PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
Just to clarify right off the bat, only some of the views expressed in today's piece (and yesterday's, for that matter) reflect those of Chris Hansen, although his name appears on the byline. We decided the "Best of" honorees together, for sure, which is why he gets some of the credit (or blame). Some of the other rantings and stuff, I know we've talked about a few times and he should have agreed with me, but I'm not going to claim with any certainty that he actually did.
I'm not sure, for example, if we agree on the best point guard in the Class of 2007, for example. We haven't locked ourselves in a cage for any full-contact discussion on the 2007 rankings yet. But that's coming soon, and I've got my roundhouse kick ready.
But I digress (if one can digress without first establishing a point; maybe the digression is my point - I forget). Ahem.
It may be difficult to call Jasmine Thomas the Best Overlooked Player of the Summer, but I am. The point guard out of Fairfax, Va., is well known to anyone following the national high-school girl's basketball scene and certainly to any coach at any Divison I college. At the very least, Thomas is the most well-rounded of the '07 points, with a very good to excellent jump shot and penetration skills, probably the best court vision and among the best and most committed on-ball defenders.
Some of the other top candidates - Cetera DeGraffenreid, Italee Lucas and Khadijah Rushdan - have advantages in size and, arguably, strength, though Thomas, at 5-feet-10, has length and wingspan.
The other factor those three had over Thomas was summer notoreity. Lucas and Rushdan made the USA Basketball U18 team; Thomas, a shooter the team needed fairly desperately, inexplicably was cut. DeGraffenreid wasn't even invited to the trials, but she truly shined on the center stages of some of July's biggest tournaments.
Not making Team USA meant Thomas could attend the Nike Girl's Skills Academy, where she shined. However, by the time she hit the opening tournament of the July evaluation period, she'd already spent a week in altitude at Colorado Springs and another weeks participating in WNBA-level and WNBA-intensity drilling at the Academy. By the time we caught back up with her at Nike Nationals, she appeared game but her legs seemed pretty dead.
Her team, the Fairfax Stars, made the Silver Bracket championship by a quirk of travel scheduling - the Cal Storm beat them in the semifinals, but had to run off and catch flights home. Of course, the buzz of the tournament was generated by DeGraffenreid of the Tennessee Flight and, in particular, Maya Moore of the Georgia Metros, not to mention Angie Bjorklund of the Spokane Stars and Elena DelleDonne of Fencor making their late-summer comebacks.
Jasmine Thomas? She still may be the best 2007 point guard, but was unable to gather any momentum for her case during the summer.
Yikes! We could have gone on. And on. And on. But we cut the list at 20 because it seemed a round-enough number. Heading it are three players we - as well as a big chunk of college programs, believe me - were delighted to see emerge.
Melissa Jones, the dynamic and strong scoring guard, was so under the radar that she didn't even have a school list when we talked to her, but, by the end of the End of the Trail, she had the entire Pac-10 sitting on her, and now likely has her choice of top school in the West - and maybe Midwest, South and East, if she wants. Meanwhile, few knew about the girl from the Big Island, Shawna-Lei Kuehu, who dropped bombs on everyone at Nike Nationals. And we guarantee that Slippery Rock, Pa., from which a Sue Bird play-alike named Jence Rhoads hails, was not a destination for many college scouts before the adidas Tournament of Champions, where she led Tri-State Rock Solid to the championship game.
Some of the names on this list may be familiar to many, but we consider them as breakout players because they dramatically elevated their stock. Vicki Baugh of Sacramento, Calif., is such a player. Because her club team did not venture very far during her first few summer tours, not many knew a lot about Baugh until she blew up during the USA Basketball trials and made the U18 team, for which she was one of the leading players. Injuries impaired much of her July, but Baugh is probably the most coveted prospect left on the board in the Class of 2007.
1. Melissa Jones, WYCO Pride, 2007|
2. Shawna-Lei Kuehu Cal Storm, 2008
3. Jence Rhoads, Tri-State Rock Solid, 2007
4. Vicki Baugh, NorCal Elite, 2007
5. Caroline Doty, Fencor, 2008
6. Iasia Hemingway, NYC Gauchos, 2007
7. Nikki Speed, FBC, 2008
8. Joslyn Tinkle, Big Sky, 2009
9. Drey Mingo, FBC Georgia, 2007
10. Hannah Donaghe, CenCal Elite, 2007
11. Ayana Dunning, All-Ohio, 2008
12. Tyra White, K.C. Selects, 2007
13. Kelsey Bone, West Coast Elite, 2009
14. Shay Selby, CBC/Next Level, 2008
15. Courtney Collishaw, CenCal Elite, 2007
16. Danielle Adams, K.C. Keys, 2007
17. Marah Strickland, Boo Williams, 2007
18. Erin Helton, Tennessee Team Pride, 2009
19. Keilani Moeaki, Full Package, 2007
20. Kayla Standish, Yakima Elite, 2008
Caroline Doty, Iasia Hemingway and Nikki Speed likely are three other players with fair name familiarity. But who knew Doty was lurking under Elena DelleDonne's shadow as the five-star, headliner-level prospect she revealed herself to be with DelleDonne out with an ankle injury? Did people know how unstoppable Heminway really was until she mowed through everyone's defense at Nike Nationals? And, until this summer, Speed was best known as the cute, little point guard who got the ball to Abi Olajuwon at Marlborough High in SoCal.
Closing out our top 10 are Joslyn Tinkle, the Montanan who can score on the blocks, shoot the three and pass and who will be among the biggest prizes in 2009; Drey Mingo, the high-intensity Georgian who nearly made the USA team, and Hannah Donaghe, the hyper-kinetic Central Californian who played her way into the hearts of the Stanford coaching staff. Ayana Dunning and Kelsey Bone were somewhat known quanities heading into the summer, but each cemeted their status as the top post prospects in the Classes of 2008 and 2009, respectively. Sandwiched between them is Tyra White, the long and strong slasher extraorinaire.
Early money has Speed and Ohio's Shay Selby battling it out for the top of the point-guard rankings in 2008. Courtney Collishaw of Visalia, Calif., revealed one of the nation's sweetest perimeter strokes and probably should have been in Colorado Springs because of it. And, finally, in Danielle Adams you have a player who is built like the sturdiest post players anywhere, but has a nice, easy and accurate sling from behind the three-point arc, reliable handle and magical passing touch.
Marah Strickland is another familiar name who makes this list because, in spite of some nagging injuries, she may have revealed herself to be one of the very best prospects in 2007. Erin Helton is another versatile post who will make 2009 an interesting year for big players. Keilani Moeaki's brother, Tony, was a big-time football prospect and she has very good size at 6-3 with abundant wing skills. We had so many choices for the last spot, so I went ahead and made an executive decision to go with someone from our backyard - Kayla Standish of Ellensburg, Wash., who at a long and strong 6-2 can splash catch-and-shoot threes and handle the ball well enough to play wing.
Best Single-Game Performances
Obviously, we did not see every game played this summer, but these are the best we saw with our own eyes. If you think you can top these, send us video, because we'd certainly like to see them (email email@example.com for an address).
1. Maya Moore vs. The Family at Nike Nationals: We cannot imagine anyone stuff a box score like Moore did - 42 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, four steals and three assists. And that all was against one of the elite teams in the country.
2. Italee Lucas vs Georgia Metros at Basketball on the Bayou: Lucas' 28 points against maybe the nation's best defensive team featured an abundance of intensity and entertainment value. Her 15 first-half points prompted the Metros to defend her with Moore, who "held" her to 13 in the second.
3. Maya Moore vs. All-Ohio at Nike Nationals: Oh, did we mention that Maya Moore is the best player in 2007? Before "proving" she could still score with the 42-point explosion against the Family, she scored just nine points but dominated a game against All-Ohio with her defense and energy.
4. Nikki Speed at adidas Ten Top All-American Camp all-star game: It was just a 2-3-minute stretch of a game, but Speed splashed three straight three-pointers, stepping back farther and farther with each launch, missed one, then made her fourth in five attempts.
Go ahead and try this at home. If you succeed with either of the first two, consider that Moore and Sam Prahalis had defenders on them. If you succeed on the last one, please call us.
1. Maya Moore at the buzzer, Nike Nationals championship: The striking thing about this shot was the poise exhibited by Moore. With the Metros trailing by two and nine seconds left, she took the ball the length of the court, hounded by an entourage of defenders, and ever so deliberately went to the spot she wanted and deposited a pull-up, seven-footer to send the game into overtime.
2. Samantha Prahalis, adidas Top Ten All-American Camp all-star game: We couldn't describe it right after we saw it, so we'd need video to describe it now. It was one of those And1 kind of shots in which Prahalis tossed, oh, let's say a dozen dribble moves in rapid succession, pulled up, got bumped during takeoff, adjusted her body in mid-air and tossed in a shot from the elbow.
3. Brooklyn Pope dunk in warmups, Basketball on the Bayou: We knew Pope could do this, but when you're waiting for a girl's basketball game to start, the last thing you expect, during layup lines, is one of the players exploding to the basketball, throwing the ball down and hanging on the rim with legs splayed. Yowzah.
LaTear Eason of The Family
Ruth Ketcham of the RoadRunners
Tyra White of K.C. Selects
Marcissa McMillan of Tree of Hope
Click Here for Best of Summer: Part One
Got Your Own Thoughts on Best of Summer? Post Them Here
Glenn Nelson is the publisher of HoopGurlz.com and the editor-in-chief of Scout Media (www.Scout.com), an online sports network and magazine-publishing company and subsidiary of Fox Interactive Media. Glenn also founded and coached the Dragons and Northwest HoopGurlz select girls basketball teams. He previously was a longtime, national-award-winning basketball columnist and writer for The Seattle Times. His work also has appeared in several national magazines and books. He is co-author of "Rising Stars: The Ten Best Players in the NBA" (Rosen Publishing, 2002). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Hansen is the National Director of Scouting for Women's Basketball at HoopGurlz.com and Scout.com. Chris leads the panel that evaluates and ranks girl's basketball prospects nationally for HoopGurlz, Scout.com and Full Court Press (www.FullCourt.com). Chris has been involved in the women’s basketball community since 1998 as a coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.