Commotion by the Ocean Northeast showcase

The Memorial Day holiday is usually reserved for parades, barbeques and opening up the pool but not everyone was lazing around last weekend. Over 130 girls' basketball teams gathered for the Rhode Island Breakers' Commotion by the Ocean tournament in the Breakers' home state. These teams represented clubs from all of the New England states plus New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

One of the games played pitted the Long Island Lightning 16U against Exodus-Best. The game showcased the talents of a number of Division I recruits. For the Lightning, Kim Brennan (5-9 G, Our Lady of Mercy Academy, 2007), was a standout. The pass-first guard showed some real poise while facing a quicker, more athletic team. Her passes were quick and decisive and she rarely made a bad decision with them. She was equally adept dribbling with either hand. On offense, Brennan has a variety of moves. She showed she could take it to the hoop, make the pull up jumper or nail nothing-but-net threes even with defenders on her.

The Exodus guards couldn't get it going this game and were outplayed by Brennan and the other Lightning guards. But the Exodus post players had good games, especially Cosima Higham (6-1 F, Poly Prep-Brooklyn, 2007) and Jelleah Sidney (6-0 F, St. Michael's, 2009). Higham is a tough, athletic player who was willing to scrap for balls and battle for rebounds. After rebounding the ball she'd go back up with the rebound and get the put back even when getting bumped.

Sidney is a very promising young player who played aggressively on both ends of the floor. She tried to be involved in every play and never slacked off in intensity even towards the end of a game after she'd spent a lot of time on the court. Sidney has nice size but can still run the floor like a guard. Her athleticism lets her sky for rebounds over taller players. It appeared that the defense kept trying to force Sidney to her left and she did attempt a couple of acrobatic reverses (making one) so she may need to work on her left handed layups. But what stood out about this young player is her mental toughness. She didn't get down on herself after a mistake or compound her error with a silly foul. Sidney is a player to watch.

In a later game the host team, the Rhode Island Breakers, played an overmatched opponent. All five starters for the Breakers are being recruited by Division I schools, led by the much sought-after Heather Buck (6-5 C, Stonington (CT), 2008). Buck is a long, lean player with strong fundamentals and high basketball IQ. When Buck was double-teamed, she never lost her composure or tried to force a shot that wasn't there. She would either take a step back for more space or pass the ball to an open teammate. Buck is a terrific passer, too. Buck never took a shot with her left hand but in her defense, she was never forced that way, either. The opposing team wasn't able to even slow her down, much less steer her to the weak side. Defensively, she had no trouble containing a wider, heavier player. She always kept her long arms up and snatched away rebounds before the opponents had a chance to touch the ball. On both offense and defense, Buck would be constantly communicating with teammates, directing players to their spot on the floor, apparently constantly aware of what play the opponent was running.

Buck is a smooth, intelligent player who will have a lot of options when it comes time to choose a college. UConn has offered Buck a scholarship and she's also being wooed by Duke, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Boston College and many others.

Another Breakers' player who is receiving a lot of attention is Meredith Ward (5-8 G, Westerly (RI), 2009). At first glance, it appears Ward is an older player. Physically, she has the build of an older girl, not the thin, gangly frame of a 14 year old. A quick, intense player, Ward moves well without the ball on offense, calling for the ball and willing to take the shot when needed. In an apparent set play, Ward would move to the corner and get the pass out of the post from Buck, nailing the set shot every time.

The Breakers' coach took out the starting five after eight minutes and a 21-6 Breakers' lead. The second team played for a while but when the game got too sloppy, it was Ward that the coach put back in to settle down the team. Ward is also receiving high Division I interest and has already been invited for unofficial visits to UConn and Notre Dame, among others.

A second Exodus team, Exodus BABC, took the floor against the Lady Dolphins from the Boston area. Exodus has the more athletic players but the Lady Dolphins were in a zone with their shooting. Kymira Woodberry (Newton North, 2006) and Simona Gordon (?) nailed shots from all over the floor and it appeared that nothing touched the rim at all.

The previously mentioned Cosima Higham played in this game and continued to show her athleticism. Another player, Tania Walters, may have been the shortest player on the floor but she was the one with the biggest heart. She swatted away shots by bigger players, outran opponents on the fast break and even stole the ball right out of players' hands. Walters didn't show much offensively but she was more concerned with trying to set up the post players than taking her own shot.

Players of Note

Janae Aiken, 5-9, Exodus-Best/St. Dominic's NY, 2007
Had a tough game but her abilities are clear. A nifty hesitation move stunned defenders into immobility. Possesses a sure handle. Will view again this summer for a more complete picture. Hofstra, Northeastern, Stony Brook, Temple

Valerie Blackwood, 6-4, Exodus BABC/Notre Dame-Fotchburg, 2007
A DNP for precautionary reasons, Blackwood is a physical shot blocker with big upside. Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Temple, Texas Tech

Tasha Harriss, 5-9, Exodus-Best/St. Michael NY, 2007
Aggressive defender. Totally faked out a defender by pulling up for 15 foot jumper. Only saw her for half a game – will view her again this summer. Syracuse may lead Ohio State, Purdue and Vanderbilt

Liz Kurdika, 6-3, LI Lightning/Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK, 2007
Not overly athletic but strong fundamentals gave her good position every time. Showed good range on her shot. Being recruited by Division I teams.

Christine "MooMoo" Lesane, 5-11, Exodus BABC/Notre Dame-Fitchburg, 2007
Didn't play much for the time I watched the game. Is being highly recruited by Maryland, Temple and Texas A&M. Will view again this summer

Amanda McCarthy, 5-7? Exodus BABC/Savio Prep, 2008
When Exodus needed a made shot, they passed the ball to McCarthy, who could not miss. Even the sight of two defenders bearing down on her didn't rattle this young player. When the shot wasn't there, McCarthy made some nice passes to open teammates, showing good court awareness.

Ashley O'Dell, 5-8, Rhode Island Breakers/Lincoln (RI), 2010
A starter on a team of Division I recruits, O'Dell is one of those players who just knows where the ball is and pursues it relentlessly. Loose balls were taken as a personal challenge. Every pass by an opponent was defended and O'Dell stayed in her player's face without fouling, an amazing feat for such a young player. Still raw offensively but seems to have good instincts. Colleges have already expressed interest.

College interests of players mentioned above

Cosima Higham – Providence, Rhode Island

Jelleah Sidney – Providence, Rutgers, Syracuse

Tania Walters - Central Florida, Fairleigh Dickinson, Providence, Troy, UT-Chattanooga, Washington State

UCONN Playbook Top Stories