MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis means barbecue, Beale Street, Sun Studios, Elvis and, of course, the River City Classic. Last week 171 teams converged on the city next to the Mississippi River and put on a show that would have made the King proud. The results were the same as usual with California Swish winning their fifth consecutive title and a lot of the outstanding players were already on the map. There were, however, a few new ones worth noting as well as the competition got almost as hot as the Mid-South weather. The following were just some of the athletes who left their opponents singing the blues!!
Sydney Wilson, a 6-6 post playing for the Fairfax Stars Elite, makes coaches and opponents alike set up and take a look when she walks in the gym. Blessed with the size, build and mobility a recruiter would order off a menu, she has the tools to be dominant in the paint. At this point her basketball skills have not caught up with her physical attributes. Her court vision and passing skills are outstanding, but that's not the first thing you want from a post this size. When she becomes a consistent post up threat on the low block, she'll have the ability to control the outcome of games. A lot of big guns are at her door and her best basketball is well in front of her.
Five-foot-ten guard Nicolle Thomas of the Georgia Blazers Red has the physical build to be in training camp with the NFL folks this week. She has the combination of strength and quickness that will serve this Auburn commitment well in the rough and tough SEC. A very vocal player, Thomas can set the tempo for her team with her leadership as well as her play. She'll have to distribute the ball a lot more at the next level, but she has all the tools to draw defenders and set up her teammates.
Pascale West, a 6-7 post with the Georgia Blazers Red has all the tools to make her future something special. At this point she's still early in the development stage. However, each time out continues to show improvement and make some plays that give you a glimpse of the future. To take advantage of her size and length she'll have to look for and demand the ball more. Once she does, defenses are going to have to collapse around her and she'll be playing with some happy shooting guards. The flashes she's shown of aggressiveness will have to become a constant in her game for her to make the most of her potential.
Six-foot forward Sweets Underwood of Hoop4Life Black is an explosive athlete that's just beginning to learn the game. She has the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive and can even help out the guards a bit in transition. She's an effective rebounder at the defensive end and triggers the break with her vision up floor. She does tend to fall away on some of her attempts offensively which may limit her O boards, but she's a dynamic and attacking force. She could be a steal in the recruiting race with the growth yet to come in her play.
Tania Jackson, the KC Hustle's 6-2 wing, showed a tremendous amount of versatility in Memphis. Combining good size with solid perimeter skills, she's a challenging match up for defenders. On the block or away from the rim she has lots of tools. Making it even tougher for opponents is her athleticism and willingness to run the floor. If that's not enough, she's got a good stroke that forces opponents to close out.
Sarah Watkins, a 6-3 Forward with the Memphis Elite Platinum 91 and University of Arkansas commitment, has the size, build, skills and range to be an impact player. In other words, ranked number 82 in the ESPN HoopGurlz Top 100, she has it all. What sets her apart from other skilled players is her ability to create her own looks. With and without the ball she's active and forces defensive adjustments. She can work in the paint as well as knock down perimeter shots. She scored well in Memphis on very limited playing time and will have an even greater impact when she's on the floor longer.
Five-foot-ten Tayler Hill, the Minnesota NC Heat guard and 10th ranked player in the ESPN HoopGurlz Top 100, consistently scores in more ways than any player on the floor. One time it's from penetration, the next she pulls up and then next time she buries it from long range. Her ballhandling skills could allow her to play any position on the perimeter but it wouldn't seem wise to have her at the point giving it up. Scorers like her should be on the receiving end of more passes. She led the Heat to the semi finals in Memphis where they fell to eventual champion Cal Swish Black.
Megan Nipe, a 6-0 wing for the Minnesota NC Heat, stepped up her a game a notch in the River City Classic. Playing alongside teammate Tayler Hill, she's often overlooked and that's a big mistake for opposing defenses. She's got a good touch, fundamental skills and plays a very smart game. Speed may be an issue down the road but she seems to make up for it defensively with good footwork and spacing. The Heat would have had a shorter run without her play and she may get a lot more interest from the college recruiters because of it.
Adrienne Pratcher, the 5-7 point guard for the MSA Bobcats Gold, has that good quickness and strength that seems to be in demand these days. Utilizing a good first step she gets by defenders again and again and creates a lot of scoring opportunities for herself and her Bobcat teammates. She can get to the rim and finish, but she also has a solid pull up. She'll have to give it up more at the next level with the size of the help that will rotate her way, but it shouldn't be a problem as she already threads the needle with some pretty solid passing.
Five-foot-eight guard Jasmine Smith of the Oklahoma Trotters may have been one of the biggest eye openers of the tournament. An explosive athlete, she has the ability to impact the game from every position. Jumping center and rebounding with the bigs wasn't an issue and time and again she got to the rim and finished over defenders. Her perimeter shot was not on display due to her penetration and could be a question mark if not at least a credible threat. Defensively, her on ball pressure and quickness created turnovers and nightmares for opponents. The phone should be ringing off the hook August 1st.
Five-five point guard Taylor Thompson of the Oklahoma Trotters left her mark in both the semi final and championship game through penetration. She demonstrated an ability to get by defenders and get to the hole almost at will. Her 16 second half points almost single handedly put away Full Package. Adding 12 more in the final she once again got deep in the paint on multiple possessions while teammate Jasmine Smith struggled. Size could be an issue at the next level, but it sure wasn't in Memphis.
Six-three forward Lauren March of the Tennessee Flight Blue was impressive both on the wing and in the post. Her size and athleticism make her a tough assignment for defenders. Having perimeter skills that are not only fundamental, but refined as well, makes her a smooth threat outside the paint. The quickness she showed inside let her roam the lane effectively and rebound almost at will. She didn't have to shoot the outside jumper often but showed solid form on her 10 footers and in.
Kaitlyn Peterson, a 5-7 point guard with TISN Gold, was impressive in every way a coach wants a point guard to be. Her skills, which really speak for themselves, were really secondary to her instincts. It seems to be a rare find these days when you come across appoint who anticipates and creates the way she does. To make that even more impressive, she attacks constantly keeping defenders on their heels. Athletically she has good, sound speed and quickness and could sneak up some recruiting depth charts.
Jacqui Marshall, a 6-2 forward for TISN Gold, holds down the number 80 spot in the ESPNHoopGurlz pre-summer Top 100. Her fundamental and consistent play showed why the University of San Diego should be smiling with her verbal commitment. Textbook skills combined with good size make her effective both down low and in the high post. She showed an ability to make the smart pass from the elbows as well. She'll need to play a more physical game when she heads down I-5 but she certainly has the solid build to mix it up.