USA Cup Day Two Report

The stakes grew higher for the 8 teams remaining in the Nike Elite bracket. Four games were played today whittling their number to 4 as some of the best players in the country tried to lead their team to the Nike USA Cup championship.

The first game of the day for the Nike Elite bracket pitted the Michigan Crossover against Boo Williams. It seemed that early on the Crossover would try to establish 6-1 F Lequisha Whitfield in the paint. Although Boo Williams is bigger and much deeper at the post position, Whitfield did a really good job by making several nice jumpers and impressive drives along the baseline. Boo Williams suffered some early sloppy ball-handling but they used a number of players off their incredibly deep bench to pull away.

Boo Williams' Kimberly Rodgers went on a personal streak, slashing to the basket for a score then hitting a three-pointer from the wing on the next possession. Boo Williams' disrupted the Crossover with an aggressive press but Rodgers' next shot was an airball, which the Crossover recovered, feeding Whitfield for yet another dash through the paint for a bucket.

Unfortunately for the Crossover, Whitfield was the only one scoring. After 5 minutes, Boo Williams was up 11-9 but the margin was narrow only because they had trouble holding on to the ball. That soon changed. After Boo Williams, the coach for whom the team is named, called a time out, his team played at a more deliberate, but not necessarily slower pace.

The Boo Williams team is very well balanced. They have several very good shooters and defending them is a difficult task, even for a good team like the Michigan Crossover. The absence of 6-3 F Jasmine Stone, a highly recruited Division I prospect, from the Crossover was even more pronounced.

The Crossover got behind 20-14 and tried to push the pace back up. Boo Williams went inside to a variety of large bodies, large talented bodies who had a decided advantage over the Crossover.

Some of the Boo Williams posts who simply dominated include 6-3 Jessica Breland, an authoritative rebounder who could slash through the paint or head-fake her way past defenders. Light on her feet for such a big girl, Breland could do a skip step around opponents with such quickness that there was simply nothing they could do. 6-2 C Kaili McLaren is a wide body who was immovable in the paint. I tossed off the comment that McLauren was awfully big and a coach who overheard me commented that it didn't prevent her from getting up and down the floor in a hurry. McLaran showed a nice touch with her layups and a fierce, get-out-of-my-way attitude. It came as a bit of a shock when McLaren took some threes from the perimeter, but why not? There were plenty of big girls to play the post.

As Whitfield toiled against the 4 Boo Williams players who stood 6-2 or taller, it was up to a Crossover guard to take some of the heat off her. China Threat, a 5-9 G/F used her quickness to create some steals and her aggressiveness to fend off the swarm of Boo Williams defenders.

Boo Williams responded with Virginia-commit Paulisha Kellum. Even though she moved quickly with the ball, she kept it protected at all times by positioning her body between the ball and the defender. If the defender came at her from another side, Kellum switched hands with ease.

While both teams were quick and athletic, Boo Williams just had too much depth for the Crossover, who only suited up 7 players. Towards the middle of the second half the Crossover had trouble even getting the ball to midcourt. The game ended with a Boo Williams 64-44 win.

Boo Williams is an incredibly impressive team. There are a number of Division I prospects, some who could go to highly ranked teams. Their next game is against Indiana's The Family, another team with a number of impressive players. My feeling is that the winner of that game will probably win the Nike USA Cup.

Some players seen today who were impressive:

Tina Charles, 6-4 F, New York Liberty Belles, 2007
This multi-dimensional player deserves every word of praise said about her. On offense, Charles showed she can turn and shoot, put up a nice soft shot from 8', bully her way through the paint and toss in an authoritative baby hook that had even the most jaded coach's jaw dropping. Her passing ability is excellent for a post. The only weakness might be her flat, line-drive free throws. One of the top players at this tournament.

Bianca Ward, 5-5 G, Illinois Hustle, 2008
Ward was perhaps the best point guard present at the Nike USA Cup. A speedy guard who was never, ever out of control, Ward moves very quickly but always with a purpose. Her handle was impressive; she has an instinctual feel for the ball and she's equally capable with right hand or left. One of her most outstanding traits is her ability to shift gears and to know when to do so. Her coach has received plenty of interest from colleges but Ward is only a rising sophomore. It boggles the mind to think what kind of player she'll be in 3 years.

Caroline Doty, 5-11 G, Fencor, 2008
There's a lot to like about Doty's game. For most of the game, she maintained a calm, almost serene demeanor until it came to the last 5 minutes when her team was in danger of losing. Then she assumed a game face and attacked the opponent with deadly perimeter strikes, slashes to the hoop and stop-and-pop jumpers that were right on the money. Slender and athletic, Doty never ran out of energy even while battling the bigger, more experienced All Ohio Black. Her shooting and passing are very well developed and while she might dribble a bit too much on occasion, a tendency of young guards, her handle is strong and sure. Doty needs to add a bit of strength but she will be a top Division I prospect.

Tyra Grant, 5-11 SF, All Ohio Black, 2006
This kid can flat out score from anywhere at anytime. There is no spot on the floor from which she in uncomfortable taking a shot and still get nothing but net. Grant evades defenders with a quick step and clears space for herself with her speed. The defenders started trying to foul her but Grant was still strong enough to get the shot off. Simply unstoppable on offense.

Delaquese "Dee Dee" Jernigan, 5-11 G, Indiana The Family, 2006
Slender and lanky, Jernigan has tremendous athleticism. She really elevates for rebounds reaching over the hands of taller players. On offense, she can score from pretty much anywhere. I neglected to take note of any three point attempts but it seemed to me that Jernigan is more of a slasher rather than a jump shooter. But her game is well-developed and she was an integral part of the talented Family AAU team. Jernigan lists her college interests as DePaul, Illinois, LSU, Purdue and Rutgers. She said she has no favorites at this time.

Amber Harris, 6-4 G (? says guard in roster), Indiana The Family, 2006
This Purdue commit can pretty much do it all. Harris has an impressive variety of shots on offense and her ball handling is extraordinary for a post. Watching such a big girl tearing up the floor, facing down opponents then shifting hands with a crossover dribble is a sight to behold. At one point, Jernigan tossed Harris an alley-oop and the Family fans were screaming for her to dunk it. She opted for the layup instead but Ta'Shia Phillip's father, who was sitting next to me, assured me Harris could dunk if she wanted to. Harris blocked a number of shots, big, authoritative swats, without ever having to leave her feet. One college coach told me he'd seen Harris at a local AAU event and that she looked like a WNBA player among junior high school players.

Nikki Davis, 5-8 G, All Ohio Blaze, 2006
Quick, aggressive player who is involved in just about every play for her team. She has a great handle, using a crossover or through the legs dribble to keep the ball away from defenders. Davis is an outstanding passes, occasionally using a no-look pass to confound the opponent. While on defense, her attitude is intense and her feet keep moving – rarely, if ever, was Davis caught reaching in because she was out of position. Davis is a tough kid, tough physically and emotionally. Miami (OH) has offered her a scholarship but she declined to name any other teams.

Jazmyn Green, 5-6 G, Team Ichiban Red 17U, 2006
Smallish guard with a stocky build, Green zoomed around the court with ease. She drew gasps from the crowd by hitting consecutive threes, barely missing a third before converting her fourth on four consecutive possessions. She didn't need long to set up before releasing the ball. Quick as she was, Green was never out of control and she directed her teammates clearly and decisively.

The entire Boo Williams team
They deserve their own article, to come later.

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