STORY & PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
It is the last day of the July evaluation period. The Fordham University gym is ungodly hot; there is no air conditioning. YES / Baden Elite from Seattle, Wash., is playing its fourth game of the day. They and Exodus NYC, normally two of the more exciting, uptempo club teams in the country, are walking the ball upcourt, sitting in zone defenses. While the Georgia Metros and Tennessee Flight are ending summer with a bang down in South Carolina, the championship game of the Big Apple Tournament of Champions hardly is registering as any rumble in the Bronx.
And you wonder why it's taken us so long to register Exodus' double-digit victory over Baden Elite?
We wanted to be careful not to write the game off as a going-through-the-motions ordeal and were glad to learn of the extenuating circumstances. We're tempted to rift on such conditions, but this is a space for prospects, so we're going to stay on task.
It's difficult to report on players in such a context, but a few rose about the steam. Guard Erica Morrow, of Exodus and Murry Bergtraum High School, did the most, in our opinion, to solidify or enhance her reputation. In previous viewings, to be honest, she appeared to be a player capable of more, who seemed reluctant to leave her imprint on the game. This game was an exception; she came out firing from the get-go, hit an early three and later two more. When the defense tried to close out on her jumper, she drove the ball with impressive results.
Exodus, of course, is a team of great guards. As with Morrow, our take on the other two great ones - Anjale Barrett, 5-foot-9, out of St. Michael Academy, and Samantha Prahalis, 5-6, out of Commack, N.Y. - are that they can do more than they showed with this New York-based club team. Maybe when there are three players that good at the same position, each is so careful not to step on the others' toes, they unintentionally tend to cancel each other out.
Barrett is the most athletic and, in many ways, skilled of the three and she also was, for the most part, the most energetic player on the floor during most of the Big Apple TOC title tilt.
We think Prahalis is going to be one of our favorite guards in the 2008 class. She tends to defer to her older teammates on Exodus, but shows flashes of exceptional ballhandling and playmaking that makes you want more. We're hoping we will indeed see a lot more this coming year as she becomes the lead dog in the pack. Thought she excelled at penetration and pitching, Prahalis did not shoot well during the game we viewed. She does have a tendency to go up at angles on her pull-up jumpers, which makes execution and accuracy unpredictable.
As for the crew from Washington state, Alex Montgomery, of Tacoma, Wash., and a Georgia Tech commit, was the best overall player on the floor, though her performance may not have reflected that fact. As with everyone else, Montgomery had her legs robbed by the heat and excessive number of games. She did have one burst near the beginning of the second half that looked Montgomery-like.
Otherwise, Lily Ramseyer, who will play her senior year at Garfield High in Seattle, shot the ball well from the three-point arc and in, fulfilling some of our expectatons of her as one of the area's top shotmakers.
More Big Apples
In a first for us, we are featuring the observations of one of our members - Ohyeah9 - from the HoopGurlz.com message boards. Though we like to identify all of our sources, Ohyeah9 is camera shy and prefers to remain behind the scenes (though we know who he/she is and are in contact). These are Ohyeah9's assessments of some of the top players from the 15U bracket of the Big Apple TOC:
Again, we thank Ohyeah9 for the insights.
- Bilquis Abdul Quadir, 2009, 5-4 guard, Springfield Sparks, New Leader Charter School, Mass.: She has to get stronger, but nevertheless is a good point guard and very fast at driving to the basket. She has a funny shot that, but it goes in so I guess its OK.
- Crissy Cabasse, 2009, 6-0 forward, No Limit, Murry Bergtraum HS, N.Y.: She is a workaholic and plays with so much intensity and doesn't care about how many times she falls trying to get a rebound. Coaches should always like players that is willing to work hard.
- Alex Chili, 2008, 5-8 guard, Fairfax Stars, Bethesda HS, Md.: She is another shooter that you do not leave open. She also is one of those players who doesn't mind knee burns because she was all over the floor for loose balls.
- Shanel Harrison, 2008 5-11 guard, Fairfax Stars, Good Counsel HS, Washington, D.C.: She is the best player on that team, blocking shots, drawing and-ones, knocking down three-balls, she can do it all. She was one of the best players at the tourney. She was also hurt I believe and looked like she didn't want to play, but if she was good only giving 50 percent imagine her at 100.
- Tory Jones, 2009, 5-9 guard, Rhode Island Hawks, Lasalle Academy, R.I.: Another fast athletic guard who can shoot. She knocked down, I believe, seven three-pointers in the game I saw, and that is no lie. She is one in the 2009 class to watch as she continues to progress. She is great at driving to basket and drawing and-ones because she is so fast and athletic. Honestly I think she was the best shooter I've saw in the 15 and under bracket.
- Kadeidra Simmons, 2010, 5-3 guard, Douglas Panthers, Shabazz HS, N.J.: Another stud who is fast and fearless and likes to play defense.
- Shacora Washington, 2010, 5-10 forward, Douglas Panthers, Shabazz HS, N.J.: Talk about a player who is rentless. She knows how to use her body against bigger people and can pass with the best of them. The way she grabs rebounds - oh my goodness - she grabs the ball like it is a tennis ball, with no problems. She also will give you an elbow. She is a player that I will always love to have on my team.
Kari LaPlante, the 6-foot-5 post prospect out of Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Ariz., is on track to make a commitment in early to mid-October. She made the first of five official visits, to Vanderbilt, Aug. 25-27, rating the trip a "nine or 10" on a scale of 1-10. She also will visit Kansas State, Sept. 7-9; USC, Sept. 15-17; California, Sept. 22-24, and Oregon State, tentatively on Oct. 6-8. LaPlante also will play with the Arizona Elite at UC-Santa Barbara during the fall viewing weekend, Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. She expects to make her decision shortly after her final official. Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Clemson, Colorado, Kansas and Washington have been eliminated from her schools of interest. ... Kirstyn Wright, a 5-11 forward out of Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga., has committed to Clemson during an unofficial visit. ... Tatianna Thomas, the 5-11 guard out of Newhall, Calif., who committed to Oregon in the spring, has scheduled her official visit to Eugene for Sept. 13 (yes, a Friday). She will take in the Ducks' football against UCLA, which she says will conjur some mixed feelings as three of her Finest Basketball Club (FBC) teammates committed this summer to the Bruins. "We are all very happy to be playing in the Pac-10," she said. "Despite the fact that they are now on a rival team, we will all stay close friends, FBC is like a family." ... Courtney Newton, a 5-10 Georgia Metros guard out of Flowering Branch, Ga., likes South Carolina, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Virginia Commonwealth.
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.