HAMPTON, VA. – Aside from shoe shopping, my favorite seasonal ritual is evaluating the latest crop of fresh talent that is on display spring evaluation weekend. At this year’s Boo William Nike Invitational the “babies” more than held their own on the court, with many of them going against much older competition. These 10 players are just a few of the impressive newcomers who left their mark on court this weekend.
Kourtni Simmons (Spotsylvania, Va.) BWSL Richmond – The way Kourtni Simmons digs in on defense is reminiscent of a young Kentucky-signee Linnae Harper. She is a relentless on ball defender capable of leading a full court press and forcing live ball turnovers. Simmons is a smooth ball handler who uses both hands well and has knack for finding seams in the defense when she attacks on offense. When backcourt mate Anna Wilson got injured in the semi-final game, her energy and leadership on both ends of the floor were major factors in their win. Keep an eye on Simmons, she appears ready to have a breakout club season.
Brijanaee Moore (Stockton, Calif.) Cal Sparks Black – This weekend the 5-7 Northern California guard was a crowd favorite with her ridiculous ball-handling skills and flashy scoring moves. Of course with her level of offensive skill shot selection can be a challenge, but maturity will help with her decide how to manage that in the flow of the game. Moore has a natural feel for the game and competing at a high level during the next two seasons will help shape her into a very nice college prospect.
Olivia Gumbs (Newark, Del.) Philadelphia Belles 15U – At 6-0 feet she has a rock solid build that already looks like it is college ready. Gumbs is relentless around the basket, especially on the offensive boards where she is almost impossible to stop. She has no problem getting put backs in heavy traffic, many times with multiple defenders jumping on her back. On defense she is capable locking down the paint because she quickly establishes that she is going to contest every shot and not back down from contact. Gumbs is mobile enough to play the 4 on offense and she can score facing the basket from the high post. Plenty of college coaches would love have a player with her blue collar work ethic in their program.
Kiara Russell (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) MN Stars 14U – What stands out about this 5-8 point guard’s game, is her ability to play quickly with out looking out of control. She has sharp ball handling skills and quiet of few flashy moves in her offensive aresenal, which make her fun to watch. However, it is her natural leadership ability that was most impressive, Russell isn’t afraid to communicate with her teammates on the court. Russell has all the tools to be a successful lead guard at the collegiate level.
Sydnei Archie (Richmond, Va.) BWSL 15U – College coaches looking for a hybrid-wing need to keep an eye on 5-11 Sydnei Archie. With a great athletic physique she can dominate in the open, especially the way she drops her shoulder and drives through her defenders. She is strong enough to get a rebound and push the ball the length of the court. Archie handles the ball well and once her off-hand becomes stronger she has a chance to be a special player in the 2016 class.
Raven James (Accokeek, Md.) Team Takeover 16U – Although this lefty guard came off the bench for the Joe Smith Division Champions, she showed that she could handle any level of competition. James is a high IQ player that finds ways to stay involved with the flow of the game. Whether she is breaking down her defender to get into paint, filling her lane on a fast break or grabbing a weak-side rebounder, James always finds a way to stay involved in the action.
Natalie Chou (Plano, Texas) Texas Prep Elite – By far one of the most skilled players in her class, Natalie Chou carries herself on the court like a seasoned veteran. The 6-0 guard is the perfect mix of basketball fundamentals and natural ability. Setting up her shots, by using jab steps and head fakes allow her to make shots from just about anywhere on the court. Defensively, she uses her length to get into the pass lanes and contest perimeter shots. As polished as she is as a rising sophomore one can only imagine what the future holds for Chou.
Lindsey Pulliam (Silver Spring, Md.) Team Takeover 13U - The 5-7 combo guard is a smooth operator on the perimeter, with her ability to play either guard position with ease. Pulliam can handle the ball under pressure and keeps her eyes up the court looking for open teammates. She can create off the dribble and finish with both hands. Don’t let her quiet demeanor on the court fool you, she is capable of filling up a stat sheet.
Chennedy Carter (Arlington, Texas.) Arlington Swoosh – Chennedy Carter displayed just about every skill a college coach would look for in a point guard. She has great body control and balance, she can score off spin moves and floaters in the lane. Her crossover dribble moves keep defenders off balance and allow her split double teams. Carter is her team’s floor general a role that she fits into naturally.
Chastity Patterson (Houston, Texas.) Cy-Fair National 16U – When asked about playing up in the Newport News division the 5-5 rising freshman said “It doesn’t bother me I’ve been playing up for 2 years.” Patterson is not a novelty act who is sitting on the bench to watch and learn, she is an integral part of the team. She played fearlessly during the entire tournament, handling the ball under pressure and attacking the basket at will. Patterson is a focused defender, she work hard to keep the ball handlers in front of her and understands how to cut off angles. Of course their will be challenges as she moves on to high school but Patterson has laid the ground work for a bright future.