The most refreshing thing about ranking young prospects is acknowledging their progression, much more so than attaching a number to a player and calling it absolute. So with the refreshed edition of the 2014 ESPN HoopGurlz Terrific 25, we celebrate by adding a fourth five-star prospect -- Jordin Canada of Los Angeles, Calif.
Canada carried the momentum from a strong 2011 summer season, which included a 1.34 assist-to-turnover ratio for the USA Basketball U16 national team that won gold at the FIBA Americas, into her sophomore campaign at Windward (Los Angeles, Calif.). While she may not have technically "moved up" in the rankings, her progression as a player earned her a five-star rating and showed she is keeping pace with the other elite players in the class.
Keeping the pace is easier said than done as complacency in basketball gets you beat. Get comfortable and players like Courtney Ekmark of Phoenix, Ariz., or Sadie Edwards of Brooklyn, N.Y., catch you or pass you by altogether.
Ekmark, the 6-foot sharpshooter for the top-ranked high school team in the country, St. Mary's (Phoenix, Ariz.), began unleashing her ever-deadly offensive game last fall at the EBA All-American Camp and then helped lead the Warriors to a mythical national title (No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50) this winter. Edwards, meanwhile, continued to impress by using her incredible speed and quickness for highly ranked Nazareth Regional (Brooklyn, N.Y.) after a strong summer circuit with Exodus. The two are the only new faces to the Terrific 25, but are not the only players making moves.
Edwards' Nazareth and Exodus teammate, Bianca Cuevas, also a Brooklyn native, made the biggest jump of the prospects who were previously ranked in the top 25, moving up from 20th to No. 8. Much of that is due to the same "It" factor that my colleague, Glenn Nelson, wrote about with regards to changes in the 2013 rankings.
Much of proving you have "It" is playing at a high level against quality opponents, and this week's USA Basketball U17 and U18 trials will provide the ultimate platform for that. It is one of the few settings where head-to-head matchups are somewhat viable because the goal is the same for every kid -- to make the team -- and the goals of their club teams don't interfere.
A'ja Wilson of Hopkins, S.C., put up a strong showing at the Boo Williams Nike Invitational during the spring, leading to her rise into the top 10, but the limiting factor was the competition because she wasn't able to play against any of the elite interior players in either the 2013 or 2014 class in her team's bracket.
So the table is set for Colorado Springs and the USA Olympic Training Center for the 2014 prospects to separate from the pack ahead of the expanded Super 60 rankings to be released in late June.
Rankings Panel: Brandon Clay, Rebecca Gray, Chris Hansen, Keil Moore, Glenn Nelson.
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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.