Nike Summer Showcase's top performers
Glen Ellyn, Ill. -- For the 13th season, one of the largest and strongest fields of competition on the summer recruiting circuit has been at the Nike Summer Showcase. Utilizing multiple facilities around suburban Chicago and surviving an all-out assault by Mother Nature, as well as the ensuing effects of power outages, this year's field offered up some competitive play and some surprising results. Play in eight separate divisions by 256 teams was highlighted by the success of the Fairfax Stars in the event's high profile Orange Division.
Here are just a few of the outstanding performers and prospects from the event's first day of competition:
Macy Keen (Tamarac, Fla.), Below The Rim: There's lots of size running around the gym this summer, but few players are using it with the promise and potential this 6-foot-5 post is bringing to the floor. Along with the obvious height she provides, there's a frame and athletic build that's eye-catching which provides her the opportunity to be an impact player in virtually any situation.
Maddie Manning (Ankeny, Iowa), Kingdom Hoops: It's hard not to take notice of this 6-0 guard from the tip of any game in which she takes the floor. On the break or in halfcourt sets, she's quick to attack with and without the ball in her hands. The moment the ball hits her hands, you can see her eyes surveying the floor, defenders and her teammates. Off the dribble, she uses both a change of speed and change of direction to get defenders leaning or out of the stance time and again. In the paint, her ability to weave through traffic and slither by helpside defenders leads to some clean and occasionally creative looks at the rim. Her lean build still allows physical opponents to take away some penetration opportunities, but she shows no reservation about taking some hits and getting to the line. Without the ball, she utilizes that all-too-hard-to-find ability to cut aggressively and with intent. Off screens or just on a simple basket cut, she knows what she's looking for and, more often than not, leaves her defender trying to recover. On the defensive end, she's active on the weakside and uses those same roving eyes to provide quick reactions to both passes and cuts. Physical play can be an issue defensively at times, but Mother Nature and the weight room should provide some assistance as time goes by.
Tess Picknell (Medford, Ore.), Columbia Cascades: All the tools and possibilities are becoming more and more obvious for this 6-5 post. Appearing leaner and fitter than in the past, she's an imposing physical presence posting up or clogging the middle of the paint. On the block, she works for the ball aggressively, presents a target and has a good understanding of angles as well as her positioning around the rim. Her wingspan allows her to create space between her and a defender, while her hands are more than capable of pulling in an errant pass or two. One previously and seemingly apparent asset that now appears less prevalent is her physical strength. Several times she was tied up or stripped on the catch by smaller and physically less-prominent opponents. Keeping it high, attacking aggressively and some extended time in the weight room will pay huge dividends as she prepares to move on to the next level. Defensively, her awareness is obvious as you see her keeping a line of sight with her matchup and the ball, and her positioning is generally smart and well thought out. Her movement in any rotation is still more of a thought than a reaction and leaves her a split-second late in providing help. In the full court though, her ability to get up and down is impressive for an athlete of her size and an indication of the potential that lies in front of her.
Keitra Wallace (Brea, Calif.), California Storm Team Taurasi: While her true position at the collegiate level may still be a mystery, this 5-9 utility player offers a diverse game that would keep almost any recruiter smiling. Her play at both ends is aggressive, intense and best of all, productive. She's able to contribute off the drive from the perimeter and is more than capable of putting a body on an opponent on the defensive end of the floor. She's active from baseline to baseline and offers a great combination of foot speed and physical strength. The form on her shot appears more fluid, and there's an apparent comfort level in taking perimeter looks. Her ballhandling is serving her well and putting her in a position to be a quality prospect on the wing with continued advancement. Her embracement of physical play adds to her suitability for the college game and makes her a challenge for upcoming opponents during her senior season.
Sydnei McCaskill (Orlando, Fla.), Central Florida Elite: Playing point guard is challenge enough for any athlete. Playing it at the speed and pace that this 5-7 junior-to-be does is a standard few can achieve. Pushing the ball off makes, misses and turnovers, she's looking for opportunities and constantly catching opposing defenses with their backs turned or those casually approaching transition defense. Her ability to shake any opponent digging in to stop the ball borders on comical at times. She leaves them standing and only hoping to recover. Off any move she has her eyes up seeing the floor and is quick to deliver the ball to a teammate with a better opportunity. She can get to the rim with ease but is just as comfortable and confident with the high-elevating pull up. On the ball defensively she's quick and anticipating while having the ability to turn a ballhandler time and again. There's a tendency to overplay and take chances at times but there's plenty of quickness with which to recover. McCaskill may well be making a bid to establish herself among the better point guards in the 2013 class.
Ronni Williams (Daytona Beach, Fla.), Central Florida Elite: As previously observed, Williams has all the tools to be an impact player at the highest level. The 6-1 wing has the combination of physical and basketball assets that will allow her to accomplish whatever she's willing to work to achieve. The biggest question mark surrounding all this talent and potential is her willingness to use it and the consistency of her efforts. At her best, she can create with the ball in her hands both in transition and the halfcourt. Her athleticism and fluid movement make her difficult to contain off the cut or filling the lane on the break. However, there are times that she's content to play in cruise control or enjoy the view off the ball. At the other end of the floor, the lateral speed, length and reach she plays with should find her being a game-changing defender at any perimeter position. But again, the consistency isn't there yet to set her apart from the crowd. When she plays with the assertiveness her game warrants, she can impress coaches, teammates, recruiters and maybe even herself. Keep watching.
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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 email@example.com.
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