Best of summer defenders and passers

Chicago's Linnae Harper earned a reputation with USA Basketball and the Lady Fire for her dogged defensive skills. Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com

As coaches, players or fans, we all know a thing or two about those intense, late-game timeouts. Somewhere along the line we heard or uttered this phrase: We need to get a stop!

Getting stops is usually about a collective effort of five players on the same page, executing team-defensive principles and giving us interesting names for those defenses, such as amoeba. But this is the ESPN HoopGurlz Best of Summer 2011, and defense and summer basketball are seen together in public as often as winner of "The Bachelorette" and her hubby-to-be.

We get it; the name of the game is to put the ball in the basket, but we also love watching teams like DFW T-Jack from Texas and the Lady Fire from Illinois because of their defensive swagger. It's with teams like this in mind that we carve out some space here in Best of Summer to celebrate those individuals who bring the D, whether their teammates do or not.

Team Lockdown

Candice Agee, West Coast Premier
Alexis Bando, Team Concept Heat
Jada Butts, Cy-Fair 15U Mickens
Oderah Chidom, Cal Storm
Tessa Cichy, North Tartan
Kendall Cooper, Cal Storm Taurasi
Te'a Cooper, A.O.T. Lady Rebels
Ashley Eli, DFW T-Jack
Darius Faulk, Exodus NYC
Jordan Frazier, Georgia Hoopstars
Destinie Gibbs, Georgia ICE
Jordan Jones, DFW T-Jack
Linnae Harper, Lady Fire
Lauren Holiday, West Coast Premier

Tatianna Jackson, Georgia Hoopstars
Jonquel Jones, BWSL-Maryland
Macy Keen, Below The Rim
Tyshell King, Team Unique
Jewell Loyd, Midwest Elite

Teanna Muldrow, NJ Sparks
Zaire O'Neal, Gauchos Orange
Sasha Orr, Team Unique
Alexis Peterson, Sports City U
Mercedes Russell, Shot Blocker
Khadijah Shumpert, North Tartan
Vanessa Smith All Ohio
Chanel Stokes, Cincinnati's Finest
Brittney Sykes, Philly Belles
Aisha Turner, AOT Celtics
Brianna Turner, DFW Washington/T-Jack
Courtney Walker, DFW T-Jack
Cortnee Walton, AZ Warrior
Halee Washington, Arkansas Mavericks
Sasha Weber, Tree of Hope
Danielle Williams AZ Warriors
Dominique Williams AZ Warriors

The list is longer than many of you expected, but it's because these defensive dynamos come in different variations, almost like buying a new car. You get different options.

The easiest of these defensive artists are the shot blockers. From 6-foot-6 Candice Agee, to a pair of 6-5 shot-erasers like Macy Keen and Mercedes Russell, their wingspan and timing combined make for an intimidating day at the office for would-be drivers and slashers. And does anyone else have a problem with Keen playing a team named BTR, which stands for Below The Rim, when her length and leaping ability regularly have her in the area normally reserved for Brittney Griner and few others?

Shot blockers alone don't make defenses great because teams which can shoot it from long range will just pull the trigger from behind the arc. What is paramount is ball pressure and few apply it like Lauren Holiday and Sasha Weber out West, or Darius Faulk and Brittney Sykes in the Northeast or Te'a Cooper and Aisha Turner in the Southeast.

Then there are those who do all the little things, like move with the ball from one-pass away to weak side help or maintain perfect angles when jump-doubling the ball. It's with these things in mind that we acknowledge perhaps the best duo as a collective unit, Danielle and Dominique Williams. The twins could make instruction videos on how to execute the run and jump defense and torment opposing ball handlers. And others like Tessa Cichy and Ashley Eli are so good at playing on the weak side, they actually make good on the cliché coaching ploy of asking each player to take at least one charge a game.

Dishing It Out

Our first Best of Summer piece put the spotlight on the shooters and those with nice handle, but much like the underappreciated value of good defense, passing gets overlooked. For every scorer who uses their speed in transition or their strength to face-cut the defense to get open in the lane, someone has to deliver the ball.

Ashley Alexander, Houston Wildcats
Lindsay Allen, Team Unique
Morgan Bolton, 360 All-Stars
N'Dea Bryant, Low Country Ballers
Jadda Buckley, All Iowa
Kayla Burton, Bay State Jaguars
Chadarryl Clay, Georgia Elite
Bianca Cuevas, Exodus
Lianna Doty, Team adidas St. Louis
Gabby Green, EBX
Joanna Hedstrom, North Tartan

Lauren Holiday, West Coast Premier
Hannah Huffman, EBX
Moriah Jefferson, DFW T-Jack
Niya Johnson, Essence Purple
Alexis Jones, Cardinals
Kelli Kingma, Tree of Hope
Aaliyah Lewis, Ring City
Jewell Loyd, Midwest Elite
Brooke McCarty, CyFair Premier
Kelsey Mitchell, All Ohio
Kelsey Moos, Northwest Blazers
Chantel Osahor, AZ Warriors
Janae Thompson, Lady Fire
Kindred Wesemann, MoKan Eclipse

Some have the gift of making passing exciting -- the players who made the basketball world develop new slang for an assist: The dime. While players like Morgan Bolton, Kayla Burton and Janae Thompson can ignite a crowd with a no-look pass or even wrapping the ball around the help defender to find an open teammate, others can be equally as effective without the hoopla from the bleachers.

If you know who Kelsey Moos is, then you appreciate frontcourt players who do more than rebound and power up from the blocks. And while Lindsay Allen can make an electric pass, it is her timing in distributing the ball even before a pass leads to a score that sets her apart. And you can put Jewell Loyd in that category as well.

But who are we kidding? To get noticed for your passing, you have to be really good and those players tend to come with enough swagger to entertain us while doing their thing. The Brooke McCarty show is always worth the price of admission and fellow Texan Moriah Jefferson can collapse three or four defenders and still find a way to deliver the ball to the duck-in post.

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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 lisa@hoopgurlz.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. Hansen can be reached at chris.hansen@espn.com.

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 mark@hoopgurlz.com.

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 kmoore@peachstatehoops.com.

Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.