Part 1: Girls of Summer Hoops Tour

Erika McCall from Ridgeview of Bakersfield was one of the most-watched players in the summer of 2012. Courtesy Ridgeview HS/ESPNHS

Annual caravan conducted by Cal-Hi Sports correspondent observes top California talent plus nation’s best in girls basketball.

What started out in 2005 with a trip to the Nike Elite Skills Academy in Beaverton, Ore., to evaluate invitees that year that included current USA Olympian Maya Moore has now come full circle.

With almost 5,000 miles in the air and 3,000 miles behind the windshield, the Girls of Summer Basketball caravan had its biggest summer ever. The tour was sponsored this year by the Next Level Sports Service and Hoops4Girls (a 501C-3) after being sponsored for six years by Cal-Hi Sports.

The eight events covered from July 6 through the end of the month concluded at the Summer in the City Elite Division title games on July 31 in the Bay Area.

The caravan began the viewing period at the July 6-7 Next Level All-American Camp at San Diego City College.

A few dozen girls performed well enough for the 75 college coaches to garner an evaluation, but several girls stood out, led by camp overall MVP Alexandria Young from Mater Dei of Chula Vista, Calif.

The 6-foot-1 wing, who committed to the University of San Diego immediately after the camp, can pretty much play any position on the floor. She’s long, lean, athletic, agile, and can handle the ball, but also possesses the strength to mix it up in the paint. Her body type is one that will allow her to become even stronger with the kind of conditioning provided at the next level.

The overall camp MVP for underclass girls at the Next Level All-American Camp was Horizon of San Diego incoming 6-foot freshman DiJonai Carrington. While her overall game is still developing, the highly regarded 14-year-old 6-footer has the strength and agility of girls three to four years older.

Besides being able to finish with both hands, Carrington shoots the ball with either hand, including 3-pointers, and is a solid defender with a fierce rebounding attitude against older girls.

Two other camp MVPs also were named in San Diego.

Brittani Lusain was the second girl from the 2013 class chosen. The point guard, who is a teammate of Young at Mater Dei of Chula Vista, turned in an outstanding performance in the Next Level All-American upperclass all-star game at the camp’s end.

The second underclass MVP was Janae Omusi, a 5-foot-9 wing from Horizon with long arms who plays tall and possesses a decent outside shot.

The 22-team Next Level Nationals at San Diego City College July 8-10 followed the All-American Camp.

Once again it was Lusain in a starring role. She scored 14 points with six rebounds, five steals and four assists to earn championship game MVP honors in her SoCal Magic Black team’s 39-24 victory over the host West Coast All-Stars.

Carrington, who was double- and triple-teamed, led WCAS with seven points and 17 rebounds. She also had three steals and three blocked shots.

From San Diego, the silver bird then took the caravan to the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee.

The first Tennessee event was the July 11-12 Insider Exposure All-American Camp that attracted 160 girls to the high-tech USBA facility in Franklin.

The top performer at the camp was Bianca Cuevas of Nazareth Regional (Brooklyn, New York), a 5-foot-5 guard out of the High Bridge neighborhood of the Bronx (New York City) that can play the point with the best. She showed exactly why she’s the 2014 No. 3 ranked guard in the nation.

The excellent barbeque at Corky’s just south of Nashville in Williamson County (Tenn.), where this year’s National Exposure Basketball “Battle in the Boro” was contested, was out of sight, but it couldn’t compare to the home-cooked meals prepared on the court by the local area’s top girls club basketball teams in the country.

After what happened July 13-16 at the Battle in the Boro, it’s apparent for the time being, the power of girls basketball lies in the Southeast, Southwest and to some extent the Deep South.

In the end, it was the girls from just down the road in the Peachtree State that took home the hardware in the nation’s largest and one of its finest girls summer basketball tournaments.

Georgia Metros, led by USA Basketball Women's U18 National Team member and North Carolina-bound Allisha Gray (2013) from Sandersville (Ga.), defeated host Tennessee Flight Silver, 59-51, in the top division’s championship game of the 335-team tournament that attracted more college coaches than teams.

Part of the reason the more than 500 coaches come is that the Battle in the Boro has the best teams and players.

Besides Gray, who had 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocked shots in the title-game victory, several other USA Basketball team members shined.

Flight Silver’s two undeclared players from the U17 team, Kaela Davis of Suwanee (Ga.) and Rebecca Greenwell of Owensboro (Tenn.) both played well, particularly Davis, who is the daughter of former NBA player and Oakland McClymonds grad Antonio Davis.

Georgia AOT’s multi-talented Diamond DeShields also did nothing to detract from her being one of the top 2013 players in the nation.

The 6-foot-2 North Carolina-committed guard and one of only three high school members of the U19 World Championship Team put on a show and looked smooth as silk doing it in a 78-56 victory over a solid Epiphany Prince team out of New York City.

The charming and well-spoken DeShields (2013) from Norcross (Ga.), and the daughter of former MLB star Delino DeShields, registered a double-double 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

Erika McCall, an U17 team member from Ridgeview (Bakersfield, Calif.) who has Stanford, Connecticut, Duke and UCLA high on her list, played well in spurts for Cal Sparks Gold but was shut down as a post player in a game against Tennessee Flight Silver the caravan bailed on when Sparks was down 45-19 at the half.

Jordin Canada, a U16 team member from Windward (Los Angeles), had a tough outing in Sparks Gold’s loss to Flight Silver, but fared well with her slashing style and 3-point shooting earlier in the tournament.

Note: See Part 2 of this story that looks closer at the July 19-22 San Diego Classic , the July 23-25 Showtime National Championships at Santa Ana, the Next Level Grand Finale and the Summer in the City event.