Below is the first part featuring player observations from the Best of the Midwest invitational. When reading the comments below, please keep in mind that a lack of a mention below does not mean the player was unworthy of comment. To avoid preconceptions, I take notes by jersey number, then add the names in later.
2005 Ashley Samuelson (5'11 F, North Tartan 16s (MN)) -- The program listed Samuelson as a guard, but I got large doses of her play as a forward with the Tartan team. I do not doubt she can play at guard, as her ballhandling and ability to break down defenders could put her as a wing guard in college. Did not see much perimeter shooting, but she has nice shooting form so I bet she would be able to hit consistently from that range. Does everything very well, but I like her vision the most as she is fairly skilled at seeing the open teammates and getting them the ball. Strong enough to defend in AAU against someone with the size of Cassie Kerns (Indiana's Finest, 6'3 post), but that won't be her position in college. Rebounds well. Looks like she would be one heck of a volleyball player too. High major player, and one that could plug many holes for a program.
2006 Amy Beggin (5'7 G, North Tartan 16s (MN)) -- A sophomore to watch who shows a wide range of offensive strike points. In the final game of the tournament, she ran the baseline and hit a runner in traffic, nailed a three on the wing, and broke down her defender with a curl down the lane for a basket. Poise is there. Too often this weekend players could prove they could get to the basket, but would just throw the ball up hoping it would go in. Beggin's shots will go in more often than not.
2005 Michelle Kaus (5'10 F, North Tartan 16s (MN)) -- Very accurate shooter, with nice form and the ability to hit shots with a defender's hand in her face. Like most of her Tartan teammates, moved very well off the ball.
2005 Porchia Green (5'8 G, Indiana's Finest 16s) -- She was making IF tick early in the first game. She's a quick playmaker who makes good decisions with the ball, and has above average ballhandling ability.
2006 Audrey McDonald (5'9 G, Indiana's Finest 16s) -- As impressive as Porchia Green was in the beginning of the game, Audrey was hard not to notice toward the end. She really took the team on her shoulders, and I think the key to keeping CHE in game one from taking the lead and running with it. She attacks the basket and finishes, and hits the seams in the defense. Seemed a little better at changing directions on the dribble than Green when the guards would collapse down the lane.
2005 Cassie Kerns (6'3 F, Indiana's Finest 16s) -- One of the most talented inside players this weekend. The best way to describe her would be similar to watching a senior play against a typical sophomore. Her bag of tricks is deeper than most other players her age, and some older. She is unstoppable against the 6'0 post defenders on some of the teams here. Possesses an accurate short jumper. Has some strength, and goes up strong with two hands under the basket. Has a back-to-the-basket game, as well as facing. Mobile and athletic. Showed off her perimeter game in game two on Sunday, stopping and hitting from the top of the key. Should be getting more upper Division I looks.
2006 Lori Whitaker (5'9 G, Indiana's Finest 16s) -- She's a big, strong guard with a surprisingly powerful first step. She's a shooter, and hit an unbelievably deep, open three in the first game.
2006 Maria Olsthoorn (6'1 F, Indiana's Finest 16s) -- Honestly cannot remember much about her offensive game, as I found myself watching her defense. She impressed me, especially defending on the break. She floats back in the passing lanes on the break, then makes good decisions on what player will be taking the shot. I'd have to see more to find out if this knack is just luck, or if she has her eye on the ball. But I do not remember watching a player score on the side she chose to defend on a fast break. Will make the watch list for the class of 2006 in Indiana.
2006 Laura Bugher (6'1 F, Indiana's Finest 16s) -- Saw a mid-range game, and a strong post game. Good rebounder, and seemed more successful moving around in the paint than elsewhere on the floor.
2004 Shari Welton (5'11 F, Chicago Hoops Express I) -- Looks more like a small forward type mid-range game is her forte, but she does have some range. I did not see enough perimeter shooting to tell if she could be a shooting guard in college, but has a nice touch of skills for the two, three and four positions. Aggressive on the boards. Although I did not have access to stats, she looks like she could easily grab eight to ten rebounds a game. Fiery personality who I think gets better if she has tough matchup, as it really pumps her up.
2004 Janese Banks (5'10 F, Chicago Hoops Express I) -- Where teammate Shari Welton looks more like a small forward, Banks if the guard. Better range and looks more comfortable taking perimeter shots. Another good mid-range shooter who can mix in a fade-away and other polished shooting motions. Nice defender who can be an asset in applying the trap across the halfcourt, as well as on the ball pressure when going fullcourt. Shakes defenders easily.
2007 Amy Jaeschke (6'4 C, Full Package 17s (IL)) -- A player to watch who has a solid game in the paint for a freshman, although has a lot of seasoning to do. She knows how to use her height to alter shots and block off access to the basket, but can be limited against quick, older power forwards. Did not show many aggressive moves on offense, exhibiting more of a finesse game. For example, she tends to prefer bunny-hopped shot over a defender to powering the ball up. But to keep things in perspective, a very fine freshman center who should be one of the top centers in her class in a couple years, as she has a nice foundation to build from.
2005 Jenny Eckhart (5'8 G, Full Package 17s (IL)) -- Every camp there are a few players that stick out in the crowd, and Eckhart is one of those players. I saw everything you would want in a Division I guard, and I hope she gets there because she's fun to watch. Outstanding playmaker and excellent ballhandling. I heard she was getting some looks from Notre Dame, and it is deserved attention.
2005 Jill Hushka (6'1 F, Illinois Pacesetters) -- From the first minute of the first game, Hushka made her presence known. She scored the team's first two baskets, one a slash down the lane, and the other from the baseline. Graceful forward with perimeter range and no fear of playing in the paint either. Deceptively quick for her size which can catch defenders off guard. Can twist around opponents and does not have to be balanced to hit short jumpers. Nice shoulders show some upper body strength. Probably a volleyball player, or at least she should be.
2008 Deanna Ortiz (5'9 G, Illinois Pacesetters) -- A player that should be getting mail from colleges even as an eighth grader. She could be a special one. Impressive composure, which freaked me out when I discovered she was not even in high school. She can go one-on-one with most guards, and really works her defenders. A very mature knack of knowing how far she can penetrate when driving to the basket. I would not say she's flashy with the ball, but is confident with it. Brings back memories of a young Kelly Komara.
2007 Courtney Weibel (5'9 G, Illinois Pacesetters) -- A shooter with long arms for a 5'9 guard. Her perimeter game is good on its own, but I was more impressed with her mid-range game. A 15-footer on the baseline is her shot -- nearly automatic. Takes some high percentage shots, but looks to be able to launch more threes than she did this weekend in the two games I watched.
More to come!