This weekend marks an official change in the focus of the women's basketball recruiting world. College coaches from around the country will be in one of a handful of locations in an attempt to watch what they hope will be the future of their programs.
For the past 24 months, we have put a sharp focus on the class of 2011. We have analyzed their play and even followed some of them to another parts of the world (France for the 2010 U17 FIBA Worlds) as they competed against other countries in FIBA competitions.
That group has moved on, and this weekend, we turn our attention to the classes of 2012 and 2013 and begin a 12-month look into how these classes are shaping up.
Previous classes have been heavy at one position or provided depth beyond the elites in another. The class of 2010 was the class of the point guard. In 2009 the depth of the class was found in the post. As we hit the road this spring we start with some strong ideas about the next two classes.
Rising Seniors -- Class of 2012
The class of 2012 is shaping up to be the year of the wing, highlighting the depth of both the classical shooting guard and small forward positions.
When looking at the class as a whole, 10 of the top 20 in the ESPNU HoopGurlz super 60 are traditional wings in addition, Alexis Jones has about as much combo guard ability as anyone in the country making a strong case to push the number to 11. While there is certainly strength at the top of the class, it is the depth throughout the Super 60 and the next group of kids on the cusp looking to make a case for the top 100 who really make the wing position the strength of the class. Here's a look at the diverse group of wings representing the class of 2012.
Different styles of play
There is no absence of quality wing scorers in this class. The firepower can be found in a variety of different molds. Take the smooth athleticism of Brianna Butler for starters. She possesses the ability to force a defense to pay for even the smallest of spaces with her advanced ballhandling ability and controlled pace.
Or Texas A&M commit Courtney Williams, who has been known to light up a score board with her ability to create a shot at anytime.
Brittney Martin, once committed to in-state Utah but has since reopened her recruitment, is also one to keep an eye on as she has shown that she can score against the best and isn't afraid to go into the lane or post up.
Finally, the discussion of 2012 scorers has to include Canadian import Nirra Fields who paced her Canadian national team this summer in France and led the event in scoring.
No shortage of athleticism
Some of the best athletes in the class of 2012 are playing at the wing position, which does nothing but add to the impact this class may have at the next level. A pair of Pennsylvania prospects, Sierra Moore and Kahleah Copper, are right at the top of list in this category, while Houston's Jesseika Palmer is right there in the discussion. All three have the ability to provide a team with great versatility with their ability to make plays on both sides of the ball and create mismatches with their speed and quickness.
Shooting is at a premium
No conversation about wing play can be complete without the mention of the great perimeter shooters in the class.
Chandler Cooper may be the best shooter, but Peyton Little and Alexa Coulombe are on her heels in this category. All three possess great size in addition to offering more than just a standstill spot shooter offensively.
Little has the ability to play the role of combo guard at times and has proven that she can run a team when needed. Coulombe and Cooper are more traditional wings, and both can score the basketball on the move in addition to spot-up situations.
Rising Juniors -- Class of 2013
Looking ahead, the 2013 class is coming together as the class of post depth. While the 2012 class does offer talent at the top of the post class, early on the prognosis is the rising juniors offer a larger number of interior players who can make an impact in major conferences. This should allow the teams in the middle of the pack of the power conferences that feel they are a big away to realistically compete with the tops of their conferences.
Size and power
There are seven players checking in at 6-foot-4 or taller from the pool tabbed with a four-star preliminary rating. Another six from that group are listed at 6-3.
With so many post players abandoning their back-to-the-basket games in an attempt to become perimeter players, college coaches often complain the game today lacks enough real posts. Perhaps it is that sentiment that led Texas to extend and early offer to in-state prospect Jada Terry, a 6-foot-3 post from Cedar Hill.
Setting the tone in this 2013 class are a pair of power players -- Alaina Coates of South Carolina and Kendall Cooper of California -- who continue to use their physical gifts to get buckets from the paint. That's not to say these two aren't athletic, both are praised for there ability to run the floor from the center position, but the value of a player who can drop step with authority is understated across the grassroots landscape.
Infinity Alston of Maryland and Lubirdia Gordon of New York, hit the court at 6-foot-5, and make a living off of deep post position. Alston has the size and strength to work her way in for deep post position while Gordon can beat her defender to get that position early. Finally, there may not be a better post scorer in the class than Kristina Nelson from Georgia.
Indianapolis, Ind., and Portland, Ore., aren't in the same region, but each city offers a versatile forward prospect with plenty of similarities. Taya Reimer has set the bar high for 2013 frontcourt players in the Midwest while Kailee Johnson has put the West Coast on notice that it too has elite interior talent.
The most encouraging thing for these two, besides the dramatic increase in confidence, is that they haven't abandoned scoring inside as they have developed the ability to handle the ball away from the basket and shoot from range.
The waiting game
For the most part, post players take longer to develop so the competition at the top of the class could change dramatically over the next 18 months.
Players like Oderah Chidom from California, A'lexus Harrison of Maryland, and Malayna Johnson from Illinois, have tremendous athleticism and are just scratching the surface on the type of players they can become.
It's going to be a fun ride to follow this class as a whole, especially with so many promising post players in the mix.
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Keil Moore is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report - a division of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Moore has been involved in the community since 2007 as a recruiting analyst and trainer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.