Spani, Sherbert among summer surprises
Taber Spani's summer of sizzle earned her the top spot on HoopGurlz's list of breakout players, writes Glenn Nelson.
When we saw Taber Spani during the summer of 2007, she was battling the flu and staving off droves of fleet DFW guards. Still, she showed good size and skill level, plus a certain moxie or "It" factor. Given the circumstances, we just weren't sure - not whether Spani was good, but just how good.
Today, there is no question: Taber Spani is pretty darn good.
At times this summer the 6-foot-1 Spani was dominant which, for a perimeter player, is special. More than one opposing coach told us that they informed their team to engage Spani, defensively, as soon as she crossed the midcourt line. And if she wasn't tearing down defenses with her laser-guided jump shoot, she was shredding them with her passing or even dropping down on the boxes to mete out further punishment.
That's what we call "breaking out." This category has nothing to do with skin disorders to which one might apply Clearisil, either. Rather, this is the embodiment of the true spirit of the summer circuit, which is months of players playing in so-called "exposure" tournaments to -- you guessed it -- be exposed.
Of course hundreds of players are exposed during this process, but it's the elite group that makes a splash which we're discussing here.
These aren't just a bunch of unknowns who found the path to getting known, though those kind of players are here. Some, such as Brittney Griner of Houston, Texas, are well-known, but revealed themselves to be game-changers. Some, like Bria Hartley of North Babylon, N.Y., stepped into some big shoes (how about those belonging to incoming Ohio State freshman Samantha Prahalis?) and filled them beyond imagination.
And there were some, such as Tabi Spani of Lees Summit, Mo., whom we knew to be pretty good players who "broke out" and showed us they belonged among the nation's elite.
1. Taber Spani (2009), Cy-Fair Shock
2. Lindsay Sherbert (2010), Cal Swish Black
3. Eliza Pierre (2009), West Coast Premier
4. Maggie Lucas (2010), Philadelphia Belles
5. Rachael Pecota (2009), East Bay Explosion
6. Jasmine Smith (2009), Oklahoma Trotters
7. Shoni Schimmel (2010), Oregon Reign
8. Ta'Shauna Rodgers (2010), Boo Williams Elite
9. Hillary Sigmon (2011), Carolina Pacers
10. Bria Hartley (2010), Exodus
14. Samarie Walker (2010), Ohio Lady Diamonds
15. Elizabeth Williams (2011), Boo Williams Elite
16. Courtney Williams (2012), Houston Elite
17. Shakila Boler (2010), North Tartan
18. Dani Jackson (2009), Boo Williams Elite
19. Karisma Penn (2010), All Ohio Black
20. Meighan Simmons (2010), TeamXpress
21. Cokie Reed (2009), DFW Elite Gold
22. Brittney Griner (2009), DFW T-Jack Elite
23. Sam Ostarello (2009), Mile Hi Gold
24. Niveen Rasheed (2009), East Bay Xplosion
25. Thaddesia Southall (2009), Cal Sparks Gold
We fell in love with Maggie Lucas' game when she was the younger teammate of UConn freshman Caroline Doty at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. A rising junior, Lucas is a smooth-shooting, tight-handled guard who, David-like, shot down the Goliaths of the summer circuit, DFW Elite, at Nike Nationals. Rachael Pecota of Palo Alto, Calif., is, at 6-1, a power guard in the mold of Katie Smith. On the other hand, Jasmine Smith of Stillwater, Okla., is an ultra-explosive athlete who, from the guard position, can score inside, usually over defenders, rather than around them.
Shoni Schimmel, a rising junior out of Mission, Ore., is a local legend finally gone national with her Pistol-with-a-Ponytail show that had coaches either dropped-jawed, or drooling, or both. Ta'Shauna Rodgers of Suffolk, Va., has developed from the unorthodox gunner of a summer ago into the best player on the best club team on the summer circuit. Hillary Sigmon, only a rising sophomore from Taylorsville, N.C., already has a great feel for the game and, at 6 feet, has a diversified arsenal that includes pull-up jump shots as well as 3-point punch.
Rising junior Bria Hartley of North Babylon, N.Y., is creative off the dribble, but calm -- and productive -- when the heat is on the most. The most surprising thing about Waltia Rolle of Houston is that, at age 14, she hadn't even played basketball before coming to the U.S. from the Bahamas. Now the 6-6 post is the No. 17 prospect in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred. Tyrese Tanner of Hoover, Ala., is 6-2 and a rising junior who is quick, explosive off the floor and aggressive, while another rising junior, Courtney Moses, is the prototypical Indiana point guard who makes up for size deficiencies with quickness, guile and a sweet jump shot.
Shakila Boler of Bloomington, Minn., ended her summer on a down note, suffering a torn medial-collateral ligament in her left knee during a camp ending the first half of July. Before doing so, she'd shown herself to be one of the more explosive guards in the country. Daniell Jackson of Dumfries, Va., likewise showed explosiveness and quickness beyond the realm of most. Rising junior Karisma Penn of Shaker Heights, Ohio, meanwhile, demonstrated an indomitable spirit inside and usually calm in the clutch. Meighan Simmons of San Antonio, Texas, scored 39 points in the Class 4A regional championship game, then showed uncanny playmaking ability during the summer. Cokie Reed of Waco, Texas, was poised to make a major assault on the top of the 2009 rankings, but was waylaid by a knee injury, like Boler, at the end of the first half of the summer evaluation period. Brittney Griner of Houston, Texas, was hampered by guards who sometimes seemed to have an aversion to getting the ball to the 6-8 post, but she solidified her hold on the No. 1 ranking with fear-inducing defense.
While not exactly an unknown at No. 13 in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred, Sam Ostarello showed during her first fulltime stint on the summer circuit that she has unique abilities at 6-2 and belongs with the nation's elite. More impressive last summer at the defensive end, Niveen Rasheed of Danville, Calif., showed nice size and fundamental base at the wing and a knack for making plays. A bit overshadowed on her nationally ranked, Long Beach Poly High School team, Thaddesia Southall continued to impress with her length and quickness off the floor at the defensive end, but showed evolving promise on offense as well.
Chris Hansen, Clay Kallam, Mark Lewis and Mindi Rice contributed to this report.
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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. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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