Must-see stars at Nike Nationals
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The Nike Nationals has become a staple on the July recruiting circuit as one of the must-see events. With a collection of some of the best teams and the best players, the event never disappoints. This year it was loaded with talent in both the U17 division as well as the U15 division. Here is a look at just a few standouts from the 2012 edition of Nike Nationals.
Nina Davis (Memphis, Tenn.), TN Flight Silver 16U: At 6-foot, Davis has the ability to impact a basketball game in a variety of ways. Inch-for-inch, she is one of the better rebounding forwards in the class of 2013. Her knack for finding the ball and attacking the glass helped her team throughout the tournament as she managed to consistently outrebound players three or four inches taller. Davis' efforts on the glass were matched by her ability to score the basketball in a variety of ways. While Davis has a bit of an unconventional release on her perimeter jumper, she manages to connect on a high percentage of her open shots, forcing defenses to play her honest and guard her out to almost the 3-point line. Because of her ability to make an open shot, Davis was often presented with quality driving lanes and was able to attack the basket and use her athleticism to her advantage. As a college prospect, Davis has the ability to play both forward spots. She should be able to exploit defenders fairly well at the next level, depending on matchups.
Adriene Motley (Newport News, Va.), Boo Williams: Motley put on a show on one of the biggest stages of the summer. Motley is a smooth guard with a lethal pull-up jumper, and she had it on full display as she showed it in transition as well as coming off ball screens when attacking the defense. At 5-7, Motley is a point guard with very good foot speed, and she uses it to her advantage whenever she can find open space on the court. In the championship game against the Tennessee Flight, Motley found driving lanes on a consistent basis and attacked the rim at will. Her ability to get into the lane and break a defense down created scoring opportunities for herself as well as her teammates.
Victoria Jankoska (Freeland, Mich.), Michigan Crossover: Some kids just have that "it" factor, the ability to make plays when they are needed the most and score the ball in crunch time. At Nike Nationals, Jankoska showed a flair for the dramatic. Jankoska hit big shots in multiple games, and her ability to shoot the ball with confidence from the perimeter proved to be an asset for Michigan Crossover. Jankoska, who is headed to Michigan State, is a 5-8 guard with the ability to stretch the floor and make perimeter jumpers. She is a tough kid who consistently rose to the occasion.
Rachel Bell (Cumberland Furnace, Tenn.), TN Flight Silver 15U: So often when we watch younger players we talk about what they could potentially do in the future. Bell is a young guard with a bright future, but at Nike Nationals she showed she can also get it done today. At 5-9, Bell played most of her minutes at the point guard spot and she showed that she can create off the bounce and run a team. Bell helped her team win its bracket with her ability to both score the ball as well as distribute. Bell is clutch down the stretch, too. The Creek Wood (Charlotte, Tenn.) guard sealed the deal on multiple occasions going to the free throw line and making shots.
Monique Billings (Corona, Calif.), West Coast Premier Black: Long, rangy, wiry and explosive are all adjectives that describe Billings. Her physical tools make her a prospect to watch on their own, but Billings uses her tools to consistently make an impact on the game, and it's her ability to be effective around the basket as well as at the high post that foreshadow the player that she can be down the road. The class of 2014 forward has an Ogwumike-like frame, which allows her to be a factor on the defensive end as she can block shots and get to rebounds that the average player just can't. As Billings continues to grow and add to her game, she has the chance to really make a name for herself.
Sierra Calhoun (Brooklyn, N.Y.), NY Gauchos: In a lot of ways it feels like Calhoun has been around forever. The 6-foot wing has been on the national stage since the summer before her eighth-grade year and has always been a prospect of note due to her combination of size and athleticism. In the past 12 months, Calhoun has started to put it all together and take another major stride in her game. In Augusta, Calhoun was making plays off the bounce and showed off a much improved pull-up jumper against some of the best players in the country. Big wings who can score the basketball at a high rate are rare, and if Calhoun continues to develop and add to her game, she will possess a rare package of skills that will translate well at the next level.
Jaycee Coe (Cookeville, Tenn.), TN Flight Silver 16U: Last year the Tennessee Flight had two of the best shooters in the country when they put Florida freshman Chandler Cooper on the floor alongside No. 6 Rebecca Greenwell of Owensboro, Ky. This year the flight replaced Cooper with Coe, and they didn't miss a beat. Coe's ability to stretch the floor and knock down perimeter shots opened up the floor for the Flight and allowed players such as Nina Davis and Kaela Davis to attack the basket without an abundance of help-side defense. Coming off the summer, Coe can make a strong case as the best shooter in the class of 2014, although there are other strong contestants such as UConn verbal Courtney Ekmark.
Cayla McMorris (Brooklyn Park, Minn.), North Tartan 15U: Watching kids get better is always fun. When you see a kid play one year and then make major strides in their game a year later, it lets you know a lot about the kid as a prospect and a person. Over the past calendar year, McMorris seemed to make a leap in her game as she seems more comfortable making plays with the ball in her hands and using her size and athleticism to her advantage. At 6-foot, McMorris brings a lot of versatility to the floor.
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Keil Moore is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report - a division of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Moore has been involved in the community since 2007 as a recruiting analyst and trainer. He can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter @keilmoore.