- Riverdale Baptist/Upper Marlboro, Maryland;
- Oak Hill Academy/Mouth of Wilson, Virginia;
- H.D. Woodson/Washington, D.C.;
- Eleanor Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Maryland;
- Good Counsel/Olney, Maryland;
- St. Frances Academy/Baltimore, Maryland;
- Lake Taylor/Norfolk, Virginia;
- Seton Keough/Baltimore, Maryland;
- Elizabeth Seton/Bladensburg, Maryland;
- Indian River/Chesapeake, Virginia;
- Arundel/Gambrills, Maryland;
- Paint Branch/Burtonsville, Maryland;
- Academy of the Holy Cross/Kensington, Maryland;
- Forest Park/Woodbridge, Virginia;
- St. John's College/Washington, D.C.
The D.C. Public School Championship will be won by H.D. Woodson, led by senior guards Carleeda Green and Bernisha Pinkett, and senior center Jeniece Johnson. No one else can beat them, and no one else will beat them. And awaiting HDW for the mythical City Championship will be the winner of the WCAC Tournament--the tournament for the D.C.-area Catholic schools, which is arguably one of the most competitive leagues in the entire country, always stocked with Division-I talent.
The top teams in the WCAC this year, so far, are: Good Counsel; Elizabeth Seton; Holy Cross; St. John's College, led by senior guard Dymond James and by senior post Sydney Wilson; mainstay Bishop McNamara of Forestville, Maryland; pesky Paul VI from Fairfax, Virginia; and upstart St. Mary's Ryken of St. Mary's, Maryland. My pick for League Champion this year is Good Counsel, led by senior do-everything guard Katie Sheehan.
Two other Real Basketball Report’s Top-15 teams-- St. Frances and Seton Keough--just had their money meeting last weekend in the IAAM (the Baltimore-area's top private/Catholic league) top division championship game. And after years of getting handled during the regular season and playoffs by St. Frances, Seton Keough, led by senior post Asya Bussie, finally won a game--and a championship, it was.
The State of Maryland begins its playoffs next week, in the 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A divisions. In recent years, the 3A division has been dominated by River Hill, out of Clarksville, Maryland; Western from Baltimore, Maryland; and, above all, by Paint Branch. My pick for 3A State Champion this year is Paint Branch, led by senior dynamic duo guard Tarik Hislop and forward Khalilah Quigley.
The 4A division has a couple of multi-time State Champions in recent years--Arundel with two, and Eleanor Roosevelt with four titles--over the last four years. Arundel, as usual, is loaded with D-I talent, and is led by senior guards Ashley Davis and Ebonee Jones, as well as by senior post Simone Egwu. Eleanor Roosevelt doesn't boast quite as much star power, but is more than capably led by senior guard Elashier Hall and senior forward Olivia Applewhite. My pick for 4A State Champion this year is Eleanor Roosevelt, for its fifth in a row.
Overall, the state of Virginia is a little down this year from last, in the Real Basketball Report rankings. But its playoff race for its highest division, the 3A classification, will be much more dramatic than it was last year, especially when you consider that both the District Champion and Runner-Up move on to the State Quarterfinals.
The Northern Region is in something of a downswing. Oakton, of Vienna, Virginia, has had a dynamic season, so far; Mount Vernon, from Alexandria, Virginia, led by super junior Tracy King, has had a greater-than-expected season; and T.C. Williams, also from Alexandria, started off weak this season, but has come on strong as of late, thanks to strong leadership from senior All-American Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. My picks for this region are Mount Vernon and Oakton.
The Northwest Region boasts perennial rivals Forest Park, and Stonewall Jackson, of Manassas, Virginia; and upstart Freedom, of South Riding, Virginia. Forest Park, a perennial State Semi-Finalist, Finalist, or Champion, is led this year by dynamic senior guard Danielle Jackson, and should go back to the dance. I pick Freedom to join them.
The Central Region has no clear favorite right now, in my opinion. Atlee, from Mechanicsville, Virginia, always has a good team, but seems to falter down the stretch; L.C. Bird, of Chesterfield, Virginia, is always tough; Thomas Dale, from Chester, Virginia, has the national class of 2011 Top-20 player Ka'lia Johnson; and Cosby has super junior and District Player of the Year Jazmin Pitts. My picks for this region are Cosby and L.C. Bird.
The Southeast Region was so strong last year, with as many as seven teams who were championship contenders. This season, I'm looking at Lake Taylor, with its 32-minute full-court press; Indian River, led by senior guard Shanel Williams, senior wing Kierra Avant, and superb junior post Chelisa Painter; Princess Anne, out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, with national Class of 2011 Top-10 player Elizabeth Williams. The there are the outsiders: Last year’s State Champion, Heritage (Newport News, Virginia); Hampton (Hampton, Virginia), led by senior guard Tiffany Davis; and also Woodrow Wilson (Portsmouth, Virginia). My picks for this region are Lake Taylor and Indian River. My overall pick for Virginia 3A State Champion is Lake Taylor.
Oak Hill Academy, led by seniors Lakeesa Daniel and Alyssa Bennett, and super juniors Orsi Szecsi, Arielle Johnson, and Ondrea Shaw, has been our RBR Number One-ranked team in my region for most of this season. Meanwhile, Riverdale Baptist, led by seniors Rahneeka Saunders and Tianna Hawkins, and junior standout Ataira Franklin, has made a steady climb from Number Five to their current Number One position--with Oak Hill currently filling the Number Two spot. This rivalry has given rise to much debate, in my region and across the nation, as both teams have been nationally ranked by most scouts and pundits all season.
The only way to settle such a debate is on the court, and last season, these two teams met in the NACA National Tournament, the national event for Christian schools. Riverdale won that National Championship, defeating Oak Hill in the final game. This year, Oak Hill has had a tougher season than expected, while Riverdale Baptist has more or less cruised along. Nonetheless, I pick Oak Hill to win the NACA National Championship this time around, defeating Riverdale in the title game.
When naming its All-Star teams, the Real Basketball Report always looks at a player's school season and previous club season combined, as her body of work under consideration. When looking at seniors, the RBR takes into consideration their entire careers, as well.
The RBR will make its final selections for its All-Star teams after the end of this school season. But for right now, these would be our picks for the All-Senior Teams:
- Danielle Jackson, 5-3, Forest Park/Woodbridge, Virginia (George Washington-signee);
- Tarik Hislop, 5-7, Paint Branch/Burtonsville, Maryland (James Madison-signee);
- Akeema Richards, 5-8, Western/Baltimore, Maryland (West Virginia-signee);
- TaShaunda Rodgers, 5-10, King's Fork/Suffolk, Virginia (Georgetown-signee);
- Alyssa Bennett, 6-1, Oak Hill Academy/Mouth of Wilson, Virginia (unsigned);
- Nyree Williams, 6-1, Howard/Ellicott City, Maryland (North Carolina-signee).
- Bernisha Pinkett, 5-8, H.D. Woodson/Washington, D.C. (unsigned);
- Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, 5-10, T.C. Williams/Alexandria, Virginia (North Carolina-signee);
- Taylor Hilton, 5-10, Sidwell Friends/Washington, D.C. (William & Mary-signee);
- Elashier Hall, 5-11, Eleanor Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Maryland (Syracuse-signee);
- Lakeesa Daniel, 6-3, Oak Hill Academy/Mouth of Wilson, Virginia (Wake Forest-signee);
- Jeniece Johnson, 6-5, H.D. Woodson/Washington, D.C. (unsigned).
- Selina Mann, 5-5, Battlefield/Haymarket, Virginia (Mount St. Mary's-signee);
- Rahneeka Saunders, 5-6, Riverdale Baptist/Upper Marlboro, Maryland (George Mason-signee);
- Carleeda Green, 5-7, H.D. Woodson/Washington, D.C. (unsigned);
- Tiffany Davis, 5-9, Hampton/Hampton, Virginia (unsigned);
- Olivia Applewhite, 6-0, Eleanor Roosevelt/Greenbelt, Maryland (Dayton-signee);
- Nikki Newman, 6-0, Turner-Ashby/Bridgewater, Virginia (James Madison-signee);
- Abby Redick, 6-1, Hidden Valley/Roanoke, Virginia (Virginia Tech-signee);
- Tianna Hawkins, 6-2, Riverdale Baptist/Upper Marlboro, Maryland (Maryland-signee);
- Simone Egwu, 6-2, Arundel/Gambrills, Maryland (Virginia-signee);
- Kori Penick, 6-2, Virginia Episcopal School/Lynchburg, Vriginia (unsigned);
- Asya Bussie, 6-3, Seton Keough/Baltimore, Maryland (West Virginia-signee);
- Sydney Wilson, 6-6, St. John's College/Washington, D.C. (Georgetown-signee).
Each one of the seniors on our first-team could have made a strong case for Real Basketball Report Senior of the Year, based on how each performed over the last two years. But TaShaunda "Sugar" Rodgers had a club season for the ages, this past spring and summer--not many shooting guards in the history of girls’ club basketball have had seasons like hers, for herself and for her club team, Boo Williams Elite. Plus, she's put up huge numbers over the last two years for her school team--in her last school game, she dropped a career-high 49 points on the opponent, leading her team to victory. Congratulations, to TaShaunda Rodgers, Real Basketball Report’s Senior of the Year.
James Nichols is director of The Real Basketball Report, which has been the scouting service of choice for the MD/DC/VA/WV region since 2001. He is also program director of Team Unique, a club program based in Washington, D.C., which has helped 92 out of 92 girls secure basketball scholarships over 10 years; and has helped 23 of these girls achieve high school All-American and USA Basketball honors in that same time.