Photos by Glenn Nelson
OREGON CITY, Ore. - Many want to know just who is the best. Today the best teams played each other in each bracket’s semifinals and bracket finals. The Georgia Metros and Spokane Stars both won their brackets setting up a rematch of the best game played this week. These two teams' best players beg the compelling discussion of which player is the best in her class.
This ranking of No. 1 is of course limited to some subjective criteria, either an emphasis on potential or on current ability. Nevertheless the debates over the best point guard in 2006 and the best overall player in 2007 are becoming much more clear this week.
Maya Moore and Angie Bjorklund are the top two prospects in the class of 2007. Moore has amazing upside and is a legitimate scorer. She has All-American written all over her. Her use of the glass out to sixteen feet is an awesome sight and rarely seen in these days. She has hops, she skies to the basket and has great touch. She actually executed a dunk at the Nike Girls Skills Academy last week. She is a hustler at both ends of the floor getting at least three buckets a game off of offensive rebounds and regularly more than that. She sprints back on defense and with her leaping ability can block the shot of most of her competition.
Moore's length is another great asset. When she keeps her body low, her first step covers a huge distance, making her impossible to guard. She can hit the three but could improve consistency from behind the arc. With more than two years before she officially hits a college campus, expect that to improve as well. She also makes some amazing plays creating for her teammates. You can’t say enough about this kid and where she’ll be if she continues to work on her game, which makes her the top prospect in the nation for the class of 2007, the best.
I don’t think the powers that be are going to let this future star out of the SEC. I won’t be the first to point out how similar she looks to Chamique Holdclaw, the former Tennessee great now playing for the Los Angeles Sparks. The Lady Vols are never short on talent and Moore would add to the list of greats to wear the Orange and White.
The next amazing player in that class is the 6-foot guard Angie Bjorklund. She is one of the hardest working kids you can find. She never stops learning the game and is passionate and habitual about improving. Her jumper is money. It’s as close to a traditional male jump shot as you will see - great elevation, a high strong release and it works for her standing or on the dribble. She is one of the best at using the jab step to set up her offensive attack. She uses side and forward jabs with great ball fakes and usually takes one or two dribbles to strike.
Bjorklund is a very smart player and just like Moore she makes some amazing plays passing the ball and creating opportunities for her teammates. Both often catch their teammates by surprise, not ready to catch and covert and both are the type of players who make everyone around them better.
Taking a page out Moore’s book, Bjorklund blocked six shots during Spokane's semifinal victory over the GA/Lina 76ers. The most amazing play was not your typical swat out of bounds. She was in weakside help, but moved over to the GA/Lina post player who had turned to finish under the basket. Instead of swinging at it, Bjorklund quickly elevated with two hands up and grabbed the ball away from the shooter. I don’t know if that qualifies as a block, a steal or both? She’s a smart player and has basketball smarts way beyond her years. She seems to be the type that will make a great coach some day. In their bracket championship victory over Jantel Lavender and the All-Ohio Black squad, she scored 28 points, 19 of them as she took over the game in the second half.
Bjorklund's sister, Jamie, who played on the Stars last year and signed to play at hometown Gonzaga next year, also is a gamer. I’m sure she’ll be hoping her little sister joins her with the Zags when her time comes. But she may be too good to hide in Northwest and has the ability to play in any conference, anywhere in the country.
Moore and Bjorklund will square off, this time in a non-exhibition game with the winner to play the winner of the Boo Williams-Texas Jammers Black Bracket final. I expect Moore’s Metros team to try and take Bjorklund away by face guarding again which may take some of the appeal away from a head-to-head battle. The deciding factor again will be the execution of the Stars and their other players' ability to score even if their leader is noy. They did it once, and if they can it again, it will be the biggest story tomorrow.
Is Dymond Simon the best point guard in 2006? Cait McMahan? Ashley Houts? This is an elite trio, but the answer is Simon. On top of being a tremendous athlete with great passing and vision, she is one of the best scorers in the country making her that much harder to guard than your prototypical point guard. Listed at 5-5, she is the female equivalent of Nate Robinson, the explosive 5-8 Washington Husky guard drafted last month in the NBA Draft. Her leaping ability and great agility allow her to make plays that someone 5-5 has no business making. She can stop on a dime and hit her rainbow jumper or hesitate and blow right by defenders. She sees passing lanes and can make the standard plays and she makes some amazing plays every game. The knock on her is her focus on the defensive end, where finding her matchup in transition could happen a little quicker. It’s a mental issue that can be corrected easily but physical limitations are few and far between. Simon is yet to decide on a college but at the USA Basketball festival in June, Scout learned she was interested in several teams including Arizona State, Maryland, Texas, North Carolina and UCLA.
Cait McMahan is a stud, but Ashley Houts is as tough a cookie as you’ll find. She has a strong build and is very quick. Her handle is tight and her jumper goes down consistently. She’s hit off the dribble and has hit from more than 20 feet. She shows good composure under pressure and the ability to go by anyone who tries to crowd her. Her toughness really shows on defense where she harasses the ballhandler and has the strength to give people trouble off the ball bumping cutters. She’s committed to Georgia and will be a great addition to Coach Andy Landers squad. Simon is cut from a special mold but after her, Houts is as good as you will find.
More End of the Trail Coverage
End of the Trail: Say Boo!
End of the Trail Photos IV
End of the Trail Photos III
End of the Trail: Day Two
End of the Trail Photos II
End of the Trail: Day One
End of the Trail Photos I