Nike Skills: Wrapup

Our expert breaks down the games of the top prospects who were summoned to the first Nike Skills Academy for girls basketball.

BEAVERTON, Ore. - The 2005 Nike Girls Skills Academy wrapped up today with a short workout session and some scrimmage competitions. After the workout the kids met with their evaluators and with the SPARQ trainer to go over the test results from yesterday.

Today's scrimmages were highlighted by the two point guards in attendance getting after each other. Italee Lucas began the first game picking Cait McMahan up the length of the floor. It was great to see the two challenging each other on both sides of the ball for the entire scrimmage.

All the scrimmages were played relatively close. The team of Jessica Breland, Tina Charles, Cait McMahan, Brittainey Raven and Monica Wright defeated the team of Jayne Appel, Amber Harris, Allison Hightower, Italee Lucas and Maya Moore 16-13. The game was played with good spacing and featured great passing from McMahan and Lucas. McMahan's team lost the second game 10-7 to the team of Angie Bjorklund, Jacki Gemelos, Jantel Lavender, Morghan Medlock, Ta'Shia Phillips and Jasmine Thomas.

Academy Recap

Italee Lucas
Point Guards – We were graced with three true point guards in Dymond Simon, McMahan and Lucas. Gemelos, whose passing skills exceed that of most two guards, has a scoring guard mentality, filled the role as the fourth point guard. Simon didn't scrimmage at all this week after an outstanding gold medal run in the USA Basketball trials in Colorado Springs this June. Italee Lucas showed all the tools to be a great point guard. She is cat-quick, and has superb handle and a great court vision, especially in traffic. When pressed in the half court she would get lower and use her body to relieve pressure and create space.

Lucas showed later in the week that she uses her physical abilities to torment the ballhandler on the defensive end as well. Her weakness that showed in the camp is her maturity as a point guard whereas McMahan's strength was her experience and decision-making. McMahan, class of 2006, has a year on Lucas, class of 2007. If Lucas continues to develop and learn the position in terms of getting the ball where it needs without the tendency to use the dribble every time she could be the premier point guard next summer. McMahan on the other hand showed she can be a floor leader and a fierce competitor on top of her physical abilities. She's got a small hitch in her shot and doesn't leave the floor much, which, in tandem, keep her from having an effective pull-up jumper, but she brings a lot to the floor.

Allison Hightower
Swing Players – All of the guards were amazingly quick. Raven, Moore and Wright also were great in getting up the floor. Medlock, Jernigan and Jones missed some time due to injuries, so they didn't get as much court time the scrimmages as the rest of the wings.

Thomas is a sound player with excellent athleticism. She keeps her head up when running the floor and makes things happen on defense as well. She had a great day on Saturday in both sessions and continued her impressive workouts on Sunday. She's a 2007 recruit, so she's got lots of time to improve and impress yet.

Another 2007 recruit impressing at the Academy was Bjorklund. She's got a great jumper that looks the same off a catch-and-shoot or off the dribble. She uses the jab very well and was the most efficient player in the live breakdown drills (2-on-2, 3-on-3). She uses the jab and ball fakes well and explodes into the defender's hips to free up either a pull-up or get all the way to the cup in just a dribble or two. She's a strong competitor who is athletic, but lacks the straight-line speed of the other wing players.

Moore, Wright and Raven are tremendous athletes who run the floor very well. Moore has great leaping ability and good length on her 6-foot-1 frame. She's got good lift off two feet as well and has the potential to be a dominant slasher. She's a 2007 recruit who needs to improve her shooting to really lift her offensive game. Raven, a 2006 recruit, is a feisty defender and offensively can get into seems and finish at the basket. She is much better shooting in a catch-and-shoot situation than off the dribble.

Hightower, a 5-11 wing from Arlington, Tex., can fill it up with her jumper. She's a rhythm shooter and has great lift and hang time off the bounce and shoots with the same release every time. She starts the ball across her body on her jumper, but usually has time to get it into shooting position because she hangs in the air for a second before letting her release go. She did well using a shot fake and hitting pull-ups and runners in both the drill work and the live play. On Saturday's 2-on-2 drills she and Bjorklund dominated when they were limited to just two dribbles.

Amber Harris
The Bigs – Injuries and sickness limited the bigs greatly. Elena Delle Donne did not participate all week because of illness; Porsha Phillips also missed significant time later in the week as well.

Charles, who will likely play a forward spot at Connecticut, has great quickness around the basket and has a "go-to" turnaround jumper. If she can improve her mid-range jumper she will be unguardable from the high post. She is long and explosive, so defenders right now are best to give her some space and not contest the jumper. She is a special player with plenty of untapped potential left, which is scary. She can run the floor and finish off one or two feet and her length and leaping ability make her a shot-blocking presence as well.

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Another superb athlete is Harris, who at 6-6 has the physical ability to be successful at a forward or post position. She is comfortable handling the ball going to the basket, but could shore up those skills a bit. She is long and can get off the ground so she has the tendency sometimes to play a little too tall. If she learns to stay compact and low, she will be more powerful and be more effective against thicker posts in the paint.

Appel is not as athletic as some of the other bigs but creates space for herself well and has good touch around the basket. She is money from the elbows as well with a nice soft jumper. She too could learn to attack with her body lower and be more powerful as contact this week around the basket caused her to fade and adjust her shot. She's a strong kid and learning to play lower she would eat people up with contact. In the individual post work Sunday she whipped out a super-smooth turnaround fade-away that I hadn't seen all week.

Ta'Shia Phillips
Lavender and Ta'Shia Phillips are two more who are probably going to be pure post players. They are tall and very strong physically. Both are 2007 recruits and are not quite as refined around the basket as the others but worked well with the coaches in learning new skills around the basket. Both could dominate the interior against most high school players and need to continue to learn how to use their size and strength around the cup. If these two youngsters learned to use their wide shoulders consistently to protect the ball when going up around the basket it would be a rare feat for someone to block their shot.

Breland at 6-4 looks like she can play both the post and forward. She has really good length and her spins and pivots were quick and explosive in the paint. She did get muscled around a few times by the bigger posts but her quickness and agility could only be matched by Charles and Harris. She showed good coordination in learning the jump hooks being taught them. She also found a comfort zone in stepping out to the short corner and hitting the mid-range jumper.

More Academy Coverage:

Nike Skills: Photo Gallery
Nike Skills: Charles in Charge
Nike Skills: Day Two
Nike Skills: Day One

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