The first session of the Nike Tournament of Champions didn't quite have the flash and pizzazz typical of the country's top December tournament.
It didn't drastically affect the competition; it just showed a slightly different landscape in the world of girls' basketball.
"I don't think you have a lot of stars in the 2010 class," Christ the King coach Bob Mackey said. "I don't think you've got as many prominent players. There are some very good players, but I don't think there are as many prominent. I think the talent is in the 2011, 2012 classes. I also think you're seeing a lot of very good players stepping up and they're not letting top players shine."
Sure, the 2010 class has its top players, but many of them weren't in attendance at the 2009 TOC. Some, like Stanford-bound Sara James, are in the second session that began Monday. Others, like Ronika Ransford, who is headed to Georgia, sat out with an injury while their teams continued on without them.
Still, many of the teams, especially in the Joe Smith Division, had younger players leading the charge -- division champion Mater Dei had junior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and sophomore Jordan Adams; Norcross had the dynamic freshman duo of Diamond DeShields and Kaela Davis; Bolingbrook's young pair of Ariel Massengale and Morgan Tuck continued to lead their charge.
"There's a lot of young talent here," Long Beach Poly coach Carl Buggs said. "I think some of the best players here might have been underclassmen. Whether it was Tina Charles or Maya Moore, you always have players that everybody knew. But I think most of the talent in the TOC is young."
While the tournament's general youth is partly a product of which teams were in attendance, it's quite possible that most any selection of teams would have produced at least a handful of young stars.
That said, the teams in the Joe Smith Division were mostly among the top 25 in the country. Many coaches believe the talent across the board is in the younger classes, no matter which part of the country you're pulling teams from. It means some of the more talented teams are in for roller-coaster seasons as they learn to play together, while others will be setting up for a few years of in-state or regional dominance.
"I think you're maybe missing a couple of teams because of the economy," Mackey said. "I think it's got a very West Coast flavor, but I don't think you're going to get a lot of other East Coast teams to come, because of the money. If this were a boys' tournament, everybody would be here.
"My boys' team's going to Missouri because everything's paid for, soup to nuts. Everybody's looking at me and I'm raising money trying to get [the girls] here. It's hard; it's a big sacrifice to get here."
Redan (Stone Mountain, Ga.) closed the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational championship on a 7-2 run for a 58-53 win Wednesday against Spring Valley (Columbia, S.C.). Aneesah Daniel led the Raiders with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Asia Dozier led Spring Valley with 18 points. Dozier and her Vikings teammates knocked off Peddie (Hightstown, N.J.) the previous night to advance to the championship.
The place to be
The T-Mobile Invitational is a key tournament for St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.) this year. After losing the TOC championship to Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), the Rams open Tuesday against Mt. Lebanon (Pittsburgh) for their first opportunity to regroup and refocus for the rest of the season. The winner will face the winner of the day's other game between Hoover (Birmingham, Ala.) and Hillsboro (Knoxville, Tenn.).
East Mecklenburg (Charlotte, N.C.) had quite the week two weeks ago. The Eagles' Dec. 15 win gave coach Brady Monismith his 100th career coaching win before his 30th birthday and then, two days later, they followed it up with a 64-52 victory against rival Butler (Matthews, N.C.). Aliyah Kilpatrick led the Eagles with 18 points, while Virginia Tech-bound senior Monet Tellier added 16. ... While most eyes in Phoenix were turned to the Mater Dei-St. Mary's championship, Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.) quietly finished third with a 48-46 win against Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.). Keitra Wallace, who was among those named to the Joe Smith Division's all-tournament team, led the Ladycats with 22 points. Junior Zantaya Davis scored 16 points and led Shabazz (Newark, N.J.) to a 49-32 victory Dec. 22 against University (Newark, N.J.). Freshman Rebecca Greenwell joined the 1,000-point club 10 games into her freshman season in Owensboro Catholic's 55-28 win Sunday against Hopkins County Central (Madisonville, Ky.). Greenwell, who scored 23 points in the win, has played varsity for Owensboro Catholic (Owensboro, Ky.) since her seventh-grade season.
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Mindi Rice is an ESPN HoopGurlz staff writer. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.