HoopGurlz: McDonald's All-American picks

First, a story.

Back in the spring of 2006, we went to see the great Elena Delle Donne play with Fencor at the Boo Williams Invitational in Hampton, Va. We fell in love with the girl running the team from the point, who played with such verve and panache. And we watched her grow as a player, until she pierced the sphere of elite players occupied by her club teammate.

Her name is Caroline Doty, of Doylestown, Pa., and, no matter the circumstances, to us she is a McDonald's All-American. She won't be among the 20 named on Feb. 19 to the East or West teams because she cannot play. She is nursing a knee damaged last fall during a soccer game.

But Doty is a McDonald's All-American, by any criteria - basketball accomplishment, academics, citizenry, body of work.

I've just completed my first tour of duty on the McDonald's All-American Selection Committee for girls and have to say, though awestruck by the responsibility and opportunity, am left a little empty.

The process is as comprehensive and fair as I can imagine. It starts with hundreds being nominated by consultants in every state, and that list being whittled to a final 100. We all get our say on the final 100, then vote that list down during the course of several weeks to a list of finalists. I am bound by the rules of the committee not to reveal that list and won't. From it, we select the honored 20, choosing two point guards, two shooting guards, two small forwards, two power forwards, two centers and placing them on the East or West team, the geography of neither being rigidly defined.

So, though I cannot imagine a better way, I'm left empty by the process. Everyone on my ballot, on which I consulted with Chris Hansen, the HoopGurlz National Director of Scouting, is extremely deserving. But there are others who, because of the various requirements, didn't fit and I wished they could have been. The short list includes Ayana Dunning of Columbus, Ohio; Shenise Johnson of Henrietta, N.Y.; Liz Lay of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Antonye Nyingifa of Redondo Beach, Calif.

And that list, of course, is headed by Caroline Doty.

I know, I know. If this is the way the East ends up being composed, there is only one word to describe this team, "Yikes!"

Four of the top five players in the HoopGurlz Hundred for 2008 are included in these picks. And the backcourt is so crowded, I had to shoehorn Tiffany Hayes of Winter Haven, Fla., our No. 11 prospect in 2008, in as a point guard, where she certainly can handle but it isn't her natural position. I couldn't, however, displace either Elena Delle Donne, our No. 1 player out of Wilmington, Del., or April Sykes, our No. 2 out of Crawford, Miss., could I?

One player certainly at home at the point is Samantha Prahalis, the Long Islander whom I once dubbed "The Show," and without whom I cannot imagine the McDonald's game on March 26 in Louisville.

To be honest, the other choices made themselves. Shekinna Stricklen of Morrilton, Ark., and Alicia Maning of Woodstock, Ga., at small forwards, though on this team they'll have to add to the overall ballhandling, of which they are immensely capable. Glory Johnson of Knoxville, Tenn., and LaSondra Barrett of Jackson, Miss., clearly are the best forwards east of the Mississippi. Lynetta Kizer of Dumfries, Va., is our No. 1 ranked post in 2008, and Chay Shegog of Stafford, Va., is No. 4.

At the 2-5 positions, this team is gigantic. It has some of the best shooters in the country, and the best offensive creator in Sykes. It doesn't, perhaps, have enough true ballhandlers, but an all-star game is hardly the environment in which a coaching staff will be able to install an effective press.

The "yikes" part of this team will be its ballhandlers. Part of this is because my imaginary line between East and West includes Ohio in the West. And therefore, the top point guard in the HoopGurlz Hundred, Shay Selby of Eudlid, Ohio, is on the West team.

But, just to add to the confusion, I listed Selby as a shooting guard. What, I was going to leave Destini Hughes of Kennedale, Texas, and Ashley Corral of Vancouver, Wash., off the team? After her surgically repaired ankles healed, Corral has been tearing apart the Pacific Northwest.

I'd stake a HoopGurlz t-shirt on the belief that mine is the only McDonald's ballot that included Kathleen Scheer of New Haven, Mo., but she is a 6-2 guard who can play forward and center and has had a dominating season. Speaking of dominating, the best player on what I believe is the best team in the country, Long Beach Poly, is Jasmine Dixon, who may end up being national player of the year. She gets a spot at small forward, as does Amber Gray of West Chester, Ohio, the West pick who ranks the highest, at No. 4, in the HoopGurlz Hundred.

Nneka Ogwumike of Cypress, Texas, and fellow Texan Brooklyn Pope of Dallas are as dynamic at power forward as Gray and Dixon are physical at small forward. Cierra Bravard of Sandusky, Ohio, is the No. 2 post in our rankings and Alyssia Brewer of Sapulpa, Okla., is a player who can slide into any of the three front-court slots.

This team does not share the size and bulk of the East, and probably does not match its outside marksmanship, but seven of the 10 surely can create their own shot, from the perimeter to the rim. It has ballhandling galore.

HoopGurlz.com East Picks

PG, Samantha Prahalis, Commack, NY
PG, Tiffany Hayes, Winter Haven, Fla.
SG, Elena Delle Donne, Wilmington, Del.
SG, April Sykes, Crawford, Miss.
SF, Shekinna Stricklen, Morrilton, Ark.
SF, Alicia Manning, Woodstock, Ga.
PF, Glory Johnson, Knoxville, Tenn.
PF, LaSondra Barrett, Jackson, Miss.
C, Lynetta Kizer, Dumfries, Va.
C, Chay Shegog, Stafford, Va.

HoopGurlz.com Wast Picks

PG, Destini Hughes, Kennedale, Texas
PG, Ashley Corral, Vancouver, Wash.
SG, Shay Selby, South Eudlid, Ohio
SG, Kathleen Scheer, New Haven, Mo.
SF, Amber Gray, West Chester, Ohio
SF, Jasmine Dixon, Long Beach, Calif.
PF, Brooklyn Pope, Dallas, Texas
PF, Nneka Ogwumike, Cypress, Texas
C, Cierra Bravard, Sandusky, Ohio
C, Alyssia Brewer, Sapulpa, Okla.

Glenn Nelson is the founder and publisher of HoopGurlz.com. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American Selection Committee, Parade All-American Selection Committee, SportsShooter.com, Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Photoshop Professionals, National Press Photographers Association, Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists and U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Glenn also founded and coached two select girl's basketball teams and previously was the editor-in-chief at Scout.com, a managing editor at Rivals.com, and a longtime, national-award-winning basketball columnist and writer for The Seattle Times. His work has appeared in several books and national magazines. He is co-author of "Rising Stars: The Ten Best Players in the NBA" (Rosen Publishing, 2002). For more on Glenn's World, click here. Glenn can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.