Top talent shines at Turkey Jamm
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- While Thanksgiving feasts all around the country were served up last Thursday, another helping was dished out both Friday and Saturday as well in the second annual Tennessee Turkey Jamm. Participants included 14 teams from seven different states and featured six competitors from the Powerade Fab 50 high-school team rankings. Four ranked in the top 10 were on hand and of those only forth-ranked Bolingbrook left unscathed.
Both days offered up some competitive games and some early season revelations about the strengths and weaknesses of some of the teams.
St. Benedict (Tenn.) 47, West Memphis (Ark.) 40
Oldsmar Academy (Fla.) 59, H.W. Byers (Miss.) 56
Ridgeway (Tenn.) 61, Forest Park (Ga.) 56
No. 20 Hoover (Ala.) 66, Overton (Tenn.) 55
No. 6 Potter's House (Fla.) 85, Hillsboro (Tenn.) 46
No. 9 Whitney Young (Ill.) 68, No. 31 Clarksville (Tenn.) 57
No. 4 Bolingbrook (Ill.) 65, No. 5 Memphis Central (Tenn.) 45
St. Benedict (Tenn.) 56, H.W. Byers (Miss.) 41
Forest Park (Ga.) 58, West Memphis (Ark.) 41
No. 4 Bolingbrook (Ill.) 51, Hillsboro (Tenn.) 39
No. 20 Hoover (Ala.) 60, No. 31 Clarksville (Tenn.) 45
Overton (Tenn.) 56, No. 6 Potter's House (Fla.) 53
Ridgeway (Tenn.) 50, Oldsmar Academy (Fla.) 49
No. 5 Memphis Central (Tenn.) 82, No. 9 Whitney Young (Ill.) 79
Memphis Central: Entering the weekend ranked fourth, the Lady Warriors may well have had the two toughest games on the schedule. Coach Niki Brey's squad struggled in its opener Friday with Bolingbrook but recovered with an impressive win over perennial power Whitney Young Saturday evening. The maturity and confidence that has grown with her talented roster over the last two seasons wasn't apparent in the first game but after a slow start in their second outing they seemed to settle down and hit their stride. The underclass backcourt trio of Danielle Ballard, Aaliyah Whiteside and Nina Davis can offer as many scoring options in both the halfcourt and transition as you'll find anywhere. Friday's effort saw a little too much individual focus but Saturday's team effort should concern any opponent on the schedule. Forward Jalen O'Bannon offers good size and athleticism as well as the versatility to play both inside and out. Stepping onto the big stage and leaving their mark in the win over Whitney Young was a pair of freshman standouts, Tia Wooten and Jasmine Cincore. Both played with aggressive abandon and were the catalysts who helped Central overcome a slow start as well as provided them with a presence in the paint.
Potter's House: A fixture on the national scene, both competitively as well as on the road, Tony Bannister's talented and sixth-ranked crew should be primed for their best season yet. Unfortunately, an impressive win Friday was followed up with a disappointing performance and loss against Overton Saturday night. The well-known firepower is still in place with Loliya Briggs, Brittany Roundtree, Antoinette Bannister and Shalethia Stringfield. Steady improvement from 6-1 Hillary Fuller provides some additional size and potential but consistency in her play was an issue in both games. Senior 5-6 guard Charmaine Dinkins had some moments and should provide some backcourt depth and an additional long ball threat. As always, Potter's House creates its offense on the defensive end of the floor forcing turnovers with an aggressive trapping attack both in man to man and a 2-2-1 press. However, their willingness to "settle" for the jumper off only one or two passes can be an issue on a cold shooting night and lead to little return on those turnovers. Additionally, their inability to contain or close traps on explosive Overton guard Cornellia Fondren limited their transition opportunities. There were moments of "flat" play and a tendency to wait for things to happen that will need to be addressed to avoid future upsets.
Whitney Young: Speed, quickness, aggressiveness, you name it, ninth-ranked Whitney Young seems to have it. Their ability to attack both offensively and defensively creates turnovers and points at a frenetic pace. Chanise Jenkins once again demonstrated that, while only 5-5, she can impact the game at both ends of the floor. Turning and trapping opposing ballhandlers, she helps come up with tips and steals that lead to transition opportunities. On the offensive end she's effective off the drive and deadly from three. Add to that penetrating threat senior Kiana Johnson and you're dealing with one of the nations quickest and most explosive backcourts. Sophomore Linnae Harper may stand only 5-8 but she spent most of her weekend working in the paint. Quick, powerful and aggressive she's surprisingly effective around the rim. An obvious Achilles' heel was revealed in their second night loss to Memphis Central with their absence of a true inside game. Of course this is nothing new for the Lady Dolphins as size has never been an asset but they seem more vulnerable to a strong opposing post presence than in the past. Defensively, Correy Irvine's team may be one of most imposing that opponents will face and if they can maintain the pressure their lack of size will be difficult to exploit.
Clarksville: The one ranked team that came away from Memphis with two losses was No. 31 Clarksville High School. Its loss to Whitney Young was a close and competitive game, particularly when you consider that junior guard and long-ball threat Chandler Cooper missed the second half with back spasms. The loss to Hoover was another matter and though Clarksville had Cooper back and made several runs, didn't seem to have the energy to get the job done. Junior forward Bashaara Graves, No. 7 in the ESPN HoopGurlz Super 60, was her usual dominant self and even added some backcourt duties when teammates struggled with defensive pressure. The 6-2 Graves continues to expand and refine her game while playing with a constant and relentless effort. Junior 5-8 combo guard Jessy Ward had a feast and famine weekend. At times in both games Ward was creating scoring opportunities for both herself and her teammates and shooting the ball with an impressive touch. At other points she struggled with turnovers and the defensive pressure of aggressive and quicker defenders. Cooper is a proven shooter that has to be a factor to allow her Wildcat teammates to be effective. A key to Clarksville's success may lie with 6-2 junior post Tia Nicholson. Long, lean and athletic, she had several moments that should force defenders to stay home and not double Graves as much.
Overton: Overton may be unranked and only come away with a split for the weekend, but the Wolverines played some impressive basketball. Their loss to Hoover was a competitive game and one that could have gone their way with some better decision making. They more than made up for it Saturday night with a dramatic win over sixth-ranked Potter's House. The Wolverines epitomized the word attack at both ends of the floor and showed a resilience and focus that allowed them to withstand their opponent as well as their own mistakes. Junior guard Cornellia Fondren may have had one of the more outstanding performances of the weekend. She's got some elements of Odyssey Sims on defense and a little Bryona Canty on offense. Her games at both ends are not quite on that level yet, but the athleticism and potential is there for something special to happen. One of the most deceiving players in the event was Overton post Contrice Golden. Her play is aggressive and she finishes well around the hoop. She has the strength and hands to work well on the boards but will need to focus on her fitness to find out what level she can ultimately play on.
Ridgeway: Ridgeway was able to come away with two wins in the event, including a solid win over a talented Forest Park team from Georgia. Hasina Muhammad is the senior go-to player for the Roadrunners and the Auburn signee continues to elevate her game, especially at the defensive end. Her ability to read the floor and the agility she has at 6-0 make a formidable stopper. Senior Shervonte Bright is a solid and physical-playing guard who can make plays on the perimeter and in traffic in the lane. Sophomore forward Odegua Oigbokie has taken great strides in advancing her skills and still plays with a relentless blue-collar effort. Freshman point guard Ashley Jackson demonstrated some speed and solid ballhandling at times but will have to make sure her decision making with the ball progresses as she matures. Ridgeway is effective with their press and demonstrates good anticipation off the ball. On the offensive end they seem more comfortable in transition than their halfcourt sets. Shot selection and turnovers were issues that could be a problem down the road.
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Mark Lewis is the national recruiting coordinator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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