SANTA ANA, Calif. — The fall viewing weekend is as saturated as any of the NCAA-certified period, especially in some of the major metro areas. But that doesn’t stop some of them from being outstanding events. The Fall Finish put on by Fila and the Cal Sparks program was one such quality event, charged with quality high school teams and a sprinkling of clue teams. With powerhouses like Long Beach Poly, Mater Dei and Windward as well as one of Oregon’s top teams, South Medford, taking the floor, the marquee matchups felt more like the state playoffs than an exposure event.
By: Chris Hansen
Khalia Lark (Irvine, Calif.) — Mater Dei — 2014
In recent years, Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.) has had no shortage of star power. With the likes of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Connecticut-2011), Alexyz Vaioletama (USC-2011), Karina Alofaituli (USC-2011), Jordan Adams (USC-2012) Nirra Fields (2012-UCLA), the top shelf talent in head coach Kevin Kiernan’s program compares to that of any in the nation. But what allowed the star-studded team to win big was not just the premier players on the floor, but the likes of some high level role players that could make a variety of plays whether it was their night to score or not. With the last group, Jessica Duarte filled the role of unsung hero.
The 2012-13 Mater Dei program has new stars in Edison transfers Karlie and Katie Samuelson, but just as important, Lark provides a glue player for Mater Dei and a post presence to keep the wealth of perimeter weapons with room to work. She is aggressive and strong in the post and can get in a rhythm much the same way a shooter can. At 6 feet, she may not have the size to play the center position against traditional power conference posts, but her mobility suggests she could develop into a strong forward in a two-post system. But at the high-school level, her willingness to mix it up will be a big factor in the ultimate success of the Monarchs.
Arica Carter (Los Angeles, Calif.) – Long Beach Poly – 2014
This 5-foot-8 point guard is simply a playmaker. She can be a breakdown player whether she attacks off a ball reversal or in isolation plays like a 1-4 low. Carter showed more leadership and consistency on Saturday then we have seen in previous viewings. With her ability to create offense for herself as well as some nifty passing, especially off the dribble, her skillset will be in high demand when schools go looking for guards in the 2014 class.
Kristen Simon (Gardena, Calif.) – Windward School – 2014
With two marquee guards on the floor one would assume it would be hard for an under-height post to standout. But the 6-1 Simon is far from undersized and her punishing post play was front and center when Windward was firing on all cylinders. Much the way Marques Webb showed in the 2013 class, the intensity and physicality Simon played with in the post more than made up for any lack of inches in height. Anyone schools passing on Simon because of size will learn the hard way if they have to game plan against her at the next level.
AROUND THE RIM
The Samuelson sisters appear ready to live up to the high expectations placed on Mater Dei star players. Senior Stanford commit Karlie’s heady game at either guard position seems a terrific complement to younger sister Katie Lou, a sophomore, who appears poised to make the big plays in key moments.
The GBL program has quite the reputation for developing young players who ascend to elite status in high school. Perhaps the next Jordin Canada (2014) is already wearing a GBL jersey in 2017 point guard Chelsey Gibson of Los Angeles, Calif. This speedster showed great balance and playmaking ability. If she gets a few more inches on her 5-2 frame, look out.
At 5-8, Candice White of Modesto, Calif., showed she has the size and smooth athleticism to be the lead guard on the floor. This sophomore from Beyer High School showed composure under pressure and the smarts to advance the ball with the pass whenever it was available. She has a solid build and should one of the names to know in Northern California in the 2015 class.
The matchup between fellow 2014 inside players Chayan Lowery of So Cal Magic and Imani Littleton of the Wiggins Waves was a fantastic battle. Littleton is a terrific athlete and a hard player to contain but with her length and scrappy play, Lowery did a really good job.
Chris Hansen is the managing editor for Peach State Media. In addition to serving as a contributor to the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report, Hansen also covered girls’ basketball and women’s college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women’s basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He is a member of the McDonald’s All-American team selection committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.