NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Some of the players who stood out on Day One at Nike Nationals.
Rebekah Dahlman (Braham, Minn.), North Tartan: You have to love Rebekah Dahlman's approach to the game – because she always seems to be in the middle of every play when she is on the court for North Tartan. The 5-foot-11 combo guard's demeanor and focus never seems to change, no matter what she is asked to do during the game. Her ability to handle the basketball under pressure and pass on the move help North Tartan set up their primary and secondary breaks. Dahlman also can score the basketball in several ways -- her first step is quick enough to break down most defenders and make shots in traffic. When she plays off the ball her confidence as a jump shooter stands out, she knows how to get good looks at the basket and isn't afraid to take a big shot when her team needs one. In a tough loss to Cal Swish, Dahlman made play after play to keep the game close and never stopped competing until the final buzzer.
-- Lisa Bodine
Claire Till (Dubuque, Iowa), All Iowa Attack: This 6-foot combo guard has a solid build and causes mismatch problems everywhere on the floor. She is really efficient at reading the defense to set herself up for an open look. If you close out on her too fast she will not hesitate to blow by and finish for an easy basket. Till is a feisty player player who spends most of her time diving for loose balls or making hustle plays to help her team. Her defensive foot work is impressive for her size and she uses her upper body strength to gain the advantage on smaller guards. With no signs of jet lag in sight in their first game, we can expect an exciting tournament from Till And the All Iowa Attack.
-- Rebecca Gray
Brionna Jones (HavreDe Grace, Md.), Fairfax Stars: If you were looking for a dominating performance in the post, then the morning session offered you a great option, Jones. The 6-3 post was a force in the paint against the Cal Swish and didn't let a possession pass where her size advantage wasn't a factor scoring or rebounding. Perhaps she was making up for her team having a bye in the evening session but she put in plenty of work in the a.m. With the perimeter play about a draw with the Swish, Jones was the difference-maker that allowed Fairfax to pull away from the sharpshooting Swish. She finished with good touch whether she had a seal and angle or if she had defenders hanging on her. With the tempo controlled by the Stars, Jones was sensational and a big reason her team started pool play with a win.
-- Chris Hansen
LaQuanda Younger (Newport News, Va.), Boo Williams Summer League: While the summer has proven to be more of a challenge for Boo Williams than in years past there has been some impressive play coming from this Old Dominion University-bound prospect. Younger picked up here in Augusta where she had left off last week competing in the USJN Championships in Washington, D.C., offering up an aggressive, physical and very productive effort each time out. The versatile attack of this 5-9 guard has her penetrating effectively in traffic and comfortably handling the bigs that might want to put a body on her. Her ballhandling is sound and sets up her own looks as well as creating opportunities for both interior and perimeter teammates. She can handle it in transition herself or use her speed to get out in the lanes keeping defenders on their toes and dealing with numbers situations. From the perimeter she's comfortable and consistent from midrange pull-ups all the way out to spotting up behind the arch. On the defensive end the combination of lateral speed and physical strength puts her in a position to match up with smaller guards or even take on a few wings that add some extra size to the equation.
-- Mark Lewis
Off the Rim
After giving up its spot in the Nike Summer Showcase, the last thing anyone expected was the Illinois Hustle putting away Cy-Fair in the Nike Nationals pool play, but a flat performance from the Texans and a fearless approach from the Hustle shook up Pool B. ... Thirty-two percent of the players listed on the rosters being shown as member of the 2013 graduating class. ... Candice Agee was the most dominant player in the paint in the morning on Court 3. She finished with 22 in the win over the Metros. ... It still ended with a loss, but Taylor Rooks got two shots to be a heroin for Ring City 15U, making good on the second chance, driving the length of the court and burying a three from the top of the key at the buzzer to force OT with Essence. ... The play on Court 4 in the evening session was highlighted by turnovers and poor shot selection that could prove costly for all the teams as they move deeper into the tournament. … Monique Billings of West Coast Premier hosted a block party in the lane against Boo Williams as she rejected eight shots in their win. ... Smothering pressure defense led by Latrice Hunter and Tay Taylor of BWSL 15s is exciting to watch unless you are the opponent. ... Shaya Kellogg, a 2013 from All Iowa Attack, battled in the paint against 2012 Bashara Graves, Kellogg went right at her and never backed down.
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Lisa Bodine is a national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. A native of Queens, N.Y., she began her coaching career in 1993 with the NY Gazelles, has coached with D.C.-based Team Unique, and in 2009 she was named DAC Co-Coach of the Year after leading Wakefield Country Day School in Flint Hill, Va., to its first-ever conference title. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Rebecca Gray is an intern for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously wrote a column for the website about her experiences as a freshman on basketball scholarship at the University of North Carolina. She transferred to and played at Kentucky and now plays basketball and golf at Union College. A 5-foot-10, sharp-shooting guard out of Georgetown, Ky., Gray was named Miss Basketball in the state of Kentucky after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 4.8 assists during her senior season at Scott County High School. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.
Mark Lewis is the national recruiting coordinator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.