Commentary

Philly Nike RSA Class of '09 breakdown

Originally Published: May 13, 2008
By Clay Kallam | ESPN HoopGurlz

China CrosbyGlenn NelsonChina Crosby ranks as one of the top point guards in the Class of 2009.
PHILADELPHIA -- Like the other Nike events, the Philadelphia session focused mainly on drills and fundamentals. Instructor Ganon Baker constantly referenced his work with elite NBA players, and it was expected, for example, the girls knew who Marcus Camby was and demanded they learn quickly.

But again like most other such camps it was difficult for the coaches to instruct and correct on an individual basis, especially as the camp had to run on a schedule that served the majority of the campers, not just the ones who were going faster than the group (or slower).

And as always, the scrimmages were ragged glory with the emphasis on ragged. With no real structure, many of the guards were uncertain, and as a result open post players were often ignored in favor of drives to the rim or pull-up jumpers.

Overall, however, the talent level was high and for many of the campers a wakeup call. It's one thing to dominate age-group tournaments where there are two tough games a weekend or roll over undertalented high school teams, but it's quite another to have to step up and make plays when everyone is quick and strong and the big players are, well, big.

For the most part the BCS-level talent (and just below) came to work and play hard. Even with tired bodies, they battled in the brief scrimmages that ended the drilllwork, and if their concentration on the drills wasn't quite as high, it still required a significant investment of physical and mental energy.

The following is a look at most of the outstanding 2009 players in attendance.

Jesse Carey (Doylestown, Pa.) is a tough, physical guard who likes to go to the hoop -- though she can shoot it too. At 5-foot-7, her quick hands also serve her well on the defensive end.

China Crosby (New York/Manhattan Center) is a very athletic guard who can shoot the 3, go right or left and has a nice change-of-pace move (the most underrated, and one of the most effective, offensive ploys). She could have showed a bit more desire to apply defensive pressure, especially as she missed Friday night's session, and was a little fresher than the other guards.

Not that many high school players (or WNBA players for that matter) can use their off-hand consistently inside, but Chelsea Davis (Townsend, Del.) showed that ability. She was also one of the few players who took what was taught in the drills and tried to apply it in scrimmages.

Ganon Baker looks for hard work, and for whatever reason, Stacy Dennis (Harrisburg, Pa.) had trouble delivering. It was said she wasn't feeling 100 percent, but her fine shooting and ability to score were offset by her lack of effort on defense and running the court and talking back to her coach in the scrimmages.

Lexie Gerson (Fort Washington, Pa.) is rightfully considered one of the top players in the '09 class, and she is a big, strong guard who can shoot, has a big first step and plays the game with intelligence. With not as much to prove as some of the other guards, she was more content to set up her teammates rather than look for her shot.

One of two players who made the trip to Philadelphia from Ohio, Kendall Hackney (Mason, Ohio) had trouble getting shots during the scrimmages because of the makeup of her team. When she did touch the ball, she showed off a nice jumper and good passing instincts. She needs to work on being a little tougher inside, however.

Stephanie Holzer (Newtown Square, Pa.) is a solid, accomplished post player who works hard and is willing to get on the floor -- not something a lot of 6-3 players will do. She's persistent inside and passes well but had some trouble getting her shot off against some of the more athletic posts. The more comfortable she gets with a mid-range jumper, the higher her ceiling will be.

Though not necessarily that fast, Christine Huber (North Babylon, N.Y). did a good job defensively and was also smooth around the hoop. And the 6-4 post can shoot it and use her left hand, too. All in all, a good weekend for Huber.

[+] EnlargeJeniece Johnson
Glenn NelsonJeniece Johnson displayed BCS-level skills in Philly.
There were a couple of times 6-4 Jeniece Johnson (Washington, D.C./Woodson) showed a rare combination of quickness and strength -- and there were others when she seemed vulnerable to fast hands and double-teams. But her size, strength and willingness to initiate contact mark her as a BCS-level post player.

Devon Kane (Springfield, Pa.) was another caught on a team that didn't get her the ball much, so it was hard to see how much she's recovered from her ACL. She also had worn down a bit by Saturday afternoon, perhaps because her conditioning has been hampered by her rehab.

Quick, quick and quick, Eugenia McPherson (North Babylon, N.Y.) used those fast-twitch muscles at both ends of the court. She likes to go left, which catches unwary defenders expecting the right-hander to go to her strong hand off guard, and she can also hit the 3. McPherson didn't blink at the level of competition and kept her motor running even when most of the players were wearing down.

Abby Redick (Roanoke, Va.) gets attention because she's J.J.'s little sister, but she couldn't be more unlike her sharpshooting brother -- though she does have a nice stroke. Redick is more a 4 than a 2 and is very physical, very strong and not afraid to use those abilities. She's obviously spent some time out on the driveway with J.J. and his buddies and doesn't back down from anyone. She's also very fundamentally sound, and though she's not the quickest player in the gym, she's got more game than just the name.

At about 6-0, Ashley Robinson (Warrington, Pa.) showed off her ability to jump but wasn't as comfortable on the perimeter. Her athleticism allows her to make plenty of plays, and if she adds ballhandling and perimeter skills, she will be a solid slash-and-crash small forward at the next level.

Kerri Shields (Radnor, Pa./Archbishop Carroll) didn't stand out, as she mostly played a complementary role during the scrimmages. That doesn't mean she was overmatched but merely she was not taking over the scrimmages as some guards tried to do. That said, though, those expecting a clear separation between her and most of the point guards had to be a little disappointed.

[+] EnlargeShenneika Smith
Glenn NelsonDenial is the name of the game for Shenneika Smith.
Shenneika Smith (Brooklyn, N.Y.) tries to block every shot -- which would be a bad play if she didn't get so many of them. And the 5-11, maybe 6-foot Smith doesn't care how tall you are either. Six-four, 5-8, 5-4 -- if you try to take it to the rack on her, expect rejection worse than your first middle-school crush. On top of that, Smith has the rest of the package: She's quick, strong, fast, long, athletic, skilled and can shoot and pass. At the next level, she may have to give up on her dream of blocking every shot the opposition takes, but still, expect more than a few highlights along the way.

Dara Taylor (Wilmington, Del.) is a very good player, but at a slight 5-6, she's going to have to get used to the contact at the next level. She can do everything on the court, has an excellent feel for the game and showed no fear of going inside.

Though only 5-6, Ieasia Walker (Amityville, N.Y.) is strong and confident. She sees the floor well, and uses her quick hands to offset her lack of size on defense.

[+] EnlargeNyree Williams
Glenn NelsonNorth Carolina commit Nyree Williams does her talking on defense.
Off the court, girls can talk -- and talk and talk -- but on the court, it's rare. Nyree Williams (Ellicot City, Md.), though, is one of the few players who communicates defensively, and the 6-footer is also a physical player with good footwork. She doesn't have 3-point range and gets most of her points inside, but there's a reason she's committed to North Carolina.

First, Sydney Wilson (Germantown, Md.) really is 6-4. Most high school players listed at that height are 6-2, but Wilson is long and athletic. Like a fair number of players Wilson doesn't shine in drills, but start playing games and all of a sudden she's grabbing offensive rebounds and calling for the ball. Still, she does need more work on her fundamentals, especially her footwork, but she has all the physical tools to be a BCS frontcourt starter if she puts in the time.

Clay Kallam is a columnist and contributor to ESPN's HoopGurlz.com. He is the founder of Full Court Press, an online magazine devoted to women's basketball; the author of "Girls Basketball: Building a Winning Program" and a voter for several national awards, including McDonald's and Parade All-Americans and the Wooden Award.

For more in-depth coverage of women's college-basketball prospects and girl's basketball, visit HoopGurlz.com

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