© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
Attending the same event for seven years in a row is handy for providing a good baseline look at midwest talent. What makes the Blue Star Underclass Elite Camp a good measuring stick is the fact event organizer Mike Flynn not only brings in top midwest talent, but sprinkles in some top prospects from other regions of the U.S. It is also a skills camp, not a scrimmage-only showcase event. This allows us to get a look at how the younger grades are handling fundamental drillwork.
Special thanks to site organizer Chris Mennig of USJN for making us again feel welcome and comfortable.
Below are a few of the players that stood out at the two-day event, during various drillwork and scrimmage exercises. As always, we do evaluations by taking notes on players by jersey number, then match the numbers with names after the event is over. Evaluations are in alphabetical order.
Amber Brewster (2008, 5'7, Rochester HS, MI) - Split defenders trying to double-team and trap in the open court every single time I watched her, which was a surprising feat. She busts traps with speed and a low dribble, and blows down the middle of the court, avoiding the sidelines. Probably twisted up her defender more than any other player at the camp. Very quick feet. On defense, she can stick very close to her assignment without fouling. Has some finessee on her shot around the basket, but generally didn't sell herself as a scorer. A lefty press-buster with impressive control of the ball.
Kristina Cousins (2009, 5'9, Forest Hills Central, MI) - While I did not spend much time studying Kristina's game, she deserves a mention for being one of the better camp attendees to be able to control Miranda Tate's explosiveness, with Tate being one of the more productive offensive players at Blue Star. She maintains tight defense despite guarding a lengthy, and taller, offensive player.
Jasmine Davis (2009, 6'1, Massac County HS, IL) - Davis has some textbook low post moves and maintains her position well on low post spin moves. Seemed to like shooting off the glass on those low post moves, and the different shot angle further confused opponents. She demands some help in the post from her defenders. She has a nice touch on freethrows and is developing a good mid-range shot. Good on the boards, and quick with the long outlet pass as she looks to push the ball. Really like her motion on offense, as she runs through her inlet pass spots rather quickly and shows a big target. Above average court vision, but dribbles a little high running in the open court. Had a knack for being wide open frequently in the halfcourt for open looks. Reportedly also carries a nearly perfect GPA too.
Megan Grace (2009, 6'4, St. Joseph's Academy, MO) - The player most closely resembling a Big ten type banger. Strong with some efficient power moves who is not afraid of contact. She isn't a liability at the freethrow line either. Still rather raw offensively, but the basic building blocks are there. She wrenched her ankle during the start of full-court scrimmages, leaving me wondering how good she can be.
Kayli Keough (2008, 6'1, Land O' Lakes High, FL) - A high quality wing prospect who is a real fighter. Overwhelmingly good rebounder, and has that tunnel-vision on rebounds that will cause her to rip it out of the hands of her own teammates. I almost think she gets more offensive rebounds than defensive. She gets good spacing and has a nice jumper, hitting a high percentage of her mid-range shots. A tough defender who gets into the space of the person she defends and harrasses them into turnovers. Had a tough time understanding passing angles on the break which caused some turnovers. A player that goes to work when she is on the floor. Scores a lot of points.
Anna Kestler (2011, 5'5, Mt. Lebanon High, PA) - Mature handle on the ball and the camps second most elusive ballhandler, especially under pressure and trap situations. Has the ballhandling down, let's see how the rest of her game matures when she hits high school.
Elizabeth Mercer (2008, 6'3, Western Boone, IN) - Mercer has a more mature offensive game than many of the players here, and when we matched the jersey number to the name it made perfect sense that she was one of the 10 players in attendance from the class of 2008. Most impressive was her ability to use screens and picks to get herself open. The roster listed her at 6'0, but she is closer to 6'3. She will be a good high post threat in college and her game seems to be tailored to that position. Her best move, and she used it often, was a pick on the perimeter where she would roll off and flash open for a three-pointer. She had a low percentage shooting performance from the wing (shots were short), but hit all her three-point shots from the top of the key. The fact she hit them, and had great form on the shots from the wing even though they failed to go it, leads me to think she has that comfortably in her offensive bag of tricks. Equally good was her high post screen and curl move down the lane. Most consistent in the mid-range out to the perimeter line, and has a nice soft jumper. Defensively is not a liability, but somewhat average when asked to guard players good at slashing from the wing. However, her reach does allow her to play off her defender a bit and disrupt some of the interior passing lanes. In drill work during the camp, Mercer worked out with the post players.
Destiny Mitchell (2008, 5'9, Massac County HS, IL) - I really wanted to see more of Mitchell running the point, but most of the camp she was either at the two or three. However, in 3-on-3 drills she did function as primary ballhandler and did not do anything to lead me to believe her point guard skills are lacking. She controls the offense well, and I like a ballhandler who utilizes the bounce pass to perfection. She actually has some sweet passing skills. When not at the point, she slashes to the basket and can elude defenders. Used a nice curl through the lane and a sweeping lefthanded layup more than once, and I got the impression she likes going left. Lacked consistency behind the three-point line during the camp, but probably hit 50% of her shots inside the line. Tends to dribble herself into trouble occassionally and get into double-team situations, but right after you see her get the ball stripped by a double-team, she will come down and do it again but thread a perfect pass to the player the help defense left open. She's a guard who will net you a half-dozen rebounds through the course of a game too.
Katlyn Payne (2010, 5'10, St. Edward High, IL) - A really good scorer against this group of camp participants for a few key reasons. First, she has a quick release right off the top of her forehead. When drving into the lane and shooting, she releases even faster. Second, she talks, and constantly calls for the ball. And third, she is very aware of spacing and is always adjusting to get distance between her and her defender. She always appeared open, which helped her teammates get her the ball. Fundamentally good in passing, ballhandling, shooting, and defense. I wouldn't call her a half-court player by any means. However, defensively she needs quite a bit of improvement on the break, and does not recover quickly enough to be effective. That said, she is a 5'10 guard who can drive, and score, and rebound. Finding out she's a freshman doesn't make me nervous in saying she will be an all-state player in Illinois, and a coveted player by the time she hits the summer circuit next year. She already has the trait that will get her noticed in evaluation events -- she is that player on the floor everyone eventually asks 'who is that No. 61?' because she is active in so many plays.
Morgan Peacock (2009, 5'5, Winchester, IN) - A tough competitor and a point guard to watch in Indiana in 2009. She was always looking to get out on the break, and has good body control finishing off a dead run. She is a scoring point guard. Defensively solid, very good at trailing her player on the break putting her in position to make that final play on the ball when the player goes up for the shot. Appears to be an excellent freethrow shooter. Camp roster also points out she was third in her class of 129 academically.
Kelsey Smith (2009, 6'3, St. Charles North, IL) - Made one of the best improvements over the course of the camp. Smith was one of the first players I spent time studying on day one, and happened to be the last player I studied at the end of the camp. On day one the biggest deficiency was her footwork and protecting the ball on dribble-drives. You could tell she was younger as her game was lacking polish and she was a wee bit awkward at times. She showed nice hands, and was very energetic with a very long wingspan. Whether it was confidence, or a quick ability to put into use the moves and tips she learned in drills, by the end of day two Smith was an intriguing Division I level talent. Still a little awkward, but running the floor gracefully and could handle the ball in the open court. She ended up an agressive and active post defender, and probably did the best job of anyone in the camp on defending Jasmine Davis. She blocks out on shots, and it takes a strong opponent to get through those arms of hers. Defensively she moves her feet very well. Offensively, her feet are still in need of work, but she has a wide array of offensive skills around the basket. And she has developed a hook that is rather indefensible. Only saw her from mid-range in. She has a good shot at going high Division I as a mobile post player. No idea if she has an outside game, but definitely has a quality interior game.
Miranda Tate (2008, 6'0, Bolingbrook, IL) - Her confidence was sky high over the course of the camp, and it showed in her play. Did confidence breed success, or her success breed the confidence? Maybe a little of both. A player who makes the game look easy. Playful nature, which isn't surprising since most things went well for her. One of the more versatile players at Blue Star this year. She has a long body and some long arms, and a very good defender against guards and forwards. Squares well off a dead run on the break to hit three-pointers in bunches. In general, her perimeter percentage was very high. No stats were taken during scrimmages, but hit at least 50-percent of her perimeter shots. A player that will slide onto a college team and immediately register four or five steals, rebounds, assists and a block or two per game.
Karley Walker (2010, 5'6, South Charleston High, WV) - Walker is a real sparkplug at point she penetrates deep on the break without getting herself into real trouble doing it. She looks to score quickly and will consistently take advantage of any numbers mismatch on the break. Her ballhandling at top speed is very nicely developed, and so is her passing and decisionmaking on short notice. In what was probably the slickest play of the camp, Walker threaded a perfect bounce pass between the legs of her defender at full speed on a fastbreak. She's a good perimeter shooter coming off a screen, but was marginal pulling up from a dead run on the fastbreak. And to think, only four more years to get better.
Makenzie White (2012, 5'5, Madison Middle School, WV) - Obviously developing, and its hard to critique a 7th grader for being young and raw. However, it must be said that White is one of three seventh graders at Blue Star this year, and hands down won the camp floorburn award. To come into a camp like this and give everything you have deserves at least a mention. Bravo, Makenzie.