*As written by Brandon Clay in May 2008
CINCINNATI, Ohio — The talent on hand at the Nike Midwest Showdown was not limited to just 2009 graduates. The underclassmen displayed their skills as well and proved that the future looks bright for the girls’ game. From the opening set of games until championship day, a mix of younger players stood out in various divisions of play. Unlike their 2009 counterparts who are just starting to come off the draft board during the spring of the junior school year, several of these kids have already committed to BCS schools as far back as this time last year.
The most impressive thing about these players and a lot of the underclass players that I saw wright my assignments this weekend is how much better the game is getting at an earlier age. As a trainer, I am always harping on skill development and consistent play from players of all ages. When I step back and evaluate where the game is now as opposed to five years ago, I am amazed at the level of play across the board and these players are a big reason why.
Lauren Avant (Memphis, Tenn./Lausanne School) is definitely a star at the point guard spot. The 5-foot-7 Tennessee commit showed SEC caliber speed and decision making in one viewing as she penetrated gaps to kick out to shooters or finished if no help defense came over. There is still room for added range to her jump shot and her body to fill out but she’s a big time player in the 2010 class.
Stefanie Dolson (Slate Hill, N.Y./Minisink Valley) is a legit 6-5 class of 2010 making a cover letter for a resume post player with good size. She hit a free-throw line jumper and finished a couple times on the block. When she or one of her teammates did miss, she caught and kept the ball high to put it back in the basket. Her size makes her a big asset on the defensive end making it hard for guards to get where they want to go.
Samantha Drake (Bardstown, Kent./Nelson County) quickly became a player to keep an eye on with a solid performance Sunday afternoon. The 6-2 class of 2010 post committed to Kentucky last fall. She’s a solid athlete who is probably best suited to be a high-low post player in the SEC. Her offensive skill has progressed since last summer and defensively her long arms allow her to affect a lot of shots even though she’s not a shot blocker.
Every team needs a player like 6-0 class of 2010 forward Taylor Hall (New Tazwell, write and essay for me Tenn./Claiborne County). A summer teammate of Avant with Memphis Elite, she does everything little in addition to finding ways to score around the bucket and makes her teammates better. Hall gets on the floor for loose balls, will mix it up in the middle and is a solid defender too.
Arguably the best underclass shooter was 6-1 class of 2010 wing Antonita Slaughter (Louisville, Kent./Christian Academy). In a game Sunday afternoon, the Louisville commit bombed away, hitting five three pointers, but also showed the versatility to finish off the dribble on a couple of possessions too. Slaughter has a bloodline to explain her skill as her older sister, Toni, went to Louisville in the early part of the decade as well.
Elem Ibiam’s (Griffin, Ga./Spalding) body build reminds of current Georgia center Angel Robinson (Marietta High School). The 6-4 post is a definite Watch List kid in the 2011 class. She ran the floor, write an essay in an hour finished underneath and even hit a couple of turnaround jumpers in the paint.
If there are five players in the 2011 class better than Kaleena Lewis (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), the class would be one of the best in a long time. Lewis, a 6-0 wing, plays with the West Coast Premier top team and still managed to make an impact. She’s got a tight jumper and a nice handle for a big wing. If she really works on the ability to create off the dribble drive we could be talking about the No. 1 player in the class before it’s all over.
Brandon Clay is the owner of the JumpOffPlus.com International Report, Peach State Basketball, Inc., and ProspectsNation.com. The JumpOffPlus.com is picked up by more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide. He serves as the Executive Camp Director for the Elite Basketball Academy Camps. Clay has been involved in the community since 2001. You can reach him at BrandonClay@PeachStateBasketball.com