Alexis Jones is one of those players who is simply too good for her level -- not only are her skills way above her U13 classification, so is her basketball IQ.
This means the rising freshman at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, won't be playing for the DFW Elite U13s much longer. But while she does, she's a classic archetype. At 5-foot-8 in this age group, she can play guard or post. Defending on the perimeter, her quick left hand produces steal after steal; in the paint, her explosiveness makes it hard to enter the ball, and once there, to get the shot off.
On offense, Jones' court vision is superb. Unlike so many young players who have to use all their focus to control the ball and gain their balance, Jones is looking for a teammate almost as soon as the ball touches her hands. Unfortunately, her passes often wind up not being converted into layups, which is again a classic outcome when a superior player is playing a level too low.
There are some things Jones needs to work on: She's so in control at this age level that the left-hander relies exclusively on her dominant hand. She also takes plays off, and relies too heavily on her physical ability -- but when she turns it on, no one can stop her.
Most likely, Jones will rise to the challenge as she starts competing against older, stronger players, but for now, as an U13, she's one of those elite talents who only uses her gifts intermittently -- but they are so spectacular that it's hard to even complain.
Glenn Nelson's Rim Shots
• One of the more quiet recruiting tug-of-wars you'll ever see is taking place between Connecticut and Tennessee. It's only going unnoticed because the player at the center of this battle -- Taber Spani of Lee's Summit, Mo. -- has been flying a bit under the radar nationally. That won't last long. Neither will her No. 38 ranking in the HoopGurlz Super Sixty for 2009. Spani is 6-foot-1, long and strong, aggressive with the dribble and has good shooting form to beyond the arc. Both UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt were out to see her during a season when the lefty averaged 29.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 3.0 blocks and 2.4 steals for Metro Academy in Suwanee Mission, Kan. Both the big guns, Connecticut and Tennessee, are in Spani's final three, but so is Kansas State. Don't discount the Wildcats; her older sister, Shalin, plays for them and father, Gary, is a former K-State All-American.
• For the second time in three years, Auburn coach Nell Forner has snared a player nationally ranked by HoopGurlz.com. Two years ago, it was Alli Smalley, who was named a Young All-American this past season by Gballmag.com. Just this week, it was Blanche Alverson, a 6-foot-3 forward with a great stroke for whom similar honors can be imagined. The Buford, Ga., native had also considered: Arkansas, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Miami, Oregon, Penn State, Virginia and Virginia Tech .
• One player we will keep an eye on this weekend at the Nike Regional Skills Academy in Philadelphia is 5-foot-9 point guard Devon Kane. Ranked No. 51 in the Super Sixty for 2009, Kane suffered an ACL injury during the national AAU semifinals last summer, had surgery in August and, remarkably, was back on the court in six months. She has offers from Louisville, St. Joseph's and Villanova and strong interested from Notre Dame, Stanford and Penn State.
• We've already established 2009 is the Year of the Post and one of the prizes, 6-foot-4 Kelsey Smith of St. Charles, Ill., still has a 12-strong, national posse in pursuit. According to Smith, they are: Arizona State, DePaul, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kentucky, Louisville, Marquette, Michigan State, Pitt and Wisconsin.
• Inside-outside threat Zoe Rogers, a mainstay for national power Bellaire in the Houston area, has committed to Rice. A smooth, 6-foot-1 lefty who was MVP of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) Basketball Tournament, Rogers took unofficial visits to Rice, Georgetown and Miami before deciding to stay close to home, where both parents are Rice alums.
Clay Kallam is a columnist and contributor to ESPN's HoopGurlz.com. He is the founder of Full Court Press, an online magazine devoted to women's basketball; the author of "Girls Basketball: Building a Winning Program" and a voter for several national awards, including McDonald's and Parade All-Americans and the Wooden Award.
Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer.
For more in-depth coverage of women's college-basketball prospects and girl's basketball, visit HoopGurlz.com