Friday, July 8, 2011

USJN SummerFest 2011 - Event Recap

On the second day of the 2011 Division I live period, the majority of the top girls basketball prospects from the New England region were at the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gymnasium. It was the USJN SummerFest, and it featured the area's top AAU programs and players from the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and even 2016.

Over 20 college coaches made their way to Durham for the event, and it was a great way for them to see so many talented players from the area in just one day.

Here is the event recap, including player evaluations for the top NH players who were in attendance.

Crusader Blue Team Loaded With Talent
The NE Crusader Blue team is one of the top 16U teams in the region. They went 3-0 on the day, with 3 very impressive wins. They won 2 of their games by 15+ points and the other win came against a VERY good Lone Wolf squad. There is a good chance that the entire Crusaders starting lineup will be playing Division I college basketball. They have Alexa Coulombe (committed to Boston College) and Elizabeth Belanger (committed to New Hampshire), along with Katharine Fogarty (sure fire D-I player) and 2 others who have a shot at getting there in Kristen Anderson and Meghan Green. And the bench is also loaded with talent, including NH players Kerry White, Katie Stopera and Kelsey Brown.

The Crusader Blue has very good size, which can be intimidating at times for opponents. When your front line goes 6'1", 6'2" and 6'3", and then you also have a 2-guard who's 5'10" it is easy to see why this team is so dominant on the boards and in the paint. They have the size and discipline to play a half court game, and they also have the skilled guards and mobile bigs to get out and run in transition.

Crusader Black Team Also Goes 3-0
The Crusader Black team just keeps on winning games. They got 3rd place in nationals last year, they're a 14U team which won the 16U division at NH State's by beating the NE Lady Panthers by over 20 points. And now at Thursday's SummerFest they went 3-0, including a pair of wins over 16U teams, both by double digits. They beat the NH Rivals Red team (which had players like Maddie Blais, Savanna Butterfield and Lizzy Ball on it) by double digits, and they also beat a team by 20 which beat the Rivals as well.

"Playing against really good 2011's and 2012's was a challenge, so going 3-0 was really a feather in these girls caps, and they had a ball" said Mike Collins, the head coach of the Crusader Black team. "Scary to think where this group can get to in three years if they stay healthy, keep their heads on straight, etc."

Once again it was a very balanced attack for this team. They have 10+ girls who can all hurt you, they can all handle, shoot and pass the basketball and they're all very unselfish and disciplined. It's a fun team to watch. Their other game of the day was against the Maine Wave, and it went down to the wire with the Crusaders winning it 50-48. The Maine Wave were a very good team, and gave the Crusaders a very tough test, but down the stretch Aliza Simpson hit shots, Elisabeth Giegerich grabbed key rebounds, Courtney Walsh came up big defensively and Clairee Putnam hit some big free throws. It was a good team win.

Rivals Red Team Goes 1-2
The NH Rivals Red team had a very impressive double digit win to start the day, followed by a close loss and then ending with a loss to the Crusader Black team. This was a mixture of players from the Rivals Red team and the Rivals White team (which is loaded with scholarship level talent). The team was led by Madeline Blais, Amra Elezovic and Lizzy Ball.

Crusader Gold Team Has Bright Future
The Crusader Gold team is made up of incoming 8th and 9th graders, and features some very talented players. They had a hard fought battle with the Maniacs 13U team, eventually winning it 46-39 before also playing another very competitive game against the Maine wave 13U team.

Leading the way for the Crusaders were were forwards Casey Evans-Driscoll, Madison Springfield and Sara Messler, along with guards Ciara Dillon and Bri Purcell. Dillon is an incredibly gifted athlete from Boston, while the others will all be players to watch in NH basketball in the next few years. Incoming 9th graders who were playing up on the Crusader Black team were Val Martin and Megan Kerutis, who along with Evans-Driscoll will be 3 of the best freshman in NH this upcoming winter. Springfield (younger sister of future SNHU guard Brooke) is 5'10", can play almost any position on the floor and is only going into 8th grade.

Now, here's a look at who the standout players were from NH at this event:

Class of 2012
Madeline Blais, 6'0", New Hampton School - Blais is a versatile wing player who showed the ability to knock down the three ball as well as put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. At the end of one game, with her team down by 6 points she drained a three, then on the next time down the floor split 2 defenders on her way to the basket for a nice and-1 finish. As time expired her Rivals team was down by 5, but she was still able to hit another three-pointer from the corner at the buzzer.

Amra Elezovic, 5'11", Manchester Memorial HS - Elezovic continues to be an underrated defender, and can defend all 5 positions on the floor. In one of the games an opposing point guard was trying to bring the ball across half court, and she just picked her pocket and took it in for a layup. Elezovic has a good outside shot, but she is definitely a streaky shooter and at times she settles for the three instead of taking it to the rim. There's no question however that for a player her size she can shoot and handle the basketball very well.

Katie Stopera, 5'8", Hollis-Brookline HS - Very unselfish 2-guard, the kind of player who could fit in with virtually any team and any style of play. She doesn't need to score to be effective, but she can definitely score too, either finishing on the break or knocking down the open jump shot. Tough defender and good passer who always plays hard.

Kerry White, 5'10", Windham HS - White played inside and out for the Crusaders, battling inside for boards and also stepping out and knocking down the outside shot nicely off the catch.

Megan Hardiman, 5'10", Brewster Academy - Hardiman is a very versatile player. She has the size and strength to play inside but she was also playing point guard for the Crusader White team. Hardiman made a very nice step-through move on her way to the rim, splitting 2 defenders in the process. She also showed good hustle, diving after loose balls.

Savanna Butterfield, 5'10", Tilton School - Butterfield was quiet offensively, but she was very good on the boards. She ran the floor well and was active in the paint. She also showed good athleticism on put-backs.

Emily Rose, 5'10", Timberlane Regional HS - Rose is another player who has the versatility to play inside or out. She ran the floor well, can handle the basketball on the perimeter and also rebounded inside. Rose was also able to lead the break as well as finish it.

Class of 2013
Katharine Fogarty, 6'2", Governor's Academy - On this particular day Fogarty played as well as anyone in the gym. And that is saying a lot considering how many talented 2012 girls were there (Fogarty's a 2013) and how many Division I commits were as well (including Coulombe who's going to play at BC). Fogarty was doing it all for the Crusaders. During one stretch she hit a very nice runner off the glass after driving baseline, then grabbed an offensive rebound and finished the put-back in traffic, then stepped outside the arc and drained a face-up three-pointer, then hustled back on defense to block a shot. Yes, she did all of that in the span of about 2 minutes. She was putting on a show, and against a very good Basketball Shoppe team. Then against the Lone Wolf she put the ball on the floor, drove to the rim, stopped on a dime and hit a pull-up jumper with a hand right in her face. The game comes very easy to Fogarty, who just keeps getting better. It's scary to think she's only going to be a junior.

Meghan Green, 6'1", Bishop Guertin HS - Green is only going to be a junior and she still starts for the Crusaders Blue team. She showed that she definitely belongs on the floor with those other talented players and has continued to improve her game since the high school season ended. Green can still dominate in the paint, but now she has also moved her game outside as well, where she showed the ability to pass and move without the basketball, see the floor, make back-door cuts and execute sets.

Class of 2014
Aliza Simpson, 5'8", Londonderry HS - Anyone who has seen Simpson play multiple times knows that for a point guard her age she really doesn't have many weaknesses. Some might say her outside shot needs work. Well, on Thursday she put those questions to rest by lighting it up from the outside. She hit a nice pull-up jumper from 18 coming off a screen, and also hit a pair of clutch threes late in the Crusader Black team's win over the Maine Wave. Then against the Rivals Red team she put on a show, draining 4 three-pointers, and doing so against girls 3 years odker than her. Simpson also made good decisions with the basketball and continues to be a very stingy defender as well.

Elisabeth Giegerich, 6'0", Tabor Academy - Giegerich continues to be one of the strongest players on the Crusader Black team. She was very tough on the glass, dominating the boards in the game vs. the Rivals, and also grabbing a key rebound late in the game vs. the Maine Wave. She is a tough, physical forward runs the floor well and is also a smart player.

Clairee Putnam, 5'5", Windham HS - Putnam was equally effective playing the 1 or the 2. She was very good at leading the break by pushing the ball hard up the floor, staying under control with the ball and finding the open man with a good, hard pass. Putnam also hit a pair of BIG free throws to help ice the win vs. the Wave.

Courtney Walsh, 5'7", Central Catholic HS (Windham, NH) - Very unselfish player, Walsh makes the extra pass but can also shoot it as well. She played tremendous defense on Thursday though. In the game vs. the Maine Wave the Crusaders were up by 3 with 10 seconds left when a Wave guard tried to take a three pointer from the wing. Walsh made a terrific defensive ply though, blocking the shot and preserving the win.

McKenzie Brown, 6'1", Bedford HS - Brown faced-up from the high post and made some strong dribble-drive moves to the rim. She was also strong on the boards and showed a soft shooting touch around the basket.

Class of 2015
Megan Kerutis, 5'4", Bishop Guertin HS - Many are already calling her the best NH player in the class of 2015. This was my first chance to see her play, and she is very quick. She was playing up with the talented Crusader Black team and more than held her own out there, pushing the ball on the break and finishing nicely inside with either hand.

Val Martin, 5'10", Pinkerton Academy - Tough inside player who rebounded well and efficiently got the ball to the outlet man.

Casey Evans-Driscoll, 5'10", Londonderry HS - Tough, physical forward who crashed the boards and showed soft touch on turnaround jumper in the lane.

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