Five players to watch at Nike Nationals
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Nike Nationals is the ultimate players' ball in girls' basketball. It is here, at the most significant tournament of the summer evaluation period, where stars are made. Or, Maya Moore-like, reputations solidified.
On the surface, the constellation at the 2011 edition appears dimmer than in Nike Nationals past. Some of the top players in the 2012 and 2013 classes are in Chile with the USA Basketball U19 team, and some play on non-Nike teams. As such, just five players from the top 10 in the '12 or '13 class are at Nike Nationals this year.
But this week still stands as a prime showcase with established stars looking to secure their legacies and emerging stars looking to steal the show on the biggest stage the sport has to offer. These are five to watch:
Rebecca Greenwell, Tennessee Flight: If this 6-foot-1 guard went home today, she'd already have a strong case for player of the summer. Greenwell's began in Mérida, Mexico, where she had a record-breaking, MVP performance for USA Basketball at the Americas tournament. A 2013 prospect ranked No. 10 in her class by ESPN HoopGurlz, Greenwell has an exciting package -- size, picture-perfect jump shot, explosiveness and ball skills -- and, with an overwhelming favorite to win Nike Nationals, she'll be able to put it all on display.
Moriah Jefferson, DFW T-Jack: It maybe hasn't been since Moore still was a prepster that opposing teams trembled as much when a player like this had the ball in her hands with something on the line. The No. 2 prospect in 2012, Jefferson can do as much with that ball as any female player in the game. As much of a treat as she is to watch, the real storyline of this tournament for her and her teammates will be the promise they made -- talk about daily and intend to keep -- to "Coach Mudd," Marques Jackson, their late, beloved coach, to win Nike Nationals.
Nicole Kornet, Cy-Fair Nike Elite: No matter how sophisticated and all-encompassing the scouting becomes, every summer is captivating by a breakout player. Kornet may not have been flying too far under the radar, being ranked No. 37 in the 2012 class by ESPN HoopGurlz, but she has been a revelation on a bigger stage this summer. She has the size-strength quotient, at 6 feet, that colleges covet for the wings, plus savvy and offensive diversity in abundance. Her sense of timing at making plays and shots suggests Nike Nationals could be a great catapult for her.
Kelsey Mitchell, All Ohio: A shocking early cut at USA Basketball trials in May, the quicksilver, 2014 combo guard vowed to use the snub as motivating fuel for her summer run. If such has been the case, hers has been rocket fuel. The game hasn't seen a player this fast with the basketball in, well, maybe ever. And the 5-8 Mitchell darned near drips with "it" factor. She could be the most complete schoolgirl scorer in the country, regardless of class, and isn't one to allow a little failure to detour her. Few are as good at shooting themselves back into a rhythm.
Alexis Prince, Essence: Teams that will try to slow the jackrabbit Essence team may regret what they wish for because Prince, the No. 10 prospect in 2012, is the centerpiece of the Florida team's halfcourt offense. She has such a rare combination of size and leverage, strength and explosive legs, few females have been as in control of their jump shots as Prince can be, from inside, long distances and everywhere in between. DFW limited her in New Orleans, but they threw the kitchen sink at her -- long Brianna Turner, plus help like magnets to her every dribble.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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