Prospect Watch: Bigger and better

Originally Published: May 16, 2008
By Glenn Nelson and Brandon Clay | ESPN HoopGurlz

Cierra WarrenGlenn Nelson6-foot-4 Cierra Warren is one of several bigger prospects in the Class of 2009.
When we've mentioned the crazy growth of girls' basketball in recent years, we've been focused on the numbers of bodies in the sport. But we've also noticed, on a somewhat unscientific basis, that the bodies themselves are growing as well.

To wit, if the ESPN HoopGurlz Super 60 rankings of the 2009 class expanded to a top 75, more than a third of the players listed would be 6-foot-3 or taller. Yes, you inside-game-starved college coaches can collect yourselves off the floor now. It's true what we said before; this is the Year of the Post. And then some.

In addition to the usual suspects, such as the Nos. 1-2, Houston-area punch of Kelsey Bone and Brittney Griner, this past spring evaluation period brought a few more incredible hulks to the fore. Yet another Houstonian (someone check the reservoirs down there), Waltia Rolle, who is 6-6, will join the upper echelon of the rankings, as will Cierra Warren, 6-4, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Both are long, well-developed physically, and very athletic.

Yet another 6-6 post, Jeniece Johnson of Washington, D.C., is a North Carolina State commit and also on the rise. She isn't just tall, but massive and surprisingly nimble for her size.

It's enough for us to label another of our favorite post players, the extremely fundamental Oklahoma commit, Joanna MacFarland of Derby, Kan., as "undersized." She is 6-2.

Back to the aforementioned Bone and Griner, who are 6-3 and 6-6, respectively. They will occupy the same stratosphere twice within about a month's time -- May 30-31 at the Nike Regional Skills Academy in Houston and at the National Skills Academy at the end of June. The encounters should bring a close to the debate over the No. 1 ranking in the 2009 class.

Bone, who has occupied the top spot since the jump, is the most devastating inside offensive force to come along since Courtney Paris. Griner has become a cause celebre because of her dunking ability, but it's her defensive ability that has basketball insiders excited. Her incredibly long wingspan, combined with her explosiveness off the floor, makes it nearly impossible for an opposing team to get off a shot inside 12 feet when Griner's on the floor.

That's huge. Much like the 2009 class.

-- Nelson

Catching Up with the Nike RSA in Georgia

NORCROSS, Ga. -- There are certain stops along the recruiting process that should be used as checkpoints for where players are overall in terms of skill, game IQ and work ethic. And the Nike Regional Skills Academy, held in the Atlanta area April 25-27, is one of those stops.

[+] EnlargeElan Brown
Glenn NelsonElan Brown has improved her game by more aggressively taking the ball to the tin.
6-foot-1, 2009 prospect Elan Brown from Georgia is smooth. Finished well around the rim and using her length really well. Elan's always been an excellent spot shooter but she's attacking the rim consistently right now.

Six-two Cierra Burdick from North Carolina is as talented as any player in the 2011 class. She handles well, has a nice frame and is a very good natural athlete. She'll have to continue to work on her shooting ability outside to stay at the head of the class, but for now she's right there.

A 2010 wing out of Georgia, 5-11 Alexis Burke is the real deal. Blessed with a strong frame for a wing, she can shoot it or get to the rim. In fact, she has the innate ability to get a basket almost anytime she needs to.

The baby of the bunch, Georgia's Kaele Davis (6-0) had a solid weekend, especially for a 2013. If I didn't know better, I would have believed she was a very good 2010 or '11 prospect. She's very aware of the game already and how to play in space with other players. If Kaela's jumper gets range to 22 or 23 feet like I believe it will over the next two years, I'm not sure how many players will be able to do a lot with her.

Tennessee's 6-2 Jasmine Hassell is just a beast. Her wide shoulders allow her to control other post players on the block and she's got pretty good feet when she faces up. She had her way against the posts at Camp. She'll be at the National Academy for sure.

The thing about 6-2, 2010 forward Kaneisha Horn from Alabama is she's consistent every time I watch her. She keeps adding tools to her game including the skill to handle in the open floor and finish in traffic. She held her own with Hassell in a couple of different matchups during camp.

Burke and Jasmine James, a 5-8 rising senior from Tennessee, were probably the most skill-set complete guards on hand with range to 20-plus feet. Jasmine has a slick handle and plays hard.

Wow, LaQuinta Jefferson, a 5-10 guard from the 2010 class in Tennessee, probably had as good of a weekend as any player in the building. She's a great athlete, is getting to the rim and showed the ability to hit the mid-range jumper time after time. She was the only kid in camp to use a "McGrady-Bryant" style backdown from the wing to score.

[+] EnlargeCassie Peoples
Glenn NelsonClass of 2011 point guard Cassie Peoples shows great promise.
Floridian 2011 point guard Cassie Peoples (5-5) is one for the future. I couldn't help but enjoy her advanced skill set so early in her progression. She can shoot it, handle and has great body control amongst the trees. Like most young point guards, she'll have to continue to learn how to get everyone involved.

Virginia commit 6-3 Erinn Thompson from North Carolina is playing like a high-post center right now (think European/International post play). Erinn shoots the 15- to 18-footer very well for her size. She still has room to get a stronger through her upper body.

As always, Morgan Toles, the 5-7 rising senior from Georgia, is in great shape although she was a little banged up by Saturday afternoon. She was active, bouncy and thinks the game as well as any point guard who was on hand. She'll have to add some range to her jumper but, other than that, she is good to go.

-- Clay

Ogwumikes Among 35 at USA Basketball

[+] EnlargeChiney Ogwumike
Glenn NelsonChiney Ogwumike is one of the top prospects in the Class of 2010.
Chiney Ogwumike, who may be the top prospect in the 2010 class, is among 35 players who have accepted invitations to try out for spots on the 12-player, USA Basketball U18 National Team during trials in Colorado Springs, June 9-12. Ogwumike will be joined at the trials by her sister, Nneka, who is headed to Stanford in the fall. The players have to be born on or after Jan. 1, 1990 to be eligible for the team that will play in the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, July 23-27 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

All 35 players are ranked in the 2008, 2009 or, in Ogwumike's case, 2010 classes by ESPN HoopGurlz.

The confirmed participants include Yvonne Anderson (Columbia Hickman H.S. / Columbia, Mo.), Kelsey Bone (Dulles H.S. / Stafford, Texas), Sarah Boothe (Warren Township H.S. / Gurnee, Ill.), Alyssia Brewer (Sapulpa H.S. / Sapulpa, Okla.), Heather Buck (Stonington H.S. / Stonington, Conn.), Ashley Corral (Prairie H.S. / Vancouver, Wash.), Skylar Diggins (Washington H.S. / South Bend, Ind.), Jasmine Dixon (Long Beach Poly H.S. / Long Beach, Calif.), Ayana Dunning (Columbus Eastmoor H.S. / Columbus, Ohio), Kelly Faris (Heritage Christian / Plainfield, Ind.), Ashley Gayle (Bishop Gorman H.S. / Las Vegas, Nev.), Briana Gilbreath (Cinco Ranch H.S. / Katy, Texas), Amber Gray (Lakota West H.S. / Cincinnati, Ohio), Emilee Harmon (Pickerington Central H.S. / Pickerington, Ohio), Tayler Hill (South H.S. / Minneapolis, Minn.), Lynetta Kizer (Potomac H.S. / Woodbridge, Va.), and Alicia Manning (Etowah H.S. / Woodstock, Ga.).

Also participating will be Casey Morris (Piedmont H.S. / Fairfield, Calif.), Shenise Johnson (Rush-Henrietta H.S. / Henrietta, N.Y.), Chiney Ogwumike (Cy-Fair H.S. / Cypress, Texas), Nneka Ogwumike (Cy-Fair H.S. / Cypress, Texas), Monique Oliver (Long Beach Poly H.S. / Long Beach, Calif.), Samantha Prahalis (Commack H.S. / Dix Hills, N.Y.), Cokie Reed (Midway H.S. / Waco, Texas), Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (T.C. Williams H.S. / Alexandria, Va.), Shay Selby (Regina H.S. / Geneva, Ohio), Chay Shegog (Brooke Point H.S. / Stafford, Va.), Shenneika Smith (St. Michael Academy / Brooklyn, N.Y.), Nikki Speed (Marlborough H.S. / Pasadena, Calif.), DeNesha Stallworth (Pinole Valley H.S. / Pinole, Calif.), SheKinna Stricklen (Morrilton H.S. / Morrilton, Ark.), April Sykes (East Oktibbeha County H.S. / Crawford, Miss.), Joslyn Tinkle (Big Sky H.S. / Missoula, Mont.), Taylor Turnbow (Stephenson H.S. / Stone Mountain, Ga.), and Markel Walker (Schenley H.S. / Philadelphia, Pa.).

All but Anderson, Johnson, Chiney Ogwumike, Reed, Smith, Sykes, Tinkle and Walker attended last year's Youth Development Festival.

Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer.

Brandon Clay is a columnist and contributor to ESPN HoopGurlz. He is the owner of Peach State Basketball, Inc., a company focused on developing young female basketball players and exposing them to colleges across the U.S. Clay has been involved in the women's basketball community since 2001 as a coach, evaluator, and trainer.

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

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