The Best of Summer Series is all about celebrating the club circuit's lady road warriors who put their games on the line from the end of March until the end of July. Much of the hub-hub is about tall, dominating post players, the new wave of tall point guards, cat-quick wing players and shooters with length.
So with our next installment of the Best of Summer 2011, we give nods to the players who don't fit the prototype, yet still got it done in impressive fashion.
We gripe all summer about players not finishing with their left hand. Some players don't even bother to use it for a layup, even if it improves the angle and protects it from the help side defense. So maybe the easiest solution is to just have a couple of lefties on the team, like ESPN HoopGurlz evaluator, Lisa Bodine.
Lisa's 2011 All-Lefty Team
Danielle Ballard, Memphis Elite
Allisha Gray, Georgia Metros
Malina Howard, Sports City U
Alexis Jones, Texas Express
Kelsey Mitchell, All Ohio Black/Lady Wolves Elite
Zaire O'Neal, Gauchos 15U
Kelsey Plum, Wiggins Waves
Taya Reimer, Gym Rats-Riego/Midwest Elite
Jatarie White, Boo Williams
Peyton Whitted, GA Hoopstars
This year's All-Leftie Team has a little bit of everything; tough post players, lights-out shooters, dynamic scorers and smooth passers. Just imagine this southpaw squad on the floor as a real team -- they may never have to go to their right.
Three of the most explosive scorers in the country are in the group that scientists estimate comprise just 15 percent of the population (Scientific American Magazine online) -- Allisha Gray, Kelsey Mitchell and Alexis Jones. There's always been an unspoken assumption that lefties can shoot the ball. This trio certainly supports the generalization, as do Kelsey Plum and Peyton Whitted.
With true posts like Malina Howard, who got pulled off the circuit in mid-July to help the Stars and Stripes U19 national team win FIBA gold in Chile, and Jatarie White, who spent part of June in Mexico with the U16 national team winning FIBA gold and qualifying USA for next summer's U17 World's, the paint is locked down. With Taya Reimer and Whitted sporting length, agility and versatility at the forward spot, it might not matter which of the guards you roll out with them.
Lewis' Danielle Adams Team
Danielle Adams has had the kind of year that most players only dream about. After helping lead Texas A&M to the 2011 NCAA National Championship and being named a Division I State Farm Coaches' All-American, Adams has continued her banner year by being named a WNBA All-Star as a rookie and averaging 14.3 points per game thus far for the San Antonio Silver Stars.
Another thing the 6-foot-1 forward is doing is continually disproving the mindset that every effective player has to have the long, lean, prototypical size and build that seems to permeate most collegiate rosters. While these players won't be shopping in the petit section at Macy's, they spent the past summer proving their game still offers up some impressive, impact basketball.
Size and power, when combined with skills, becomes a recruiting commodity. Each one stands over 6-1 and plays with a physical stature and presence that's hard for opponents and college coaches to ignore.
Kristina Higgins rallied back in July after missing the entire spring circuit to make a major impact for a DFW T-Jack team that notched a Nike Nationals championship to its belt. Brionna Jones, on the other hand, represented in the post for the only team to beat T-Jack twice this summer, and she and her Fairfax Stars teammates did it in the same week.
If you're looking for a different skill set than bruising post players, watch a single game of the Arizona Warriors and marvel at Chantel Osahor. Or Nekia Jones, the 5-11 wing from Beaumont, Texas, who has a style she could trademark. Both have a flare for the dramatic and in between stroking 20-footers and rebounding on both ends, she does her own tributes to Samantha Prahalis and Shoni Schimmel by breaking out a killer cross and a no-look pass. Judging a book by its cover with this group not only gets you beat, you leave embarrassed for not showing respect.
Special Shorties of the Summer
Perhaps the most used cliché of recruiters is you can't teach size. But size without skill and heart isn't exactly the stuff that makes you fax a National Letter of Intent either. If Mugsy Bogues and Earl Boykin can make it in the NBA, Shannon Bobbit can win a national championship at Tennessee and play in the WNBA and Lorin Dixon can contribute to Connecticut's NCAA titles, then perhaps with some sound evaluation of skill and intangibles there are some outside-the-box guards out there who can help college teams win.
With that in mind, we salute the undersized guards who make being 5-4 (plus or minus an inch) nearly irrelevant.
Samirah Ali, Illinois Lady Lightning
Mei-Lyn Bautista, CAS Panthers
Nicole Bell, Sport City U
Morgan Bolton, 360 All-Stars
Lamaria Cole, Houston Elite
Bianca Cuevas, Exodus
Jordan Frazier, GA Hoopstars
Galaisha Goodhope, Boo Williams
Taryn Griffey, Georgia Ice
Breonn Hughey, DC Cobras
Brooke McCarty, CyFair Premier
Shayla Peoples, Philly Belles Flynn-Blue
Baylee Rexing, Georgia Ice
Brittany Stevens, GA Metros 15U
Chanel Stokes, Cincy's Finest
Aisha Turner, A.O.T. Lady Rebels
Kealana Veal, Louisiana Lady Heat
Brittany Webb, Spiece Gym Rats
Karlee Wilson, NW Blazers
If you can't teach size, then don't forget that speed is something that also has physical limitations, regardless of your amazing strength and conditioning staff. Bianca Cuevas, Brooke McCarty and Aisha Turner can flat out fly. Any size advantages you have can be nullified by quickness, speed and tenacity, all of which these three have.
Then there are players like Morgan Bolton and Karlee Wilson, who bring more skill to the table, along with a little chip on their respective shoulders, that propel their team regardless of the competition. Bolton has such great balance and strength that she creates separation with or without the ball. There may not be a better prospect in the class at using her body to control the offensive end of the floor. And when it comes to understanding space, Wilson knows exactly how much room she needs to get her jumper off and rip the net.
There may not be droves of collegiate All-Americans in the sub-5-6 mold, but you only need one and the heart that this particular group brings to the floor allowed it to outplay taller peers for much of the summer.
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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 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. 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.