Being a social sport, girls' basketball already was ahead of the curve in terms
of friendships crossing team lines. But this was the summer of collaboration, a time that spun the heads of old-school ballers like Magic, Bird and Michael. After all, when else in sporting history could you have the likes of Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade talking and deciding to join forces on the same team (the Miami Heat)?
The talking has been occurring for years on the girls' circuit. So-and-so and such-and-such are supposed to link up with so-and-so at such-and-such school in a dream package recruiting deal. It almost never happens, though two of the participants being sisters greatly increases the odds.
But that was then. This is the now, an era when USA Basketball dropped into the ranks of the recruitable prospects, snatching players for squads competing in FIBA World Championships for 17U, Americas Championships for 18U and three-on-three at the World Youth Games. The development had two significant consequences -- taking the best players off club teams for significant periods of the summer circuit, and creating super alliances between previously rival players.
Such blurring of team lines created a scenario illustrated by the above photo. Teammates at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., during the school year, Jordan Adams and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis competed against each other for spots with USA Basketball, (twice) became teammates on U.S. national teams, then resumed their friendly rivalry with separate club teams.
At the end of summer, a group of USA teammates, representing different club teams and parts of the country were spotted hanging in the lobby at Nike Nationals. They were asked if they were collaborating on a choice of college program. "That's what everyone is asking us," they replied.
School lists have changed, but it remains to be seen whether the era of collaboration drifts into college commitments.
1. USA U17
2. Tennessee Flight
3. USA U18
4. DFW T-Jack
5. Midwest Elite
6. West Coast Premier
8. North Tartan
9. Boo Williams
10. Sport City U
11. NYC Gauchos
12. Cy Fair (Nike)
13. Philly Belles
14. Minnesota Metro Stars
15. DFW 2012
16. Texas Team Xpress
17. Lady Cardinals
18. DFW Washington 2011
19. Cal Sparks
20. Spiece Indy Gym-Rats
21. Exodus NYC
22. Jacksonville Lady Rams
23. Cal Swish
24. All Ohio
25. SC 76ers
26. Georgia Ice
27. FBC Blue
28. Cal Storm
29. Lady Runnin' Rebels
30. Team Concept
31. Minnesota Stars Borowicz
32. Arizona Warriors
33. Arkansas Mavericks
34. North Texas Shockers
35. Team Breakdown
It was only a matter of time for a summer circuit that always commences right after the Fourth of July be rendered so star spangled. It could be debated that a talented club team, presumably better able to define chemistry and schemes, could be a better "team" than a national squad under a tighter deadline. The fact that the two best nominees in this category both were anchored by the same players -- Mosqueda-Lewis and Aerial Massengale -- renders the question unanswerable. We gave the slightest of nods to USA U17 because it claimed a world title to the Tennessee Flight's national championship. Unless the NCAA's new rule requiring players to mostly come from the same state is blocked by legal action, the likes of the Tennessee Flight (Mosqueda-Lewis is from Southern California and Massengale is from the Chicago area) are history.
We would point out that the USA U18 proved itself the superior squad during intra-national scrimmages with the 17s, and actually more resembled a real team with top-tier players embracing supporting roles. However, though several recruitable 2011 players (and even a 2013 -- Diamond DeShields) were on its roster, most of the team, including the two mainstays -- Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford) and Bria Hartly (Connecticut) -- were college-bound. One USA U18 alum, Alexis Jones, built on her national-team success, left DFW to be with her ailing father, and powered an out-of-nowhere Lady Cardinals (essentially her high-school team) to two tournament champions. In another USA twist, Moriah Jefferson, left off the national team, used the slight to become our Best Player of Summer and lead the best purely regional team, DFW Elite, with a fleet of uptempo guards the likes of which have not been spotted on the circuit for years.
This also was a summer during which a crack emerged on the façade of Swoosh domination. In fact, many a college coach was forced to ferry between Nike Nationals and Mike White's Fila Nationals in Atlanta, several heard to mutter that the best collection of at least the younger recruits probably was not in North Augusta, S.C. It was a huge season for Midwest Elite, which didn't have national teamer Jewell Loyd and lost Alex Cohen to mono at the break, yet pushed DFW to the brink during the Nike Summer Showcase final and knocked off Swoosh-embellished Boo Williams and the Gauchos en route to a title at USJN Nationals. Sport City U came in at No. 10 and 20 of our final 35 came from outside the Nike sponsorship circle.
AAU 15U Nationals
Nike Nationals Gold Bracket
USJN Final Four
In Orlando, Morgan Banasik of Wisconsin Hoops Select was fouled by GA Elite while shooting a buzzer-beating, 3-pointer and made three free throws with no time remaining. Wisconsin won the AAU Nationals game by one point. In North Augusta, S.C., up by one, North Tartan calls for a fullcourt pass on an inbound with seconds remaining from underneath the DFW Elite basket. Marissa Janning, a 2012 point guard, throws a perfect strike over the DFW press to Rachel Banham, her 2011 teammate, for a layup and three-point lead. Not to be outdone, Amber Orrange, a Stanford commit, hit a buzzer-beating three to send the game into the first of two overtimes. But for fantastic finishes, nothing beat the USJN final four. In one semifinal, Samantha Logic sank a pair of free throws with two seconds to play for a Midwest Elite victory over Boo Williams. In the other semi, Briyona Canty went coast to coast for a layup with three seconds remaining to push the NYC Gauchos past Team Xpress. In the final, up by two, Midwest Elite has to hold its collective breath as Starr Breedlove had two free throws with 0.4 seconds to play. Breedlove missed the first, so she had to miss the second on purpose, but failed to draw iron and Midwest executed an inbound pass to take the USJN Nationals championship.
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Lisa Bodine is a national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. A native of Queens, N.Y., she began her coaching career in 1993 with the NY Gazelles, has coached with D.C.-based Team Unique, and in 2009 she was named DAC Co-Coach of the Year after leading Wakefield Country Day School in Flint Hill, Va., to its first-ever conference title. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.
Kara (Harrison) Howe founded and coached in the Utah Sky club program, which sent several players, including sister Michelle, a recent Stanford, graduate to Division I schools. She played college basketball at Utah Valley State, was an all-state performer at Alta High School in Sandy, Utah, and coached high school in the Salt Lake area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the Parade All-American Selection Committee, 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.
Kelvin Powell is a national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. A former coach and club-program director, he operates Roundball Journal, a leading prep scouting service, and is a contributing editor at SLAM Magazine, as well as a member of the McDonald's All-American and the Gatorade National and State Player of the Year Selection Committees. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Lindsay Schnell is a staff writer for HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Oregon State University, she has been involved in the Oregon girls' basketball community for most her life as a player, high school coach, writer and fan. She also has been regular contributor to the Oregonian and won several awards for her writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.