Nike Nationals 2016 (part 1): Team Elite proves best in both divisions
By Bob Corwin
Talk about living up to your name! Nike club Team Elite, based out of Metro Atlanta, triumphed in both Nike Nationals, technically Girls’ EYBL Championship, and the Nike Juniors (15U). This amazing feat was previously accomplished by Tennessee Flight in 2012. In its 12th season, the event was again held July 27-30 in North Augusta, South Carolina.
Nike Nationals is an invitational event to which 24 of 32 Nike Girls’ EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League) teams advance vying for the title of Nike EYBL Champions. In the 15U Division, 16 of the 32 Nike clubs qualify. Qualifying play took place in April at the Boo Williams Sportsplex (in Hampton, Virginia) and in early July (half of the teams to each site) at the Battle in the Boro (Nashville, Tennessee) and Nike National Invitational (Chicago, Illinois).
While no exact count is kept, somewhere over 200 division one (including just about all Power 5 schools) colleges attended the event. With relatively few players and a high concentration of Power 5 prospects, numerous non-Power 5 division one schools sent their evaluating staff elsewhere having already seen these players. Conversely, many Power 5 programs had multiple members of their staffs observing play in both the EYBL and 15U Divisions, both of which finished play (just a few games) on the first day of the non-viewing period. If a casual fan of girls basketball wants to see the very best of the summer club basketball season, Nike Nationals is without doubt, the place to be!
Make teams accountable for wins and losses plus unbiased and comprehensive stat keeping.
At Nike Nationals, winning, not just being seen, matters. The corridors of the playing site are lined with banners of prior champions going back to 2005. In most summer ball, it’s all about “exposure”.
In all too many club ball events, only fouls are kept so unless you keep score, a writer has no tally of who did what other than a foul count. In some cases a parent mans the official book. At Nike Nationals, a comprehensive set of stats from Game Changer are available for each EYBL game.
Ain’t broke; don’t fix it
During the event, rumors persisted that the event may be leaving small town North Augusta, South Carolina, to be held in one of the large convention center events already in existence. Nike officials did confirm the location of the event was under review with no decision yet made.
In an era of large convention center basketball, the North Augusta site provides individual courts (see photo) with top flight wood courts (which several players have mentioned to this writer as the best they have played on). The convention center floors are primarily non-wood (disliked by most of the players) with the imported wood courts used for the Nike league games not always having the same degree of positive reviews by players as those in North Augusta.
One issue with North Augusta appears to be lack of crowd for the finals played on the first day of the “dead period” when college coaches are not allowed to watch games in person. Sadly, players do not as a general rule come to watch other girls’ games. After their team has been eliminated, the players pack up and head home. This happens at Nike Nationals and at the large convention center events as well. Might the solution not be to start Nike National a day sooner in North Augusta so the college coaches could (and would in fairly large numbers) attend? This is probably the way “atmosphere” could be improved and still keep the special setting that Riverview Park Activities Center in North Augusta, South Carolina, provides.
On to the action…
At this event the EYBL teams were primarily observed and the Nike 15U final only briefly watched and reported on below.
Picking up the EYBL action in the semi-finals…
Tennessee Flight Silver 71 – 51 BWSL 16U
This was much more one sided than expected with a clash of Nike superpowers! A lot of this game was about full and half court pressure defense working and not working. The first half saw the Flight go up by a half dozen points only to have the Boo Williams (out of Virginia) push back with the score favoring Flight 38-34 at half. The third quarter (ending 58-43) pretty much decided the contest as BWSL perimeter misses were often answered by Flight run outs. In the second half in particular, Flight executed better in the half court. Telling stat for the game favoring Flight points in the paint (46-16), rebounds (43-31) and assists (20-8). Tennessee Flight was led by Anastasia Hayes with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. BWSL was led by Megan Walker with 15 points and 4 rebounds.
Team Elite Pointer EYBL 54-46 Tree of Hope Nike Elite
This was billed as a more athletic team (Team Elite) versus a better executing team. Down 22-14 thanks to not finishing off good looks, the Washington-based “Trees” spent the second half catching up. Getting only slightly ahead, they fell back based on errors down the stretch, particularly not securing (having and then losing) a couple of defensive rebounds in the last few minutes. Telling stats favoring the Metro Atlanta-based Team Elite Pointer were field goal percentage (35% to 26%), points in the paint (24-12) and turnovers only 12 to 17. Team Elite was led by N’Dea Jones (6-2, center/forward, 2017) with 17 points and 10 rebounds while Tree of Hope was led by Taya Corosdale with 17 points.
Team Elite Pointer EYBL 54-47 Tennessee Flight Silver
This was game eight for both teams and Flight had less fuel left in the tank. In a pool play meeting, Flight had won 51-45. The Tennessee-based squad trailed 29-18 at half lacking energy and defense. During the fourth quarter, Team Elite hit the wall as a its lead of 40-24 fell as low as four points (51-47) with about one minute left. Key stat of the game favoring Team Elite was points off turnovers (29-13). Flight was led by Anastasia Hayes with 17 points while “Q.” Morrison led Team Elite with 17 points and would be our pick for Final’s MVP.
Team Elite Hubbard 2018 64-61 MN North Tartan 15
These were the two best 15U teams of the Nike clubs. Team Elite was undefeated in Nike League play and North Tartan had won the prestigious Sophomore Showcase at Battle in the Boro. The score at half was tied at 37. Near the end of third quarter with Team Elite up six, North Tartan’s star guard Zoe Young (MVP at the Boro) went down with a lower leg injury, never to return to the game. With a deep squad, North Tartan trailed most of the fourth quarter by just a few points. Key stats favoring Team Elite were points off turnovers (15-8) and foul shots made 26 to 15 [North Tartan making all its attempts!]. Team Elite was led by Kaila Hubbard (5-9, guard, 2018) with 18 points including going 12/12 from the foul line), Robyn Benton with 9, and Amaya Register with 8. North Tartan, which finished second in this section two years in a row, was led by Zoe Young (5-10, point guard, 2019) with 16 points and Sam Haiby (5-9, guard, 2018) with 14 points.
Special thanks to the stats crew from Game Changer who covered this game (as requested) which was not part of its normal assignment (just the EYBL portion of the event).
Part 2 will cover our All-tournament selections