Hi! My name is Dan Olson, and I spend 50 weeks a year traveling around the country evaluating girls' basketball players so I can provide player rankings to espnW and recruiting information to NCAA coaches. As you can imagine, during the course of my travels I constantly meet girls who tell me they want to play at UConn. Normally I'm immune. But not when the most popular 13-year-old athlete in the country tells ESPN this: "I want to go to UConn and be the point guard on the basketball team. That's, like, my dream and then go into the WNBA." That's how I found myself in Philadelphia watching Mo'ne Davis last week. The 2014 Little League World Series phenom is a freshman now, and she plays varsity for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. On this day, SCHA was visiting fellow Philly school Germantown. Here is what I saw.
It's not every day that you walk into a high school girls' basketball game and see a couple kids waving Sports Illustrated pictures of one of the players. In fact, I can't say it has ever happened to me. But sure enough, two young girls -- they were probably about 5 or 6 years old -- were sitting with their mom and dad showing their support for Mo'ne Davis, who in 2014 became the first girl to win a Little League World Series game.
I'll say this right off the bat: Davis needed their support. She is by far the best player on her team, which starts two other freshmen in addition to her. She also has the highest basketball IQ. In fact, her teammates often passed the ball to Davis and then actually brought the double team to her, forcing her into a trap.
The good news is that Davis is a capable ball handler. She got global attention on the diamond for the heat she can throw with her right hand, but when it comes to dribbling a basketball, she's pretty adept with both.
Her offensive game relies heavily on the dribble-drive. She sees the pressure, is explosive off the dribble and has creative one-on-one skills to find the rim. She does all this with a touch of the swagger you'd expect from a girl who has starred in a Spike Lee-directed national commercial.
Her perimeter game, though, needs work. Her shooting form is suspect, and she's more apt to drive to the basket than launch from afar. For the game, Davis was 1-for-8 from the floor (the "1" was a 3-pointer from the right corner) and scored five points.
On defense, Davis has all the tools to be a dominant stopper, but she doesn't seem to use them. At 5-foot-5, she's quick and agile, but intensity seemed to be missing as opponents drove by her several times.
Davis played the majority of minutes, but noticeably didn't join her teammates in their halftime layup lines. She also stayed on the bench during one timeout while even a player on crutches hobbled to join the huddle.
So, what does Davis need to do to make her dream of playing at UConn come true?
Let's start with her shot. Like many players trying to impress college coaches, Davis needs to hone her release off the dribble. On top of that, she needs to develop consistency. Many smaller players like Davis think dribble penetration is the key to scholarship offers, but being able to consistently knock down a midrange jumper would do a world of good. Davis is explosive off the dribble -- she can cross over, create and break down her defender -- now she needs to be able to drain the shot over and over and over again. And, for good measure, again.
No. 2, college coaches crave intensity in their prospects, a motor that never stops. As a point guard, Davis is the leader of her team, the motivator, the fire. Her intensity to compete needs to burn. Not only would college coaches take note, but it would rub off on her teammates as well.
Finally, Davis has to be killer on defense. She needs to instill fear in the opposition that she is going to steal the ball at any given time. Davis has the explosiveness, athleticism and anticipation to be a superb defender. Now she needs to put it all together.