NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – For the seventh straight year the long summer recruiting trail came to an end with the basketball version of Family Feud as Nike’s top team’s did battle once again for their annual bragging rights. And, for the third time in five years, Tom Insell’s Tennessee Flight were the last ones standing. Just for good measure, the Flight were also celebrating a win in the Junior Division and the claim to the first ever Nike double championship. While it was a great event for the teams from Boo Williams as well, they have the unfortunate distinction of being runner up to the Flight in both categories.
Both teams moved into Tuesday afternoon’s Gold bracket championship following morning semifinal wins with the Flight getting by the West Coast Premier and Boo Williams taking down North Tartan. Boo got off to a quick start in the championship game and held a three point edge before Rebecca Greenwell (2013 – Owensboro, Ky.) shifted into high gear and outscored the opposition 17 – 10 by herself while leading Flight to a 31 – 27 lead at the half. Both teams traded punches throughout the second half and Boo twice was within four down the stretch. While Flight was able to score effectively they also committed more than their share of turnovers and conceded 22 offensive rebounds that let the crew from Virginia hang around to the very end. Greenwell led the way in the 68 – 61 win finishing with 22 while Boo was led by Adrienne Motley (2013 – Newport News, Va.) with 15 and Feyonda Fitzgerald (2013 – Norfolk, Va.) with 14 of her own.
As mentioned earlier the Flight’s team in the Junior Division took the title with their own 62 -54 win over Boo Williams in a game that went down to the final possessions. In the Silver bracket championship contest Essence took down the nation’s best 5-10 and under team, Cy-Fair, by a score of 58-50. Essence made their way to the final by virtue of Ieshia Small’s three at the buzzer in a 50-48 semifinal match up with the Fairfax Stars while Cy-Fair edged the All-Iowa attack 48-43.
As always plenty of talent was on hand. Some were the high profile prospects that over 300 college coaches were on hand to check out and others were busy catching the eye of those recruiters and making a name for themselves. We thought we would take a look at a few of the supporting cast members who may well be leading role players down the line. Check back with Blue Star Media for more Nike Nationals standouts later this week.
Letting the stars be the Stars While Being a Top Prospect Themselves
In this category it would be inappropriate to start anywhere but the top with the Tennessee Flight. Yes, they’ve got Kaela Davis, Rebecca Greenwell and Alexa Middleton, but they’ve also got Olivia Jones (2013 – Murfreesboro, Tenn.). Coach Tom Insell says she “just might be the MVP of the whole thing.” Bound for Middle Tennessee State to play for Insell’s father Rick, Jones contributes in virtually any way that a player can. At 5-8 she’s the size of a guard but has the strength and willingness to mix things up of a player considerably bigger. She effective with the ball in her hands both in facilitating her high scoring teammate’s offense but also in creating her own opportunities. She can score around the rim or step out and knock down the open look from the perimeter. At the same time she excels at simply making plays. Whether it’s on the boards, holding her ground defending mismatches on the block, or coming up with loose balls and clearing her space, she’s your girl. Jones is the kind of player you would much rather play with than play against.
Cy-Fair, despite being undersized in the height department, has their own high profile prospects in point guards Tyler Scaife and Brooke McCarty. Playing the forward spot but in reality being a very talented and multidimensional guard herself is 5-10 Brianna Taylor (2013 - Houston, Texas). To say that Taylor lays it all on the line would be a tremendous disservice to her. There are few players who put their heart, soul and body into almost every play on both ends. She’s physical, aggressive and to top it off, relentless. Despite playing out of position she was sound defensively and more than held her own with players with more size and bulk. Her natural guard skills came out several times in transition or when she became an option in the high post. Her first step is explosive and her speed is deceiving for a player of any position. Her physical strength and assertive approach will serve her well when she assumes her true backcourt spot. She can defend #1 through #4 and is a match up nightmare for almost any opposing team. Taylor is anything but a sleeper and she’s an asset for any uniform she puts on.
If you’re watching Boo Williams play it’s easy to appreciate Adrienne Motley and Jatarie White as well as Dejanae Boykin. You can’t help but notice Ataijah Taylor or Feyonda Fitzgerald as well. You might want to look a little closer at Chelsey Romero (2013 – Hampton, Va.). This 6-1 post has more than her share of moments down on the block and is creating her own looks with confidence. She’s got both the size and build to hold her own with bigger opponents but the agility to move with smaller, quicker forwards. She’s active and looking for the ball both posted up or on reversals. Romero has the mobility to run the floor and force opposing defenders to keep up with her. She works hard on the glass and has no reservations about pushing back when the shoving begins. There are still some rough edges to refine and depth to add to her offensive skill set but she looks to be just tapping into some real potential.
Essence is led by ultra-impressive Ieshia Small and inconsistent but talented Shayla Cooper. The also get a lot of mileage out of versatile 5-10 guard Brandy Montgomery (2013 – Port St. Lucie, Fla.). Easy to notice with the goggles that she wears, Montgomery seems to be everywhere on the floor. She’s active in transition and in the halfcourt both on the cut or the catch. The shot and touch are inconsistent at this point but she gets some open looks through sheer effort and the possibilities are there. Defensively she’s a strong on ball defender with impressive lateral speed. The hands lead to plenty of touches, tips and steals and she’s a strong perimeter presence on the boards. Coach Kimberly Powell got on her hard in a poor performance and she took it well and responded. Montgomery is the kind of player whose effort can be contagious.
It’s hard to look at the Cal Storm’s Kendall Waters (2013 – San Ramon, Calif.) and think of her as anyone’s supporting cast. Lining up with the likes of Kendall Cooper, Oderah Chidom and Gabby Green just makes it hard for anyone to take notice of the 6-2 forward first. It’s not that they shouldn’t. She has been on the radar for quite some time and has shown lots of versatility in her game over the years. Waters is most likely a “true” forward that happens to possess some perimeter skills. At this point the #3 would be a stretch but she can create off the one dribble drive and has the footwork and agility to be a challenging match up for opposing bigs. Her strength and power game are tools she should call on more often and used to set up the rest of the diversity in her play. On the defensive end that same physical presence serves her well and allows her to be effective in her match up and in weakside rotations. Her potential is still just barely tapped into but in recruiting it’s about the all about the future and her’s could be a bright one.
If you don’t enjoy watching the All Iowa Attack in action you don’t like textbook basketball played with a lot of effort. Iowa State bound Jada Buckley and Oklahoma commit Shaya Kellog may personify the All Iowa team but it’s hard not to include future Iowa Hawkeye Ally Disterhoft (2013 – North Liberty, Iowa) in any conversation about this team. Calling her active is an understatement. At 6-0 she is a constant threat with the ball in her hands and equally a challenge running the lanes on the break or cutting in a halfcourt set. Her first step is deceptive and leaves many defenders looking to recover and the ballhandling is there to navigate traffic and get to the rim. Her length makes her a strong on ball defender and allows her to contain smaller and quicker opponents. She’s on the lean side at this point but time and the strength coaches in Iowa City should help her with that.
Watching GSB it’s inevitable that the Wiese and Reese show is going to catch your eye. (Sydney and Mikayla) Look a little closer and check out 6-1 Katherine Werner (2013 – Phoenix, Ariz.). This 6-1 forward has no “flash” to her game or bells and whistles to her offensive repertoire but what she does have is effectiveness and productivity. Werner just goes about her business with a simple and aggressive approach that includes absolutely no hesitation about getting physical or getting on the floor. She plays a fundamental game that compliments the dynamic backcourt duo she plays with. She works well in a guard oriented offense and her strong rebounding effort triggers the GSB transition efforts. Her own scoring is efficient around the rim but the touch and stroke are there as well mid-range out to the high post. The footspeed isn’t going to “wow” anyone but the willingness to put a body on someone and her ability to read and anticipate make her a sound defender.
Mark Lewis is a national evaluator and photographer for Blue Star Basketball as well as the lead columnist for Blue Star Media. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 Division I assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), he logged 25 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and Washington State. Lewis also serves as a member of the prestigious McDonald’s All-American selection committee. He resides in Dublin, Ohio with his wife Carol and dog "Coach".