Report from the BLue Star US Jr. Nationals

Two major tournaments were held in the Philadelphia area during the fall viewing period, October 1st and 2nd. One tournament was held on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, the U.S. Junior Nationals in Thorofare, NJ. This Blue Star-sponsored event showcased talents from throughout the Northeast and South.

The marquee player for the event was Jasmine Thomas, a 5 foot-10 inch guard from Oakton High School in Fairfax Vir. She will undoubtedly be one of the top players from the class of 2007. Quick and athletic, Thomas blows by defenders with a smooth change of gears, then when she draws the inevitable double-team will dish off to an open teammate. Her court vision is excellent. Her passes are quick and efficient, rarely forced. Occasionally, Thomas will toss a no-look pass, which confused and confounded the opposition.

Thomas is a terror on defense. She harassed opposing players into walks or double-dribbles. Her anticipation and ability to see the play developing are excellent and she had several steals and blocks. One block made the crowd gasp because Thomas came out of nowhere into the paint and swatted the shot away.

While she's perfectly happy to pass to open teammates on offense, Thomas will take a shot rather than force passes. She does have the ability to drive to the hoop and she's extremely smooth and her motions appear effortless. Her decision-making appeared to be quite good. There were no three point attempts and some of the jumpers look like they could use a bit of tinkering on mechanics but overall, Jasmine Thomas is an outstanding player.

When asked for a list of college interests, Thomas said she was considering "Maryland, UConn, Duke and all the top schools". Duke has offered her a scholarship. The list is fluid and changes daily; Thomas isn't expected to narrow down her list of interests until after her high school season, possibly in the spring or later.

Teammate Chay Shegog, a 6-4 center from the class of 2008, turned in a lackluster performance against a Philadelphia Belles team that had no one taller than 6-1. She's a long, lean player who moves very well but showed a surprising passiveness during the game. Opponents drove around her with no difficulty. It wasn't a good game for Shegog.

Two new players joined the Boston Sharks or perhaps were just playing with them for this tournament. Laniece Longford, a much decorated guard from the class of 2007 in Massachusetts, was attracting a lot of attention from college coaches before she was hurt in her game against the Fairfax Stars 2. Longford can create her own shot in the lane and had coaches murmuring with her speed and agility. Unfortunately, her evening was cut short with a possible knee injury.

Tahtianna Tate, a 6-2 forward from Walpole High School in Mass. can run the floor like a guard. She's a tenacious rebounder who is always active in the paint, with and without the ball. Tate's defense is very well-developed and she blocked a number of shots. She also had the coaches wondering where she came from. A 2006 player, Tate is probably garnering some late attention. Lauren Thomas-Johnson of Notre Dame Academy in Virginia is a 5-11 guard from the class of 2006. She has a beautiful offensive game, with a smooth, effortless three pointer and a pretty pull-up jumper. She's very active on both ends of the floor. Cincinnati, Marquette and Seton Hall are pursuing Thomas-Johnson.

The New England Crusaders seem to have a host of Division I players and it's hard to know where to look with so much talent on the floor. The player attracting the most attention is Ashley Cimino, a 6-3 wing/guard from Maine from the class of 2007. It was hard to get a complete read on her abilities since she was playing on a team put together just for the weekend but it was apparent that Cimino is a player with a strong basketball instinct. On offense, she kept moving towards the basket at all times, never falling away from shots or backing off when the defender bodied her up. Cimino ate up the smaller players sent to defend her.

Cimino has a nice handle and frequently brought the ball up the floor on the fast break. She moves well with and without the ball. On defense, a number of the opponents' shots were blocked or altered by Cimino.

A long list of top teams are pursuing Ashley Cimino, with Stanford reported to be the most ardent suitor. UConn, Notre Dame, Villanova and other programs have also requested unofficial visits.

Megan Jackson is another 2007 player for the Crusaders. This New Englander hails from Manchester New Hampshire and is a 6-2 G/F. On defense, she uses her long arm to tip passes, alter shots or block them outright. Her knowledge of the inside-out game was readily apparent and she took advantage of her height against the smaller players sent to guard her. Her passing into the post was crisp and sure. A number of high Division I schools are recruiting Jackson.

The Liberty Belles were without Tina Charles, but that didn't matter as 2007 guard Sky Lindsay took over the game in her place. She was driving to the basket with authority. When the defenses started to double-team her, she passed the ball to open teammates with confidence. Her speed was a weapon she used with great effectiveness. In the past, she's deferred to Charles in some games but this time she took over. Lindsay still needs to work on shooting the mid-range jumper but she has all the tools to be a terrific player.

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