CHANDLER, Ariz. -- The second day of action was more intense throughout the Nike Tournament of Champions with Saturday's winners doing battle in Monday's quarterfinals. Some of the opening round standouts repeated their praise-worthy efforts and a new quartet was selected as the daily Fab Four.
One of the most memorable performances of the day was that of Courtney Range, a 6-foot sophomore of St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.). Although her team's efforts fell short in a quarterfinal loss to Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.), Range was magnificent as she led her team in a valiant struggle. She proved herself to be a worthy leader and legitimate opponent.
Range's skill set is quite unique in that she is a true combo forward-guard who is a threat to put up points from anywhere on the court. She is long and lanky, yet athletic and graceful. She uses her tremendous reach and wingspan to scrape off every single rebound and control the boards. Offensively she can do just about everything in the halfcourt. Monday found her attacking the rim on numerous occasions. When the defense tried to force her to put the ball on the floor and take it a certain direction, Range simply read what the defense gave and blew by with that long first step of hers. It didn't matter if it she was attacking right or left, the result was the same -- points! When the defense spaced back to protect the lane she simply stepped behind the arc and drained a couple threes. No matter where she was on the court, Range was a threat. There may not be any hope of a championship trophy this week for the Rams, but the future looks extremely promising for Courtney Range.
The newest version of the twin towers in girls' high-school basketball is sowing its seeds in the Bay Area and more specifically Bishop O'Dowd High School. The anchor of this frontcourt powerhouse in the making is 6-1 Kendall Waters, and that height may be on the conservative side.
This sophomore post has the size and strength to play a physical brand of basketball at the next level. Waters moves incredibly well for a post and she is as comfortable attacking off the dribble from the high post as she is on the low block. The aforementioned strength leads to finishes in traffic and after fouls. On the defensive end she is a good rebounder and blocks shots as well as some of the taller post prospects in her class.
Waters' footwork is sound on most of her pivot moves once she has the rock. Where she needs to improve is before the catch. With a 6-3 running mate, fellow sophomore Oderah Chidom, the high-low potential is enough to make any coach excited. The reverse-pivot pin with a high target isn't there yet. And when Bishop O'Dowd gets Breanna Brown, its third 2013 post player, back from a meniscus tear, there may not be a more imposing frontcourt west of the Mississippi.
Any time that you go to the gym it's exciting to see advancement in the games of talented athletes. When you can see big steps taken by an elite athlete, well, that's something special. Adams' defensive performance in Monday's quarterfinal matchup with Monarch (Louisville, Colo.) was one of the most impressive efforts seen in club or high school ball in quite some time. Make no mistake, the 6-0 guard is already an exceptional defender. You don't play for a Kevin Kiernan-coached team and not excel at shutting down your opponent's offensive attack. What the fifth-ranked player in the ESPNU HoopGurlz Super 60 did was defend aggressively on the ball, close traps that forced multiple turnovers, anticipate off the ball like an All-Pro free safety and come up with more tips than a waiter in a first class restaurant.
The intensity level that Adams plays with at both ends of the floor virtually defines the word attack and puts her and her Mater Dei teammates in a position to create offense with their defense. Even on the bench she was still actively communicating with her teammates on the floor and offering defensive insight and direction against inbounds plays. The willingness to embrace and commit to limiting her opponents offensive options easily gives her one of the most versatile and well-rounded games among the top players in the 2012 class. It also gives the opposition an enormous headache.
Sometimes in basketball, the most important contribution a player can make doesn't show up in the box score. Windward (Los Angeles, Calf.) sophomore guard Courtney Jaco had that type of game against Carondolet (Concord, Calf.) in the John Anderson Division quarterfinal matchup. Jaco is a very capable offensive player who wasn't afraid to shoot the ball, especially when she saw an opening in the defense that she could exploit. While her offensive contributions were important to her team it was her attention to detail on defense that keyed Windward's victory.
Windward basically went flat defensively during the third quarter, with the exception of Jaco, who continued to hustle and stay active. She never gave up on her teammates and it was clear that they were feeding off her energy, especially after she knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. She displayed a great deal of versatility as a guard, even though she is primarily a shooting guard, she was able to help with the ball handling duties, especially when the other guards struggled. Jaco displayed the type of leadership skills and mental focus that Winward will need to stay in the winner's bracket for the rest of the tournament.
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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. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
Kara (Harrison) Howe founded and coached in the Utah Sky club program, which sent several players, including sister Michelle, now a junior at Stanford, to Division I schools. She played college basketball at Utah Valley State, was an all-state performer at Alta High School in Sandy, Utah, and coached high school in the Salt Lake area. Howe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.