. As college coaches started drifting away from the game, fans piled in to shout encouragement. The boisterous crowd watched as the Hustle pulled out a 4 point win. Obviously fatigued players were given a rousing cheer. Fortunately for both teams, they don't play again until tomorrow.


I did watch the entire game between Indiana's The Family and the West Virginia Tornadoes, a team coached by Jerry Hornbuckle, father of Tennessee's Alexis. Unlike the Hustle-76ers game, there was no suspense in this one.


The Family jumped out to an early lead after the Tornadoes point guard suffered some early jitters and turned over the ball on consecutive possessions. A guard oriented team, the Tornadoes had trouble getting into an offensive flow and sloppy ball-handling put them into a deep hole early.


On the other side of the court, the outrageously talented Family had great athleticism at almost every position. Guard Ashley Barlow used her terrific footwork on defense to make the Tornadoes cough up whatever balls she didn't steal from them.


And then there's Ta'Shia Phillips. Phillips is a 6-5 F/C from the Class of 2007 who's already committed to Purdue. Phillips is a stud. She has a great build for a post, strong but not bulky. Her size doesn't keep her from making some really slick moves in the paint. At one point, Phillips, while being double-teamed, caught the ball with her back to the basket, spun and took it up with authority. The two girls defending her were totally ineffective and the move was so impressive that the large number of Division I coaches present let out a collective "Ooooo". A little later in the game, the Tornadoes tried triple-teaming Phillips only to see her make a nifty little over the shoulder pass to an undefended teammate.


The Tornadoes were indecisive about how to attack the Family. They passed the ball around the perimeter until they either turned it over or put up an ill-advised shot. They may have been intimidated by Phillip's presence in the paint but it seemed as though it never occurred to them to pass the ball inside.

That's too bad because the Tornadoes seem to have a good post presence in Teresa Tokodi, a 6-1 C who made just about every shot she attempted. Tokodi had good aggressiveness and fought for everything that came her way. It's too bad she didn't get enough touches.


At half-time the score was 49-28 in favor of the Family. Already in trouble, the Tornadoes saw the game go out of reach when the Family started hitting their three pointers. The game pretty much went on in the same vein until the gory 95-40 final score.  The Family dominated without two of their marquee players in the game – Dee Dee Jernigan and Fakarah Malone. I don't know if they didn't make the trip but I didn't see them play.


Some of the players who stood out today are:


Gwen Williams, 5-6 G, St. Louis Rockets, Class of 2008

A speedy and smart player who is a pass first type point guard. Quick and decisive with the ball, Williams kept the defenders guessing with a variety of moves. She can drive and dish, shoot a pull up jumper or take the ball right to the hoop. She made good decisions and rarely turned over the ball.


Kasey Strawbridge, 5-10 F/C, St. Louis Rockets, Class of 2009

Strawbridge plays much longer than 5-10. She's so physically mature, the college coach standing next to me thought the date of graduation in the program must be a typo. Strong, athletic and smooth, Strawbridge can back down bigger players in the post. She grabbed rebounds with authority and has good hands. Strawbridge has talent, no doubt, but she will need to show she can make shots from the perimeter and improve her ball-handling for the college game.


Ta'Shia Phillips, 6-5 F/C, The Family, Class of 2007

Very strong post presence with well-developed skills in all areas. She simply dominated the paint and double- or triple-teaming her had no effect. Phillips is a strong rebounder and a smart shot blocker. She seemed to get up and down the floor just fine for such a big girl but she wasn't really pushed to exert herself to the fullest. Still, despite having a big talent disparity over the opponent, Phillips didn't slack off or dog it at any time.


Ashley Barlow, 5-8 G, The Family, Class of 2006

Quick, intense player who gave her complete effort on every play. Barlow would sneak in and grab defensive rebounds and leave the opponent flat-footed with her speed and aggressiveness. A pickpocket on defense, Barlow made several steals and converted them into easy lay-ups.


Jantel Lavender, 6-4 C, All Ohio Black, Class of 2007

Lavender is all hustle. A big girl, not wide but long, she can get up the floor in a hurry. On offense she has an impressive back-to-the-basket catch and shoot but she also showed some range, making a couple of jumpers from 8-10'. She shot an airball from 18' but it was a good shot at the right time. Lavender's lack of width didn't prevent her from clearing space for herself in the paint.  On defense, she had 3 blocks in the first 5 minutes and her defensive footwork caused an opponent to double dribble then walk on consecutive possessions.

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