Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Freshmen Girls Represent NH at Nike Skills Camp


Anytime high school athletes from NH are able to be recognized nationally and test their skills against the top players from across the country it is a very big deal. The annual Nike Skills Camp provides an opportunity for top girls basketball players in the area to do just that.

Nike selects 60 players from 4 different regions in the country (240 total players). These are the country's best players, regardless of what grade they're in. These girls are then able to attend this high-level, invite-only camp.

The three NH players who were selected to attend the exclusive camp were Aliza Simpson (Londonderry HS), McKenzie Brown (Bedford HS) and Rachel Collins (Bedford HS). All three girls are freshmen who play for the Crusader Black AAU team.

The 2-day camp took place in late April. The format for the Skills Academy consisted of 4 workouts. These included a series of drills, varying from 2 hours to 3 hours, building up to 30 minutes of full court 5 v 5 games. The girls also went through Nike SPARQ (Speed/Power/Agility/Resistence/Quickness) training and testing. Each play received her results against the region average (those attending the camp), the region's best, and the average of those who play their position. There was also lectures where the instructors spoke to the athletes about the recruiting process, what to expect and advice while they are going through it.

Whether it was during the Sparq Training, the drills or the scrimmaging, these were all great tools for the NH girls to test their skills against some of the country's top talent.

"It helped even more because they didn't separate us by class" said Aliza Simpson, who is currently the state's #1 ranked player from the Class of 2014. "The freshmen, the sophomores and the juniors were all mixed in and playing with each other. We didn't even know which grade anyone was in. But playing against the older girls helped, and it raised the overall level of play at the camp."

Just to put things into perspective a little here, one of the other girls at the camp was Erin Mathias (Pittsburgh, PA). Mathias is 6'3" and has committed to player her college basketball at Duke University...oh yeah, and did I mention that she's only a freshman?! Simpson, Brown and Collins were not only selected to a camp that draws this kind of talent, but they more than held their own out there. That speaks volumes about these three athletes and also the status of NH basketball.

Simpson is a 5'8" point guard who is a winner. She is a tenacious defender, and is just as good defensively as she is on offense, which is refreshing to see. She is a good floor general who knows how to run an offense and set her teammates up for easy baskets. Simpson is good at executing in the half court, but is at her best in a fast-breaking style of game where she excels at leading the break, pushing the ball quickly up the floor and making plays. She was a key player off the bench this past season for the Lancers as a freshman, and will now look to be the team's starting point guard for the next 3 years. Simpson has the potential to be one of the top guards NH has had in recent years.

Brown is a 6'1" forward best known for her feather-like soft shooting touch from 15 feet of the basket and in. She is a smart player who is much further along with her fundamentals and skill set than most freshmen with her kind of size. Brown has good moves in the low post and gets after it on the boards. She also runs the floor and passes well for a big. Brown started at center for Bedford as a freshman. With her size, skill and work ethic she has a high upside.

Collins is a coach's daughter - and you can tell. She just has a basketball mind, and is one of the smartest players around. She always knows exactly where to be on the floor and where the ball should go at any given time. What Collins lacks in strength and athleticism she makes up for with smarts, heart and desire. She likes to run the floor, get out and finish on the break. Collins is also a tough defender and a very unselfish player as well. She was a key player for Bedford as a freshman, and will also look to start for the next 3 years.

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