I managed to catch most of the games and all of the games involving highly rated teams and/or highly rated individual players. Purdue assistant coaches were in attendance on Saturday (Katrina Merriweather) and Monday (Kelly Curry) along with many other college head coaches or assistant coaches. Most Big Ten schools were represented with Iowa's Lisa Bluder in attendance on Saturday and Wisconsin's Lisa Stone in attendance on Monday. DePaul's Doug Bruno attended Saturday and Monday. Here's my observations.
1) Girls H.S. BBall continues to improve significantly year over year.
2) Illinois' Girls BBall is very strong and reasonably balanced. The 6th rated team in Illinois, New Trier, who has lost four games, defeated the #3 rated team in the country (#1 team in Missouri) at the buzzer on Saturday Fenwick, the #3 rated team in Illinois, dominated the Missouri team in the 4th quarter to win by 16 points.
3) Danielle Campbell isn't the best player on her Chicago Whitney Young team. 6'1 junior Amanda Thompson is a much more complete player than Danielle. Hopefully, Purdue uses its relationship with Danielle to help recruit her teammate who is considered one of the top juniors in the country. I haven't seen any comment about who is recriting Amanda Thompson, but she is a player who is a lot more aggressive than Danielle who I was disappointed with. I saw her last year at the same event and I was more impressed last year. Her team is better this year, so some of the focus is off of Danielle, however she will be a project when she gets to Purdue and will need to hit the weights big time or she will get pushed around at will.
4) 5'8 sophomore Sydney Smallbone of South Bend St. Joe's is a nice player who is the best player on a good St. Joe's team. St Joe's beat an average Chicago St. Ignatius team handily after St. I's best player injured her knee in the second quarter. I wasn't wowed by Sydney, but she plays with a lot of composure as a sophomore and appears to be a very heady player with a good outside shot.
5) 6'5 Indianapolis North Central junior Amber Harris is a very talented, but immature player. She was constantly complaining about referees' calls or non-calls and was very moody on the court. She got in foul trouble in both games that she played which was primarily the result of her trying to strip the basketball from opposing guards in the backcourt. Her attitude wasn't helped by the North Central coaches who spent way too much time complaining and whining when they should have been coaching. I was expecting to see a player who rivaled Candace Parker at the same stage of their careers and I was very disappointed. I would put Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton ahead of Amber at this stage of their careers. Amber doesn't seem to be enjoying herself when she is playing BBall which is not something that I would say about any of the great players that I have seen in the past and is certainly not something that I would say about any of the great teams that I have seen. The attitude difference between the North Central team and the very good teams that were at the McDonald's shootout was very apparant. I put this problem on the N.C. coaches.
6) The best high school junior at the shootout was D.D. Jernigan from East Chicago, Indiana. She is a very special player who reminds me of Shereka Wright. D.D. is very similar in stature (5'10 and slender build) as Shereka and is fearless. She is probably a better ballhandler and outside shooter than Shereka was, but doesn't have quite the same ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line. D.D. scored 17 points in the first half against Illinois' Sandburg H.S. which is rated #4 in Illinois and is the only team that has beaten Fenwick. Sandburg went to a box and 1 defense in the 2nd half to try a control D.D. with some success, although she was still able to score when she wanted to even though Sandberg had an athletic 6'1" Michigan recruit hounding her. East Chicago lost on a foul call on an offensive rebound at the buzzer that resulted in two free throws with the game tied. East Chicago had the ball, but turned it over when their point guard had a brain cramp and was called for a 5 second call while dribbling the ball with no particular purpose in mind. Kelly Curry stayed until the East Chicago game ended and was talking with East Chicago parents prior to the game.
7) Fenwick starts four sophomores who will probably all be Division I recruits and a couple could be special. 6'2 sophomore Devereaux Peters played the best game that I've seen her play against the #3 nationally rated Missouri team who has two Division I frontline players, a 6'3 senior center who will attend Iowa St and a 6'2 junior who is considered on of the best Jrs in the country. Devereaux outplayed both of those players and was the dominant inside player in the game. Kelly Curry spent about 15 minutes talking with Fenwick's head coach, Dave Power, earlier in the day. Kelly obviously has a prior relationship with Fenwick from his recruitment of Erin Lawless. Hopefully, that relationship and Erin's relationship will give Purdue a shot at Devereaux or possibly one of her teammates, if they continue to develop. I also like 6'3 sophomore center Samantha Woods who needs to develop some of Devereaux Peter's aggressiveness and 5'11 sophomore Allison Jackson who is probably Fenwick's most offensively skilled player on Fenwick's team. Fenwick's leader is a very talented 5'8 senior point guard, Brittany Johnson, who has recovered from a serious knee injury that cost her her sophomore season and is headed to Boston College in the fall.
8) My all shootout team is as follows:
Brittany Johnson (Fenwick) - Boston College is going to love her.
Devereaux Peters (Fenwick) - Could be really special by the time she gets to college.
Amanda Thompson (Whitney Young) - a complete package as a Jr.
Deirdre Naughton (New Trier) - a wonderful scorer who single handedly beat the #3 rated team in the nation with 32 points including a steal and 7 points in the last 30 seconds that turned a five point deficit into a two point win. Deirdre will attend Wake Forest in the fall.
D.D Jernigan - let's hope Kelly Curry can real her in, as she is already a very special player.
My player of the shootout would have to be Deirdre Naughton who was an all-state player as a Jr (maybe also as a Soph) and probably had the best game of her career against the #3 rated team in the country and single-handedly led her team to victory.
Another outstanding player who played at the McDonald's shootout that I failed to mention above was Bartlett Ill's Lindsay Schrader. I concentrated on underclassmen and Purdue recruits unless I thought a senior should be on my all-shootout team. Lindsay is certainly talented enough to be on my all-shootout team and certainly would have been on my second team. I had doubts about Lindsay's game based on seeing her a couple of times last year. However, I have changed my opinion of her as she has become more of a team player and is leading a very young Bartlett team to a very successful season even though she is the only senior on the team. Bartlett defeated New Trier for 3rd place (Lindsay had a great game) and barely lost to Fenwick in the semi-finals (if Lindsay had relied on her teammates more Bartlett would have beaten Fenwick) of the prestigous Dundee-Crown, Ill holiday tornament. Bartlett also beat traditional power Ohio's Pickerington North at the McDonald's shootout. Notre Dame has gotten a fine player in Lindsay.