695HOOPS WHERE IT'S ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS
The 2014 NCAA spring live period brought 49 teams from the DC, Maryland and Virginia area to Raleigh, North Carolina to compete with teams from across the country who all had dreams of playing in front of hundreds of college coaches. Over 300 colleges showed up at the Raleigh Convention Center during the course of the three day event to check out the talent. Some DMV teams made out better than others. The teams with strong rosters and reputations pulled 20 to 30 coaches at some of their games while others seemed to be playing just for the competition, with no coaches in sight. This made me ask myself why are some of these teams traveling from great distances with jv level players to these major events? For the competition? The experience? We will have to delve deeper into that at another time because it is worth discussing. For now take a look at the teams and players we were able to watch over the weekend.
I was happy to see that the Baltimore Lady Panthers have added St. Frances forward Kierra Jackson. I thought Kierra needed a new team to help push her to the next level and get some much needed exposure. It looks like the right fit for both. Jackson is a 6 footer with a nice shooting touch and a D1 ready college build. Coach Greg Hinton will push her to maximize all of her talent all of the time. She had a good tournament as the Panthers won their bracket. Guard Summer Fields has improved tremendously since last year. She is a demon on defense. She is a good on ball defender and her constant activity can be disruptive to a team's half court offense. She is starting to play with more confidence on offense so we will keep an eye on her progress. Ryan Holder(Roland Park) showed the ability to get to the rim at will. She is very good at getting through cracks in the defense and her athleticism is way above average. Kephera Stokes of Poly is another excellent penetrator. She makes good decisions and can knock the 3. She is a tough, hard nosed player on both ends which is what you want in a point guard. Casey Johnson is a 6'1 forward who can play both inside and out and I believe she is the only 2015 player on the team. Jewel Porter, the only 2017 on the team,is growing up right in front of us. She is probably close to 6 feet now and makes the mid range shot consistently. She has become more active on the glass and on defense since last summer. When she improves her footwork her post up game will be more efficient and she should blossom into a nice D1 prospect. The Panthers look like a team that could improve on that second place finish at AAU Nationals last summer and bring home the top prize.
The DC Metro Celtics have bounced back after a little off season turbulence and they too won their bracket in the 14U division, finishing unbeaten. Coach Willie Whitley's squad has yet to drop a game in their first couple of tournaments this spring. Strong performers for the team in the Deep South were point guard Stephanie Guihon of Largo, Brianna White of Elizabeth Seton, Brittany Whitley of Oxon Hill and Daija Warren of Flowers. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this team who won all of their games easily.
I made my way over to see this summer's version of the Maryland Lady Terps and I was disappointed that St. John's guard Amari Carter was sidelined due to injury. The Terps have added the core of the successful Maryland Elite team including cousins Lindsey and Danielle Edwards, Michala Clay and Qalea Ismail. They lost Ismail to an injury and finished 3-1. The top performers were the Edwards girls and Sarah Overcash, their 6'2' 2016 post player. We'll check back on the Terps in July.
I was pleasantly surprised with the Baltimore Starz 9th grade team. This is a well coached group and all of them have improved in just a couple of months. The team has two players who play very well off each other in Brittani Smith (Seton Keough) who is an undersized post player, and Amani Ball (headed to Palloti). Smith goes hard on both ends and is developing a nice offensive game featuring some Kevin McHale type up and under moves. She is comfortable stepping outside to hit mid range jumpers too. Ball is a wing who is known for crashing the boards and blocking shots but she has added some offense to her game as well. 2018 point guard Hannah Franklin leads the pack, but she has some company in the backcourt. Naya Beverly (Kenwood), Kimberly McPhearson (Riverdale Baptist) and Ryan Jones (Atholton) all looked strong during the tournament. We will check back on this group in July as it looks like Coach Steve Franklin's work in the gym is paying off.
The DC Cobras 15U team won their first two games on Friday. We caught some of their action and two of their players stood out. On the right is 2017 guard Mykea Gray who is a very gifted scoring guard. On the right is 2016 wing Raven Riley whose athleticism and high energy stood out to us. Looking forward to seeing more of both of them.
RIverdale Baptist's Lena Niang is a 6'2" 2015 forward who showed some versatility and looked comfortable handling the ball. We only saw a brief part of the game so we will make it a point to see her again this summer to give a full assessment.
Baltimore Starz and MATHS wing Courtney Davis played well and picked up a MEAC offer for her performance. At 5'10" she is comfortable playing inside but can also step out and knock down three pointers on a consistent basis. She is a double double machine.
Summer Fields and Adrienne Jones show off their 695Hoops tee shirts they got for playing well at the right time. Both are 2016's. Summer helped spark the Panthers in winning their bracket and Adrienne averaged 21 points a game playing up a year for the Starz.
Maya Horne (top) and Kayla Spruill picked up shirts as well. Maya is a 2015 guard at Poly and Kayla is an 8th grader. Maya is a fearless and clutch point guard who knows how to run an offense and knock down big shots. Kayla is a rapidly developing 6'0 two guard who will be one of the top 5 players of 2018.
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