A Statement Game
Jasmine Thomas
Jasmine Thomas
HoopGurlz Publisher
Posted Mar 28, 2007

Jasmine Thomas and others were stunned she was left off USA Basketball's U18 team last year, but instead of complaining, she let her MVP performance speak volumes at the McDonald's All-American Game.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - From the outset, there was a sense of urgency in the East team, provoked to a large degree by Jasmine Thomas. The Fairfax, Va., guard hit her future Duke teammate, Orlando's Krystal Thomas, for a layup. Then she made one of her own, courtesy a nifty feed from Cetera DeGraffenreid, who will play next year at North Carolina.

If you bought popcorn before Wednesday's game, you missed the East going up by 18 just four-plus minutes after tipoff. It seemed Thomas and DeGraffenreid had eight arms, they were in the West offense so much. As a consequence, the East seemed to score nearly every early point in transition, avoiding the all-star-game trap of playing set offenses that require more practice time than available to execute properly.

Maya Moore
Unable to match the West's size, the East turned the sixth annual McDonald's All-American Game - played not too far from Churchill Downs - into a horse race. But they had all the horses, sprinting to a 105-76 whopping with Thomas (Jasmine, that is) going to the whip early and often, earning herself Most Valuable Player honors.

"She was all over the place," said the nation's No. 1 senior, Maya Moore, who with 18 points, including a game-record-tying eight field goals and 15 of her points in the first half, was the other likely MVP choice.

It was the way Thomas learned - the hard way - to play. To leave no stone unturned. Ever.

That's what she'd vowed last July, when the sting of not making the USA Basketball U18 team was still fresh, still throbbing in her psyche. That failure propelled her to a great summer, which she capped by leading the Fairfax Stars to second in the silver bracket at Nike Nationals, and an excellent high-school season that she capped with 16 points, nine rebounds and a game-record six assists, plus three steals and countless disruptions.

"I moved past it," Thomas said of the snub. "I didn't think about it, unless someone mentioned it. But it's in there somewhere. USA (trials) are coming up again. You never know."

Jasmine Thomas shoots past Vicki Baugh
You do if you've watched Thomas' game. She shoots the ball so well that some have dubbed her a shooting guard. She is among the most dogged on-ball defenders in the country, who uses quick hands and feet to any ballhandler's misery. Although 5-feet-9 and a little on the slight side, Thomas penetrates the ball fearlessly and passes with great vision and, often, aplomb.

Similar descriptions fit the game of DeGraffenreid, Connecticut-bound Lorin Dixon and Rutgers-bound Khadijah Rushdan, which is primarily how the East turned the Freedom Hall court into a superhighway. And of course with targets like Moore and Maryland-bound Marah Strickland (12 points, two threes) on the wings, and Tennesee-bound Kelley Cain (10 points, game-record 14 rebounds) and Ohio State-bound Jantel Lavender (12 points) inside.

The East, which won for only the second time in six games, cracked the 100-point mark for the first time in the history of the girl's game. The previous high was the West's 94 in the inaugual 2002 game.

"It definitely was fun," said Dixon, the 5-4 guard from Christ the King. "There was not so much pressure for the guards to score. It let us try things we normally wouldn't do on our high-school teams."

Like get a dunk for Moore, who will join Dixon at UConn next season. Dixon tried a couple of lobs - in fact, almost sinking one of them for three points. And Moore did get a breakaway, courtesy a tipped ball by Thomas, but she turned a would-be dunk attempt into one of her signature finger rolls.

"I just didn't have enough in me," Moore said. "I'm glad I've had the opportunity to dunk with no defense on me. To do it in a game, I've got to build up my endurance. It's a work in process."

Kayla Pedersen
That, somewhat surprisingly, is how you'd describe most of the West team. It missed Stefanie Gilbreath, the silky wing headed to USC who sprained her right knee taking a charge during drills at the West's Tuesday workout.

Stanford-bound Kayla Pedersen showed her all-court game, at 6-4, finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds and a block. Angie Bjorklund, who is headed to Tennessee, got some offense going, hitting a pair of threes and ending with 13 points. But few of the remaining Westerners resembled the players they have been - and will be- while almost every East player remained true to form.

Which bodes well for, say, someone looking to restore national pride at the USA Basketball trials May 17-20 in Colorado Springs. That squad will represent the U.S. at the FIBA U19 World Championship, July 26-Aug. 5, in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Moore said she was surprised Thomas was left off squad last year.

"She sure is making a statement right now," Moore added, "for any kind of trials coming up."

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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 girl's 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 hoopgurlz@comcast.net.

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