Wednesday, July 7, 2010
2010 USJN New England SummerFest Recap
I spent Wednesday observing and evaluating some of the top girls basketball talent in the area. There was plenty of talent on display in the gym, and plenty of college coaches checking out the action.
This event took place during the Division I Live Period, so it was one of the only chances many of the coaches will have to scout these talented players in person. Props to Kara Leary and the NE Crusaders for putting on a great event.
Here's my recap and player evaluations.
The goal of an event like this is to get exposure for the players. With over 20 college coaches on hand to check out the local talent you would have to consider it a success. The list of colleges who were represented includes Fordham, Vermont, Maine, Holy Cross, SNHU, UMass-Lowell, Williams, Colby College and Rhode Island College.
For some reason UNH was not in the house, even though there was definitely some players there who should be on their radar (Maddie Blais, Danielle Walczak, Karima Gabriel and Sam Brenner just to name a few).
For AAU teams that were there, you had teams ranging from the 14U-17U divisions. Participating programs included the NE Crusaders (about 5 different teams), NH Rivals (2 teams), Lone Wolf, NH Flames and Maine Hoops.
Game of the Day
The Rivals and Crusaders top teams met in a 16U contest in what turned out to be the game of the day. It was a star studded contest that was loaded with players who have scholarship potential. The Crusaders team (Blue) had 6 players, and 5 of them 6' or taller. Two of the bigs were Walczak and Gabriel, and the one player under 6' was Brooke Springfield (Conant), who is the #2 ranked player in the class of 2011. The Rivals team meanwhile went 8 deep, including NHIAA players Savannah Butterfield (Londonderry) and Kaley Marston (Bishop Brady). The rest of their squad comprised of Mass. players or prep players including Sam Brenner, Maddie Blais, Alex Cohen, Daisy Jordan, Brooke Stewart and Lizzy Ball.
Like I said, there was about 20 college coaches in the house. All of them saw this game. The Rivals won it 57-47. They actually led 33-18 at one point. Blais was hitting shots left and right and Ball and Marston were playing excellent defense on Springfield on the perimeter. It looked like it would be a blowout.
But the Crusaders made a nice second half comeback to cut the Rivals lead to just 4 points. After a tough first half, Springfield heated up in the second half, running the Crusader offense and hitting some nice pull-up jumpers. Walczak was on fire in the paint on both ends of the floor, like she was in all 3 of the games she played in.
In the end though, The Rivals made more plays down the stretch and their depth at guard was key as they had more guards who could handle the ball and provide defensive pressure with Ball, Marston and Cohen vs. just Springfield for the Crusaders.
The Crusaders split their team up, and only had 6 players. If they had a couple other guards in there, such as Elizabeth Belanger or Kristen Anderson it may have been a different ballgame. Still, you have to give the Rivals credit for the way they played in this game.
In another good Rivals vs. Crusaders battle, the Crusader White team beat the Rivals top team in the final game of the day. This Crusader team featured Caitlin Ackerman (South), Allie Wagner (Kennett), Kerry White (Salem), Deanna Purcell (Alvirne) and Katie Donovan (Alvirne). For the Rivals, it was their same team that beat the Crusader Blue team earlier, except this time they were playing with just 6 players (no Butterfield or Brenner).
Now for the player evaluations for the top NHIAA players who were in attendance...
Class of 2011
Danielle Walczak - 6'1", Oyster River HS - Walczak once again showed why she is the top ranked player in this class. She is a very effective and efficient inside player. It was interesting to see her play alongside Gabriel. Karima is a more physically gifted and athletic player than Walczak. However Walczak is a much more polished, fundamentally sound player. She has smooth moves in the low post, passes it well and is an excellent rebounder.
Brooke Springfield - 5'8", Conant HS - When you're playing on a team where it's you and 5 girls all 6'0" or taller, the obvious strategy is to get the ball in the post and let your bigs go to work. Springfield did that effectively, making some very nice entry passes to the post to set up baskets, was a good facilitator of the offense and played unselfishly. She was mainly distributing the basketball, but also showed that she could put the ball in the basket when she had to.
Kaley Marston - 5'6", Bishop Brady - I was very impressed by Marston's play at the event. This is a player who was not very well known going into the AAU season, but she has had a big spring and summer and is looking like one of the top players in Division II next season. She got plenty of minutes for the Rivals top team, and she played as hard as anyone in the gym every minute she was out there. Marston played unselfish basketball, doing an nice job of getting her teammates involved and by driving & kicking. She has showed the ability to hit the outside shot and played excellent defense on the perimeter.
Savannah Butterfield - 5'11", Londonderry HS - Very athletic player, good leaping ability, really got after it on the offensive and defensive boards. Versatile player who can play inside or out. Didn't have a huge day, but did a lot of little things well to help her team. Butterfield is an early Player of the Year candidate in Division I playing for a Londonderry team that will contend for the title.
Caitlin Ackerman - 5'11", Nashua High South - Converted a big basket plus the foul late in the win that the Crusader White team had over the Rivals. Solid inside player who ran the floor well and can also step out and hit outside shot. Active player in the paint and on the glass.
Allie Wagner - 5'7", Kennett HS - Wagner got the reputation of a shooter and a scorer when she dropped 30+ points in the 2010 Class I Tournament. It wasn't her best shooting day, but folks who know basketball in NH know that she is one of the state's top shooters. Wagner found other ways to impact the game, especially by running the point and controlling tempo, and making some nice passes for easy scores. She has a good feel for the game and is a tough defender.
Catherine Cloutier - 6'0", Londonderry HS - Cloutier has the size, strength and frame to bang around down low and get boards, fight for points, etc. but also showed the quickness and ball handling ability to feel comfortable on the outside as well.
Melissa Frase - 5'8", Kennett HS - Scary moment for Kennett fans occurred during an afternoon Crusader game. Frase suffered a leg injury, had to be helped off the court and didn't return to action. The trainer said it isn't serious but you never know. Before the injury, Frase played some solid ball but definitely wasn't having her best day on the court. Best of luck to her on a quick recovery.
Deanna Purcell - 5'9", Alvirne HS - Purcell shot the basketball very well on the day, and also showed a very good feel for the game. She had a big basket in transition during the last Crusader game off a nice feed by Wagner. Purcell has good athleticism and is also an underrated passer.
Katie Donovan - 5'10", Alvirne HS- Donovan also shot the ball well from the floor, both off the catch or the dribble. She had a very nice step back three at one point for the Crusader White team. Donovan is a dangerous wing player with a solid frame.
Nichaela Neal - 5'5", Dover HS - Athletic little guard who played unselfishly but can also score when needed. Most effective when driving to the rim, and also not afraid to take a charge. You have to do that when you play for the hard nosed Dover team.
Class of 2012
Kerry White - 5'10" Salem HS - Somewhat of an undersized big, but you have to also consider that she is a junior playing against almost all seniors. Solid inside player with good fundamentals and a good team player who plays hard.
Emily Rose - 5'10", Timberlane Regional HS - Rose really did a nice job of running the floor and finishing in transition. She showed good rebounding ability and is a tough, hard nosed player.
Mariah Bonneau, 5'11", Pinkerton Academy - Bonneau has good quickness, especially for a taller player. She finished well inside battled in the post even against bigger, older players.
Class of 2013
Meghan Green - 6'1", Bishop Guertin - Green is an incoming sophomore with plenty of upside.
Kelsey Brown - 5'10", Oyster River HS - Brown has the ability to play inside or out on the perimeter, a versatile skill set and good athleticism.
Nikki Hayner - 5'9", Bishop Guertin - Hayner showed a good all-around game and continues to impress with her passing ability. She's the kind of player who doesn't need to score to be effective, and could fit right in with pretty much any team.
Madison Gibbs - 5'9", Bishop Guertin - Smart player, knows how to move the ball around on offense and work for a good shot. Quick player and solid defender.
Marissa Merrill - 5'6", Inter-Lakes HS - Merrill is an athletic guard, with a good frame and the ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays.
Elizabeth Laing - 5'6", Pinkerton Academy - Laing impressed with her blazing speed back in March at the showcase event at the RAC. Since then however she suffered a knee injury that sidelined her for a few weeks and she is still not all the way recovered. Still, her upside is evident by her athleticism and competitive fire.