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OldGoldFreePress COLUMNISTS | BACK TO Bob_Richards'S COLUMNS

PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL RECRUITING:
2004 Nike Camp Evaluations: All-Camp Teams




Date: 10/02/2004
Authors: Bob Richards and Bob Sienicki
Old Gold Free Press Columnists

    All-Camp team by Bob Sienicki

    In trying to select my All-Camp Teams, I not only tried to consider individual skills but also the significant but intangible characteristic of how a given player impacts a game when she is on the floor. And each of the ten players I selected on my two All-Camp Teams definitely had a unique and measurable impact upon the games in which they played that I observed. To wit are my observations...

    1st Team All-Camp

    No. 53 Erika Arriaran (2005)
    No. 70 Elena Delle Donne (2008)
    No. 19 Abby Waner (2005)
    No. 50 Carrem Gay (2005)
    No. 02 Jazzmin Walters (2005)

    2nd Team All-Camp

    No. 105 Tina Charles (2006)
    No. 90 Ta'Shia Phillips (2007)
    No. 68 Amber Harris (2006)
    No. 29 Sarah Tokodi (2006)
    No. 26 Lindsay Schrader (2005)

    Counting down the 2nd Team players...

    Lindsay Schrader - Unless you were either blind or entirely dull-witted, one could simply not fail to notice when Lindsay was on the floor. However, the problem had nothing to do with awareness of her presence but rather trying to identify this player who was a constant blur of motion as she crashed the boards or made slashing moves to the rack or in diving for the ball. Often I would find myself shaking my head at a great pass that was converted into an all-too-easy basket and then, when looking back to where the pass originated in order to award the assist, would find no one in the vicinity! Instead, there would be this blur of motion streaking across the court in an attempt to steal an inbounds pass. Or some such other phenomena. (She would make a dandy UFO!) Quite often, I had to figure the assist by identifying the other players on her team who could NOT have been responsible and then deducing the source! Okay, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but I think you get the picture.

    Sarah Tokodi - Without knowing the players names beforehand, I was convinced that Lindsay Schrader had a twin sister. Or maybe she was just filling in for a short-handed team wearing a different jersey. But there really are differences between Sarah and Lindsay. I think. Needless to say that Sarah reminded me of the old Mr. Clean commercials with the White Tornado. Always a whirlwind of motion making the great pass or knocking down the timely jumper or driving the lane and dishing for the assist, Sarah was always in the thick of the action. More often than not, she WAS the action. A tireless performer, Sarah does not play the game as if she was some annointed all-star. No, she plays like a person possessed by the game she loves. She is one of the players I would guess could absolutely care less if I had her on a camp all-star team or not. After all, she's probably too busy out on the court to be reading this nonsense!

    Amber Harris - Richards really cares about this young woman and I cannot tell you how much he wants Amber to break out of this Joe Barry Carroll demeanor she seems to have about her. And neither of us mean that in a bad way. But the simple fact of the matter is that, JBC demeanor or not, Amber dramatically alters a game by simply stepping onto the court. Maybe it is in the absolutely effortless manner with which she executes her baseline ballet moves or her silky smooth jump shots that seem to defy both time and gravity. As if the game of basketball was a mere distraction or a semi-inspired class art project that would elicit an occasional brush of profound creativity. Power and Grace. Grace and Power. She does not play against her opponents, she toys with them. And then, when she tires of the amusement, cleanly severs the jugular of what little resistance her hapless opponent can muster with the precision of a surgeon. Should Amber some day find the passionate intensity to drive herself to her seemingly boundless limits, she will become the Kareem Abdul Jabbar of the women's game. But for now, all she has to do, for me, is to walk on the court to land on my second team.

    Ta'Shia Phillips - Ta'Shia is an acquired taste. You have to be a real connoisseur of the game to appreciate what this quiet but powerful young woman brings to a team. Though not as graceful as Amber nor the intimidating physical presence of Tina, Ta'Shia is both athletic and highly skilled. An enforcer with finesse. She does not exude raw power but she will alter your game whether you like it or not. She may not be a wild flurry of activity around the glass but she will always come away with the board. She may not have much of a perimeter game but she can score at will around the basket. She is a load down low but can outrun opposing guards to finish a break. She is one of those rare individuals who generally both start and finish the same possession. And lest you try to double down on her to stop that mortar of a jump hook, she will carve up your defense with her precision passing. Then clean the boards and finish her teammates' errant shots. Her presence can often go largely unnoticed. That is, until you check the stat sheet at the end of the game. She is truly the silent assassin.

    Tina Charles - Women's basketball is no longer what the girls do when the guys leave the court to hunker down on the sofa to watch the ball game on TV. Should the guys have the nerve to show up back at the court during halftime on TV, they will be in for a rude surprise. And more than likely, should they try to mix it up with girls like Tina, will likely finish watching their game from a hospital bed. I was fascinated by the level of aggression and raw power that was readily on display under the boards in virtually all the games. But none so much as that displayed by Tina Charles. Where others might throw around some elbows and hips in trying to muscle their way to the rack, Tina just exploded around and through people. She was the essence of raw, unharnessed power. Kind of like watching a severed but live power transmission line popping and sparking wildly about. But Tina's power game would not be nearly as impressive without her amazing footwork. Mix equal parts of Gene Kelly, Mikhail Barishnakov, Harry Houdini and Charles Barkley then add in about 10 megawatts and you have Tina Charles. If she could dunk, she would be the embodiment of Darryl Dawkins in a woman's body. Yield Right of Way, if you know what I mean.

    Counting down the 1st Team players...

    Jazzmin Walters - Jazzmin was one of the smallest players at camp. Yet there was no mistaking that her impact on games was in opposite proportion to her dimunitive size. Evel Knievel once tried to jump the Grand Canyon on a rocket powered motorcycle and missed. With Jazzmin providing the jets, he might have made it. This high-energy girl is blazingly fast and lightning quick with scintillating ball handling skills. I would swear she had an invisible tether on the ball as it seemed to constantly defy the laws of physics as it dutifully tracked every movement of her hummingbird hands. Jazzmin simply took over at the point whenever she felt like it. One-on-one, there was no other guard at camp that could hang with her quicks. When she wanted to drive, well, you just sat back and enjoyed the ride. If she felt up to a little gunnery practice, well, you had better enjoy the fireworks. Teammates of Jazzmin's defenders got repeated lessons in the concept of rotation. Yet despite her lethal offensive skills, she is as relentless on defense as a starving Minnesota mosquito. Her future coach may need a firearm permit before allowing her to take the court.

    Carrem Gay - Carrem was the smoothest player in camp. Total cruise control. She performed every skill I could ever ask of a player with fluid precision. In addition, she was also one of the most intelligent players as she was always in the right place at the right time. And though she is slender, she showed an amazing ability to finish consistently despite taking an occasional pounding from some of the larger girls. She was easily one of the three most complete players at camp. From her deadly shot selection ranging from hooks, finger rolls and the sweetest jump shot you will likely ever see to her effortless ball handling and her consummate timing and positioning. Watching this girl is addictive and gives you cavities. Sweet.

    Abby Waner - Abby Waner was my favorite player at the camp. I fell in love with her the first time she drove through a thick tangle of players only to come out unscathed to flash a rocket no-look pass to a teammate on the weak side low block for the bunny! Like shooting fish in a barrel. Time and again, Abby made like the Eveready Bunny on steroids as she took game after game into her own hands and single-handedly wrought the result to her own likeness. Not the quickest nor most athletic, Abby was prone to making an occasional mistake. Her in-your-face Brett Favre demeanor refused to wilt under the fear of failure as she grabbed every risk as another opportunity for her team to score. Throw the ball away? Big deal! She simply buckled down on D and got the rock back. Then walk the ball up the floor to set up the offense? Not on your life! Either get ready or get the hell out of the way! Her relentless take-no-prisoners approach would eventually grind her opponents into oblivion. She was probably the only player at camp to have forced every other player on every other team to defend against her at one time or another. Some players are good enough to "make things happen." Abby defines the entire game.

    Elena Delle Donne - I had mixed feelings about putting Elena on the All-Camp team. A true enigma, I could hardly fathom the incredible talent that was shown from this young woman, who lives no more than 5 miles from where I grew up, that had yet to set foot in high school. Was I more impressed by the talent-for-the-age ratio or the sheer talent, period. After a sufficient period of decompression upon returning to the "real" world, I have come to the inevitable conclusion it is the latter. Elena is every bit of every press clipping you have and will read about her. She could start on a Division 1 university team AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL! Her next 4 years in high school ball may likely be a waste because she needs Division 1 competition NOW in order to help her reach her true potential. It is pointless to go on about her skills since she can already shoot better than boys that are senior players in high school. Hell, she already shoots better than anyone on the Purdue MEN's team! (Sorry, Gene, just the facts, ma'am!) If her ballhandling for a big girl gets any better, she will have to join the Globetrotters. Same with her passing. So just wait, you'll see. So why is she NOT my camp MVP?

    Erika Arriaran - Because Erika Arriaran is. That's why. How is that? Well, as talented as Elena truly is, there simply was no one, IMHO, at camp who had a greater effect on every game she was in than Erika. It was as if someone had a spotlight on her wherever she went. You could not be unaware of her presence in a game. It was impossible. She was a part of every possession on offense and defense. She was everywhere on the floor, handling the ball, cajoling teammates, in opponents' faces, on the boards, diving for balls, making passes, stealing the ball, making shot after shot after shot including several of the circus variety. She was Hollywood in the middle of downtown St. Louis. She was the star of the show and she knew it. You may not have liked her or admired her flashy play but you could not argue the effects of her own, unique indelible stamp on every game in which she played. Erika owned Nike this year. Other players, parents and coaches may bristle at that remark but, in truth, I could not refute it. She may not have this type of impact in college. That remains to be seen. But St.Louis was her stage and for this one camp at which I attended, she was my MVP.

    Thanks to Bob Richards for the invite. Thanks to Nike for the gracious hospitality and professional courtesy. And thanks to all the talented young women who have rejuvenated my hopes for the future of what I believe is one of the greatest games ever invented...

    All-Camp team by Bob Richards

    It's always good to start with a disclaimer, right? It is important to understand that this is a moment in time, which is why this is a true "All-Camp" team and not an "All-Future WNBA" team. The ten players listed below tended to separate themselves from their peers at Nike. Whatever their accomplishments may be before or after this camp, these players hit St. Louis competing at a high level.

    Why ten this year? The easy answer would be because Sienicki had ten on his teams so I will follow format. Yet compared to last year, Nike had a higher level of talent overall this year, and addressed the weakness of the camp last year -- more skilled centers and low post players. Below are the players that set themselves apart in 2004. Although 1st Team members were a notch more impressive than the 2nd Team players, players are listed by jersey number on the specific teams, not in order of talent.

    I have spoken at length about most of these players in their evaluations, but I do attempt below to specifically explain why the first teamers stood out as the best at the 2004 camp.

    1st Team All-Camp

    No. 50 Carrem Gay (2005)
    No. 53 Erika Arriaran (2005)
    No. 68 Amber Harris (2006)
    No. 70 Elena Delle Donne (2008)
    No. 103 Brittany Mitch (2005)

    2nd Team All-Camp

    No. 19 Abby Waner (2005)
    No. 63 Vantranique Hughes (2006)
    No. 65 Marissa Coleman (2005)
    No. 86 Marshae Dotson (2005)
    No. 90 Ta'Shia Phillips (2007)

    The 1st Team had four shoe-ins, led by Erika Arriaran. Arriaran's leadership, Gay's multiple-threat game, Delle Donna's polished fundamentals, and Mitch's activity solidified themselves on my All-Camp team by the end of camp. That final spot, awarded to Amber Harris, was more difficult to fill.

    For the second straight year, Arriaran made my All-Camp team. She solidly made it last year, despite some over the top verbalizations that were more distracting than beneficial. That part of her game was subdued this year, turned into more focused coaching aimed at her teammates. If I had to name a camp MVP, I would second Sienicki's selection of Arriaran.

    Gay moved on to the honor team this year by becoming more of a part of the offensive flow of the camp. She still possesses that smooth nature we liked last year, but has gone from a silent killer to one more engaged.

    Brittany Mitch had the whole package, and excelled in motion and activity. In man defense, she required a very fit trailer the entire game. She will keep an opponent's best defensive player busy, and can shoot off that pressure very well.

    It took a second thought to put Delle Donne on the first team. The question is does an incoming freshman deserve to be mentioned among the top ten, or even the top five players at a camp with 70 upperclassmen? We did not know Delle Donne was a freshman when we watched her the first day, yet she competed against the juniors and seniors very well. The purity of her game, the polished fundamental skills, and the business-like approach to her game set her apart from her peers.

    Spot five on the first team was tough. Three of the eventual second team selections were worthy of that spot in my mind, along with the eventual selection -- Amber Harris. Harris is such a phenomenal player at 6'5 with the range of skills she has. My main fault is her inability to properly handle the small forward position when her teammates seem unsure of her ability to dominate at that position. That was where she spent a majority of her time, despite the ability dominate in the post if the team put her down low. It is hard to fault maybe the most physically gifted player at Nike with trying a new position against the top players in the nation. She still remained a highly difficult player to stop, to a greater extent than the other candidates for a first team spot.


    2004 Nike Camp Scouting Reports:
    PART I | PART II | PART III | PART IV | PART V | All-Camp Teams


As news organizations move their stories to an archive, some of the links listed above may become inactive

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