Spiece Fieldhouse – Ft. Wayne, Indiana
In one respect, being a coach of a top Division I school is easy. The job of recruiting isn’t so much about finding the top talent as it is about convincing that talent to attend your institution. Scouting services, AAU national team coaches, and other cogs in the basketball machine have already done the vast majority of the work involved in separating the “blue-chippers” from their counterparts who occupy lower tiers. But what about those second- and third-level athletes? The coaches at a Central Michigan or Southern Illinois aren’t likely to sign any Nike camp attendees. How, then, are “mid-major” programs to evaluate large numbers of similarly-talented hopefuls competing against each other for scholarships? Events such as the High School Girls College Exposure Shootout are rapidly filling any void that might have existed in this department. On September 9, 137 high-school and middle-school girls spent the day in Fort Wayne in hopes of being noticed by somebody with ties to a collegiate program. This event was one of at least four such showcases scheduled in Indiana this September and October. Now any prep player with a modicum of talent has ample opportunity to be seen - and scouted - many times during her high-school career.
Shootout was the operative word in this event – each girl was assigned to one of 16 teams of 7-9 players each, and (barring injury) played in 8 games over the course of the day. To simulate collegiate conditions, halves lasted twenty minutes each. The clock ran during free-throw opportunities and other routine stoppages of play. Substitutions were mandatory every 5 minutes, and coaches were free to shuttle players in and out at other times as well. Indeed, ensuring every girl got her fair share of minutes was all the coaches (plucked from the sidelines of nearby high schools) were really expected to do - most of the “mentors” barely paid attention to their own teams, and generally limited their instructions to such profound bits of wisdom as exhorting their charges to "take care of the ball.” Indeed, scores were kept in a haphazard fashion, with “phantom points” occasionally materializing on the board while apparently successful shots were not credited. Coaches attentive enough to complain were told, however, that the scores didn’t matter, as wins and losses were not recorded. This format seemed to favor girls blessed with good open-court and one-on-one skills, while de-emphasizing teamwork and chemistry. As a result, it is almost certain that many of the invitees were not put in situations which allowed them to display their strengths. Still, during the too-long lull between the end of the WNBA playoffs and the start of the high-school and college seasons, the day afforded a pretty good opportunity to get a basketball fix.
Having said all that, here are some quick impressions of selected attendees. Although there were some girls in attendance from Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan, all the players mentioned hail from Indiana.
The players who are “locks” for top Division I programs:
Katie Gearlds, Junior, Beech Grove HS. Katie stood out all day. One reason was because she is equally adept at penetrating, pulling up to hit three-point shots, or finding an open teammate. The other reason was her height - at over six feet (unfortunately, this information was not included on the roster sheets made available), she towered over the other perimeter players. The most impressive parts of her game this day were her interior defense and quick hands. She is a complete player whose style is extremely reminiscent of Katie Douglas’s.
Shanna Zolman, Senior, Wawasee HS. Why Shanna (pronounced “Shawna” by the Wawasee faithful, by the way) was at this shootout was somewhat of a mystery. Since Tennessee has not apparently rescinded its scholarship offer, she couldn’t have been hoping to be noticed and picked up by the Mastodons of Indiana-Purdue-Ft. Wayne. Perhaps the aim of her presence was to support her schoolmates, as five other Wawasee players were at the camp, and two joined her on Team #4. Shanna was most effective taking the ball strongly to the hole. No girl at this camp could stop her.
Best of the rest:
Miranda Green, Junior, Pike HS. The third-most impressive player on the day. She is exceedingly fast and played with hustle, determination and energy. Inconsistency on her outside shooting is the only thing that separated her from most of the Nike Camp players. She reminded me quite a bit of Monica Maxwell in her ability to appear out of nowhere to grab rebounds from taller opponents. She would stick with plays and often turned offensive rebounds into scores.
Linsey Smith, Soph, Lake Central HS. Good rebounder who was good at starting fast breaks.
Michelle Oswalt, West Lafayette (middle school). While most of her middle-school peers did little to distinguish themselves, Michelle stood out with her consistent play and excellent shooting form.
Arin Rene Knox, Senior, Fort Wayne Concordia. Arin stood out as a tenacious defender
Ellen Hamilton, Junior, Greenfield Central. A solid player who was ferocious on the boards but could also hit the 3.
Emily Parkman, Senior, Peru High. An excellent “big girl” – she exhibited shooting range, tenacity on the boards, and a solid all-around game.
Jenny Wisser, Junior, Marion. Good defender and all-around player.
Brittany Dildine, Junior, Harrison HS. One of the quicker and more athletic players at the shootout. Good passer. Might one day tell her grandchildren about the nifty steal she made off a pass by Zolman.
Leah Enterline, Junior, Heritage HS. Very active player. Got several steals in the open court, and was often able to finish.
Amanda Ponsot, Junior, Ft. Wayne Carroll. A strong player who made good cuts and could finish in traffic.
Raina Haire, Senior, EC Central HS. Nice big, mobile post player.
Kaitlin Vogner, Junior, Cathedral. A very good athlete with fast hands. Was always in the right place at the right time.
Leslie Jones, Junior, Lawrence Central HS. A very, very nice player. Would mix it up under the basket and could finish in traffic. An unselfish player, Leslie demonstrated a variety of effective passes including a neat behind the back feed.
Kelly Snider, Soph, Hamilton SE. Deserves special mention because she not only contributed some clutch plays – including a game-winning hoop – she did so while wearing a conspicuous hearing aid.