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Saturday, July 16, 2011
Top Flight Performance

By Glenn Nelson
HoopGurlz

Greenwell
Rebecca Greenwell of Owensboro, Ky., had 16 of her game-high 23 points during the decisive first half of Tennessee Flight Silver's 59-48 victory over Cy-Fair Nike Elite in the championship game of Battle in the Boro in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- If confidence is like a rose, Rebecca Greenwell's is in full bloom right now, showy and fragrant, like the sweet smell of success. It was planted last summer, during an unbeaten, Nike Nationals championship season for the Tennessee Flight Silver. And it was nurtured during the most hellacious spring any girls' basketball player in the country has enjoyed, from making the USA U16 national team to leading it to a FIBA Americas championship with a record-breaking, MVP performance.

If any other women's college-basketball prospect in the land intends on having a more bountiful summer, she'd better revel in playing catchup because it's Greenwell already in a runaway.

"She's special," Flight coach Tom Insell said. "I'll never have another one like her." And Insell made such a pronouncement before Greenwell torched Cy-Fair Nike Elite for 23 points during her team's 59-48 victory in the Battle in the Boro championship game on Saturday.

Middleton/Kornet
The Tennessee Flight surged ahead with defensive plays like the one Alexa Middleton of Murfreesboro, Tenn., makes her against Cy-Fair's Nicole Kornet of Lantana, Texas.

As if to dispel any notion that she was going to rest on her USA laurels, Greenwell went into the Cy-Fair game locked and loaded, scoring 16 points in the first half alone. With Cy-Fair looking to land some early, déjà-upset blows (they handed the Flight its own loss of the season in April), the 5-foot-11 Greenwell followed a transition layup with two heat-seeking, 3-point missiles and, in the course of 30 seconds, had eight points. In an eyeblink, really, she bestowed upon the Flight a lead it never relinquished.

Not one to leave a job undone, Greenwell led the charge in, get this, a defensive frenzy near the end of the first half that saw the Flight cash in 13 straight points, almost totally in transition. She closed the half with another three that swelled Tennessee's margin to 16. Back at the Boo Williams Nike Invitational in Hampton, Va., the Flight led Cy-Fair by 20 but quit hitting shots and lost. If Cy-Fair was nursing thoughts of a repeat, Greenwell put it out of their heads by planting herself in the left corner and starting the second half with another bonus-point howitzer.

And in three deliciously microwaveable moments, Greenwell had cooked Cy-Fair, and cooked them good.

"I was just hot," Greenwell said in what could stand as the major understatement of summer. "Hitting the first couple of threes gets me going. I'm not the best defender, but whenever I get my offensive game going, it pumps me up on defense."

Greenwell says she knew she had a predilection for scoring when she stood out as a fourth grader with the Tennessee Elite youth team. She was one of the top prep scorers in the country with 32.6 points as a sophomore for Owensboro Catholic, for which she has played varsity since the seventh grade. She already has school career records with 2,821 points, 1,136 rebounds, 392 assists, 321 steals and 170 blocks.

Rebecca Greenwell
A scorer deluxe, Rebecca Greenwell set several USA records, including a 15.6-point scoring average, and scored 32.6 points a game for her high school, Owensboro Catholic, as a sophomore.

Insell says Greenwell has a knack for generating her own offense and that the Flight sometimes doesn't run a whole lot of sets her way. Greenwell simply doesn't leave much to chance. To prepare for USA trials, she worked out twice daily with her sister, Rachel, who plays at Bellarmine University in Louisville. They lifted in the morning before school and ran sprints and drills with a personal trainer in the afternoon after. She'd been made aware of the wind-sucking altitude at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., by current club teammate Bashaara Graves and former mates Aerial Massengale, who is headed to Tennessee, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, bound for Connecticut. All had USA trials experience.

A dynamic scorer who has great size, athleticism and creative ball skills, Greenwell got stronger as her competition wilted during the USA trials. Her conditioning and preparation carried over to Mérida, Mexico, where last month she set or tied USA records for points averaged (15.6), field goals attempted (tied, 29), field goals made (62) and 3-pointers made (11) and attempted (tied, 24).

"That gave me a lot of confidence," said Greenwell, ranked No. 10 in the 2013 class by ESPN HoopGurlz. "I didn't know what to expect."

The same cannot be said of Greenwell's followers, who already may feel gripped by a Groundhog's Day sensation after her performances have adopted the sameness of summer re-runs, albeit really good ones. There likely will be a minimum of complaints since college coaches, especially, like their superstars predictably good and monotonously consistent. And her line of suitors is growing so fast, they'll follow her like a hoops Pied Piper through the remainder of the summer-evaluation grind.

After Greenwell returned from Mexico to her home in Owensboro, Ky., her phone already was blowing up. "It was crazy," she said. Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are among the colleges that already have offered scholarships. She plans to visit Duke and Notre Dame after Nike Nationals at the end of this month, and says she so far can see a career in either the SEC or Big East in her future.

Bashaara Graves
Bashaara Graves of Clarksville, Tenn., No. 9 in the 2012 class, shut down Cy-Fair runs with her inside play and "killed us," according to Cy-Fair coach Katie Hensle.

But that future still is a ways off. Which is why Insell says he won't ever have another like Greenwell. She already has been a top reserve for the Flight two years ago and a starter with the likes of Massengale and Mosqueda-Lewis last summer. There's the rest of this summer with a Flight team that seems back on track as the best in the country, and one more go-round next year.

Until then, unfinished business abounds. A budding champion always ensures it does.

Since Cy-Fair derailed what the Flight had hoped would be a second straight unbeaten season, Greenwell says "we've been all pumped up about it. We definitely wanted to play them here." They got that opportunity and the two teams expected to pose a challenge along the way both failed. The Lady Fire out of Chicago bit it good, 78-66, during an exhibition matchup on Thursday night. Then Exodus NYC left before its scheduled semifinal bout with Tennessee because, according to coach Apache Paschall, its bus driver insisted on commencing the long drive early back to New York on Saturday morning.

So, dressed up with no game to play, Rebecca Greenwell, superstar in the making, went to lunch with her family. They had Chinese. Not exactly the meal of champions, Greenwell conceded.

But during a red-hot, reputation-building summer like this, anything and everything will do just fine.

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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.