Tina Charles, an athletic and skilled power forward from Christ the King High School in Middle Village N.Y., tops the Scout/Full Court Press Class of 2006 Hot 50 prospect list.
Jacki Gemelos (St. Mary's High School, Stockton, Calif.), Brittainey Raven (North Crowley High School, Fort Worth, Texas), Amber Harris (North Central High School, Indianapolis) and Jayne Appel (Carondelet High School, Concord, Calif.) round out the top five, as selected by a quartet of Scout.com experts.
These are the inaugural girls' basketball rankings produced by Scout.com, the industry leader in the ranking and coverage of football and boys' basketball prospects. Scout and Full Court Press also recently released the Sensational Six, the top six girls' basketball prospects regardless of class, and the 2006 Preseason All-American Team.
The full rankings, which can be sorted by position and will be updated, can be viewed at the following web page:
"This is a major commitment by Scout and we're excited to be teaming with Full Court Press, the reference site for women's basketball for a decade, which is an eternity on the Internet," said Glenn Nelson, editor-in-chief of Scout Media, which operates Scout.com and publishes 47 team-sports magazines. "To start this kind of coverage is a major, major undertaking, but we have a great, energetic team. After years of surveying the landscape of the sport, we found a marked absence in objective, nation-wide information on girls' basketball and its top prospects. We hope these rankings, and subsequent coverage, contribute to the overall welfare of the sport."
Charles, 6-foot-3 and committed to the University of Connecticut, helped Chris the King to the Tournament of Champions title in December, 2004, then was a pillar at the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival and the rest of the summer evaluation circuit.
"Tina Charles combines skill, athleticism, a strong work ethic and success both during the summer and high school seasons," Clay Kallam, publisher of Full Court Press, said about the No. 1 selection. "She should be an immediate contributor at Connecticut next fall."
"Tina Charles is about power and explosiveness," added Chris Hansen, a coach, trainer, scout and evaluator in the Pacific Northwest. "She doesn't really have a polished left hand but with her athleticism, size and energy she does pretty much what she wants at the high school level. With all the physical things on her side, and with the coaching at UConn, you have a combination for a future WNBA star."
But Charles is not alone. "The Class of 2006 is incredibly talented and athletic," said Nancy Pfaff, a New England-based writer, former college basketball player and adminstrator of the Boneyard. "The guards, especially, seem to be a lot bigger, and the trend for taller, more athletic guards will probably continue into the future."
Gemelos is proof, as she's a 5-11 shooting guard with point guard potential. "She can shoot the three, go right or left and find the open teammate," Kallam said.
Raven, another big guard at 6-0, had a tremendous summer and is right behind her in the rankings. "It's hard to ignore the obvious comparison between Raven and another Texan, Sheryl Swoopes," Kallam said. "Raven excels in all aspects of the game, and should only get better."
The players were ranked by projected college performance, not by high school production or WNBA potential. Raw talent played a huge role in the rankings, but since projected production was the basis for where a player landed on the list, the Scout experts also factored in attitude. A hard-working player is much more likely to improve than one who is less focused; a player who plays hard all the time is much more likely to improve than one who turns it on and off.
"This explains why Amber Harris and Epiphanny Prince aren't rated as highly here as in other rankings," Kallam said.
Harris, a tremendous talent at 6-6, could easily wind up as the best player in the class, as there is nothing she can't do on the court. Harris's speed and athleticism are amazing for someone 6-foot-6.
"If she were 6-0, you'd still say she was athletic and strong, but she's half a foot taller," said Hansen, who has coached for several Puget Sound area high schools, in the club basketball circuit as well. "Her body control is actually what impresses me most - being big and fast is one thing but being able to control yourself doing it is something completely different, and in the women's game, there is nobody like Harris, even in the WNBA."
Appel, a 6-4 post who will go to Stanford, was the top center in a relatively thin crop. "Among the elite post prospects, Appel was the lone player you'd call a classic center," said Nelson, a former longtime basketball writer who presently coaches girls' club basketball. "She sets up well on the blocks, has soft hands and catches every sort of entry you can throw her and has a good assortment of post moves. She also is likely to score a lot on effort, when her opponents wear down. Plus she adds the dimension of being able to go out and consistently hit the three."
Jessica Breland (Bertie High School, Windsor, N.C.) is a long and athletic power forward who will fit right in at North Carolina. Amanda Thompson, one spot behind Breland at number seven, is a small forward, and played very well all summer. Thompson plays for Whitney Young High School in Chicago.
"Breland is impressive in the paint," said Kallam. "She just torched my team at an all-star event in Charlotte. And Thompson is a winner - she has the ability to do whatever it takes, and the basketball IQ to know what is required at any given moment."
The last three members of the top ten - Monica Wright (Forest Park High School, Woodbridge, Va.), Dymond Simon (St. Mary's High School, Phoenix) and Jordan Murphree (Brock High School, Brock, Texas) - all are guards, though all are different.
"Dymond Simon is by far the most exciting offensive player in the class," Hansen said. "She's so good at creating space she makes the othe team look bad defensively. The knock on her is her size and her jumper but she is such a tough competitor and a great athlete that the criticisms may be a bit of a stretch."
Wright, at 5-11, could play the two or three in college. ‘"She's so strong and powerful at the high school level that the transition to the collegiate level could be easier for her, at least in terms of dealing with the stronger players," Hansen said. "She is a capable shooter, a very good defender and, with her athleticism and body control, she should be able to improve in most facets of the game."
"Murphree's high ranking is probably a reflection of the presence of three coaches on our panel," Nelson said. "She is indeed a coach's dream. She is a fine athlete, has a great work ethic and does everything well. She has good size for a guard and we could see her developing into an all-conference-level point guard."
"The Top 10 shows how much high school girls' basketball has grown, as every area of the country has a representative," said Pfaff. "Talented players have a chance to be seen, no matter where they live, and that can only help improve the game overall."
The Full Court Press/Scout star rating system complements the numerical list, and allows for further evaluation of the Class of 2006. The projections are based on how our experts believe the players will perform as seniors in college.
A five-star player is projected as a first-team all-league player in a BCS conference.
A four-star player is projected as a starter for a top 40 team.
A three-star player is projected as a rotation player for a top 40 team, or a starter for a mid-major school.
A two-star player is projected as rotation player for a mid-major school.
A one-star player is projected as a Division I scholarship athlete.
The Scout.com / Full Court Press Panel:
Chris Hansen, HoopGurlz.com / Scout Girls' Basketball
A Washington Husky, Chris Hansen has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. In coaching and trainer he has worked with many of the top club programs in Washington and Oregon. In 2004 he joined the Scout.com team through HoopGurlz.com covering high school basketball and in 2005 evaluating prospects nationally for the network. He is a regular contributor to the expanding women's basketball coverage for the Scout.com network.
Clay Kallam, Full Court Press / Scout Girls' Basketball
Long one of the nation's top experts on women's and girl's basketball, Clay Kallam has published Full Court Press (www.Fullcourt.com), an online magazine devoted to women's basketball. The author of the book "Girls Basketball: Building a Winning Program" (Wish Publishing, 2002), Kallam has written about the women's game for several national publications, including Street & Smith's and Slam Magazine,among others, and is a voter for the McDonald's All-American team, the Parade All-American team, the All-WNBA team and the Wooden Award. Currently the coach of The Bentley School girls' varsity basketball team, Kallam began coaching girls' junior-varsity basketball in 1977 and has been an assistant at Acalanes and Campolindo High Schools, where he coached seven Division I players and was involved in three state championships. He also runs the Hoopstars clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area. In a prior lifetime, Kallam spent 25 years with the Contra Costa Times newspaper chain.
Glenn Nelson, Scout Media Editor-in-Chief
Before his present post, Glenn Nelson was a national-award-winning basketball writer, columnist and editor at The Seattle Times for nearly two decades. Nelson traveled worldwide for the Times and covered every major sport and sporting event, including the Olympics. He also served as Sunday sports editor and assistant sports editor at The Times. From there, Nelson moved to Rivals.com in 2000, where he directed several network ventures. Nelson co-authored "Rising Stars: The 10 Best Young Players in the NBA" (Sports Illustrated for Kids Books, 2002), and has been published in "Best Sports Stories" and other books and national magazines. Nelson coaches a high-school girls' select basketball team, the Northwest HoopGurlz, and publishes a website, www.HoopGurlz.com, devoted to girls' and women's basketball.
Nancy Pfaff, UConnFan.com / Scout Girls' Basketball
A former college-basketball and lacrosse player at Clarkson, Nancy Pfaff is a longtime fan of women's basketball. She became involved in the recruiting scene when she set up pages for New England high school girls' basketball and started attending AAU and high school events. Nancy has been writing about recruiting, as well as high school and college basketball games, for about five years and has been the administrator of the Boneyard, one of the largest sports community on the Internet, since 2001 but a member of the board since 1995.