Editor's note: ESPN will release the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national girls' basketball rankings each Wednesday of the season. Click here for the regional rankings.
During the holidays, the high school season becomes very much like the season for movie releases -- high on dramatic pairings and coming attractions.
Nowhere is that more true than at the Nike Tournament of Champions, the grand dame of all girl's high-school basketball events. Speaking of coming attractions, this year's field includes Samarie Walker of Chaminade-Jullienne, the No. 1 prospect in the ESPN HoopGurlz Super Sixty for 2010, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of Mater Dei, a prime candidate for the No. 1 ranking in 2011. Both are among the most scintillating scorers to emerge on the prep level.
This year's tournament, held Dec. 18-22 in Chandler, Ariz., also includes 17 of the top 37 ESPN RISE Fab 50 teams. Thirteen of the teams are in the elite Joe Smith Division, named for the legendary sports journalist who died in 2007. The other four are in the Mike Desper Division, named for the former Chandler (Ariz.) High School coach.
Beginning with the nation's consensus No. 1 team, the TOC roll call is like a who's who of the country's best and brightest:
No. 1 St. Mary's of Stockton, Calif. (Smith)
No. 4 Long Beach Poly of Long Beach, Calif. (Smith)
No. 5 Regis Jesuit of Aurora, Colo. (Smith)
No. 7 Christ the King of Middle Village, N.Y. (Smith)
No. 15 Dallas Lincoln of Dallas, Texas (Smith)
No. 10 Cardinal O'Hara of Springfield, Pa. (Smith)
No. 11 H.D. Woodson of Washington, D.C. (Smith)
No. 14 Bolingbrook of Bolingbrook, Ill. (Smith)
No. 17 Bishop McGuinness of Kernersville, N.C. (Smith)
No. 21 Archbishop Carroll of Radnor, Pa. (Desper)
No. 24 Oak Hill of Mouth of Wilson, Va. (Desper)
No. 25 Wesleyan of Norcross, Ga. (Smith)
No. 26 Highlands Ranch of Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Desper)
No. 27 Chaminade-Julienne of Dayton, Ohio (Smith)
No. 29 Brea-Olinda of Brea, Calif. (Smith)
No. 31 Riverdale Baptist of Upper Marlboro, Md. (Smith)
No. 37 Jefferson of Portland, Ore. (Desper)
As the TOC typically is the place where national championship dreams are either validated or buried, title hopes will be snuffed in five first-round matchups of ranked teams in the Smith Division alone. On Dec. 18 at the main gym in Chandler High School, Long Beach Poly plays Chaminade-Julienne, Bolingbrook clashes with Riverdale Baptist, Cardinal O'Hara takes on Dallas Lincoln, Wesleyan matches up against Brea-Olinda and, in what looks like the day's marquee matchup, Regis Jesuit plays Bishop McGuinness.
If the brackets stay true to form, Poly will be going for its second straight TOC title against No. 1 St. Mary's on Monday, Dec. 22.
With the Thanksgiving holiday passed and December upon the prep basketball world, many programs are finally getting a start on games. The majority of the West Region kicks off this week, including a Wednesday season opener between regionally ranked Washington programs Auburn Riverside and Snohomish. The game will feature a matchup between future teammates Nichole Jackson of Riverside and Karley Lampman of Snohomish, both of whom signed with Portland State.
Off the Bounce
Tayler Hill, the No. 12 prospect in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred, scored her 3,000th career point against Hopkins at the Thanksgiving Tip-Off Tournament at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. However, her team, Minneapolis South, lost the game to fall two spots to No. 44. No. 18 Whitney Young continued to make a case for being the best team in powerful Illinois by winning its own holiday tournament, beating Montini Catholic and its spate of likely Division I prospects. Senior center Porsha Harris missed the final 10:31 after suffering an ankle injury, but still had 17 points and nine rebounds to pace the Dolphins' 58-39 victory. Meanwhile, Bolingbrook, the Dolphins' main competition for state supremacy, suffered yet another setback (it tumbled from its preseason No. 2 ranking after losing to Ben Davis of Indianapolis), learning that fabulous frosh Morgan Tuck likely is out 2-4 weeks with a ligament strain in her right knee, suffered during the loss to Ben Davis. The injury could seriously hamper Bolingbrook's national ambitions as Tuck probably will miss the Nike TOC and its slew of nationally ranked teams. Wesleyan of Norcross, Ga., drops three spots to No. 25 after a loss to crosstown rival Norcross. Millington (Tenn.) falls a single spot to No. 32 after a loss to Central High of Memphis in the Hall of Champions tournament on Nov. 21. The game was considered an "exhibition" since it was Millington's second game in six hours, but our stance is that both teams suited up and took the court, so we're taking note of the contest -- as well as the circumstances.
The first superpowers clash of the season should happen Friday night as No. 1 St. Mary's of Stockton, Calif., and No. 5 Regis Jesuit of Aurora, Colo., are expected to advance to the semifinals of the Northwest Nike Invitational at Southridge High School in Beaverton, Ore. In addition to the hosts, which are the four-time defending Oregon State 6A champs, the field includes Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.) and Kate Lanz, an Oregon State signee; Kentwood (Wash.) and Nebraska signee Lindsey Moore, No. 97 in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred, and Sacramento (Calif.) and its two 2010 studs, Erica Barnes and Brittany Shine.
The Indiana-Illinois competition is going to be tough and frequent this year and this week is no exception. Three-time 2A Indian champion, No. 28 Heritage Christian, of Indianapolis, will get its toughest challenge yet when No. 18 Whitney Young, of Chicago, pays a visit Friday. Both teams are perfect thus far in the season, with Young at 6-0 and Heritage Christian at 3-0.
Hello, again, to Mansfield Timberview, which returns to the Fab 50 after bouncing back from its lone loss with three solid wins. Another Texas team, Nimitz of Houston, debuts at No. 50 after following up a one-point loss to No. 23 Dulles with two solid victories. Behind the No. 1 player in the country, Brittney Griner, Nimitz also got off to a strong start which included an eight-point triumph over tough North Shore.
Say goodbye to previous No. 36 Waco Midway, which drops from the rankings after a second loss during the early going. St. Paul (Minn.) Central, previously No. 46, also drops out after a 12-point loss to Centennial of Circle Pines, Minn.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Records through Nov. 30.