September 2016 Eval Weekend: Talent present but college coaches largely absent.
By Bob Corwin
During the September 23-25 weekend, I attended three exposure events just north of Atlanta, Georgia. On Friday, The Mixtape (individual event with about 100 players from upper elementary to seniors) sponsored by PassThaBall took place at McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia. On Saturday and Sunday at the same site, the Fall Finale with 38 teams, presented by First Step Basketball Academy, took place as a club event using pre-set games. Also, over all three days, the Marietta Tournament of Champions, presented by All Star Girls Report, took place at the Suwanee Sports Academy’s Marietta facility (soon to be renovated into a non-basketball property). Here 46 teams participated in a tournament-style format with divisions based on age.
In all cases, player attendance was primarily southeastern with college coaches almost entirely of the division one mid-major to division two schools, mostly from the southeast and along the east coast A national boycott of all but a few Power 5 level colleges had been organized and was largely effective in keeping those schools out of evaluation mode this weekend. As many as 40 colleges attended at least one of these events with much overlap during the weekend with travel between the sites taking about 30 to 40 minutes depending on traffic.
Why a September evaluation?
The argument, now in disfavor in division one coaching ranks, is that players deserve one last look before the high school season. Some may have been injured for the summer evaluation period or just played poorly and should be given one last chance to show she deserves further tracking leading to possibly getting an offer. One related problem is that many division one programs refuse to do much cold canvassing of players not previously on their radar during the high school season (individual games) other than attending tournaments. A standard response when a player unknown to the recruiter is mentioned: “who do they play for in club?” rather than “when does her high school team play next?”
If a senior has no division one offers soon after this September viewing period, the odds are she will not get any unless she is in one of the major school year tournaments and relatively few schools attend them. If looking to continue play, division two, three (no athletic scholarships), junior college or walk-on division one (relatively rare) are the only options then left.
Why the boycott?
After hearing coaches speak, many, including myself, were surprised to see these dates as open for evaluation again this year. Those boycotting claim this fall viewing is not needed as they are too busy with home visits to seniors and now also to juniors. Some point to the ever escalating cost of coaches’ packets with prices this weekend for two or three day events in the Atlanta area ranging from around $300 to a high of $595 (for an event I did not attend). Another minority reason is that the fall should be a time for players to be with high school-related activity. Whether gone next year or the following year depending on the setting of the NCAA calendar, it is likely the days of the fall evaluation period are numbered.
Below are highlighted a number of players who stood out during one or more viewings during the weekend.
Players are listed alphabetically giving height, position, graduation year and club team with home town in parenthesis.
De’Sha Benjamin, 6-0, guard, 2018, Georgia Sting Avery 17U (Augusta, Georgia)
Above average athletically, Benjamin is a power guard who handles the ball well seeming to prefer the point to distribute or drive. She did not look to shoot outside. Call her a 1/3 if you like with Power 5 schools pursuing.
Samantha Brunelle, 6-2, power forward, 2019, Team Loaded 2018 Davis 17U (Ruckersville, Virginia)
Brunelle had the performance of the weekend, 36 points versus a respectable Georgia Sting team. She has good post up moves (beautiful sky hook) but can also hit the three and mid-range shots. She passes well to the post when on the perimeter. Defensively she showed the ability to block shots. If you want a weakness, call her a finesse stretch four in need to toughen up a bit. However, come senior year do not be surprised to call her “National High School Player of the Year”. She is certainly a candidate for the class of 2019.
Camille Buckhanon, 6-2, center, 2018, Alabama Heat Elite 2018 (Talladega, Alabama)
Buckhanon has a strong build but soft hands. She showed the ability to post down low and hit a mid-range face-up shot. Getting Power 5 looks, she needs to watch her conditioning to maximize her upside.
Alana, Davis, 6-2, center, 2017, Georgia Sting Avery 17U (Augusta, Georgia)
Davis, orally committed to Memphis, is a low block player showing power and finish. In one viewing, she posted 19 points while missing few shots.
Mykia Dowdell, 5-11, forward, 2018, Tennessee Flight Navy Jr (Oak Ridge, Tennessee)
Dowdell is an inside/outside threat in that she embraces contact in going (nice spin move) to the basket. On the perimeter, she can shoot the three if left open. Currently, word in the gym is that she is getting non-Power 5 division one offers.
Camille Hobby, 6-2, center, 2019, SC 76ers Black 17U (Seneca, South Carolina)
Hoppy has a strong body and good work rate with physicality for a low post player with game around rim. She also showed a nice mid-key face-up stroke. Word in the gym was that she is getting Power 5 looks.
Amber Hunt, 5-8, guard/forward, 2017, FBC United Hunt (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Sometimes you just need to look at what a player is doing rather than looking at the player. Hunt is over the average weight but unlike most, she plays well in spite of it. A good comparison might be Danielle Adams of Texas A&M and formerly of the San Antonio Stars of the WNBA, except Amber is much shorter and a perimeter player with driving ability and mid-range stroke. Given how she uses her build to create contact, one might argue whether she would be more effective on the court at a much lower weight. She has a number of non-Power 5 offers and is probably being under-recruited due to the conditioning issue.
Rey’Anna Jones, 5-4, guard, 2019, FBG Team Courtney Williams 16U (Sanford, Florida)
Jones may be a bit small but she is strong in build making up for those inches. A good athlete, she handles well enough to play the point (a lefty but goes right well) but can shoot the three well enough to get time on the wing. Getting Power 5 looks, at times she needs not to force the action so much and let the game come to her.
Iyania Kitchens, 6-2, center, 2018, WP Celtics Black 2017 (Lithonia, Georgia)
Kitchens is another strongly built, decently mobile low posts, one of several (a position always in demand) discussed in this article. Her hands are good with her game around the basket. Division one schools should be monitoring her.
Kamilia Soares, 6-6, center, 2020, FBC United Hunt (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Soares recently arrived from Brazil and speaks little English. However, she speaks basketball very well. For her height, she runs the court well for a fairly strongly built player and her hands (decent passer too!) are good, able to finish at the rim. Although her game is still young, with normal maturation, she should become one of the very top post prospects in the 2020 class.
Patsy Mosley, 5-6, guard, 2021, FBC YoungGunz (Atlanta, Georgia)
The YoungGunz are so talented that Mosley (being younger) was a bit overshadowed in watching that talented team. On this weekend she was “on loan” to another team in one game and clearly stood out. A good athlete, she has a nice mid-range stroke. At times she plays the point but needs to tighten her handles to optimize her talents at that position. Like so many of the “Gunz”, Power 5 schools should be monitoring her development.
Dontavia Waggoner, 5-10, small forward, 2020, Tennessee Flight Silver 2020 (Nashville, Tennessee)
It does not take too long to appreciate that this is likely a future Power 5 player. Waggoner has good body control in going to the rim. She also has a nice mid-range stroke in the wing to baseline area. On defense, she anticipates well.
Sierra Votaw , 6-2, forward, 2017, Hoop Dream Athletics (Harrells, North Carolina)
Votaw plays in a private school (without reputation in this sport) and on a less publicized club team. She runs well and has a 4/3 game scoring both in the paint and on the perimeter with a stroke that is a bit pushy at times. She needs to get stronger (shown in the stroke) although she does not back down from contact. Having a few non-Power 5 offers, she could develop into a really good player at that level but like so many may need time to adapt to the pace of the division one college game.
Ashlyn Watkins, 6-2, center, 2022, SC 76ers Cubs (Columbia, South Carolina)
Watkins was first noticed regionally as a sixth grader with big time potential. This past summer she struggled a bit and Power 5 (and down) observers were questioning her effort. Everyone needs to relax! This player is going to do fine. In one viewing during the weekend, she controlled the middle rebounding, blocking shots and posting double digit scoring. She even showed some ball handling skill.
Briana Turnage, 5-11, small forward, 2021, FBC YoungGunz (Atlanta, Georgia)
With a non-stop motor and above average athleticism, Turnage comes at the basket hard, particularly on the fast break which she can lead or finish. Likely to be a Power 5 prospect, she still needs to improve her perimeter shooting.
Audia Young, 5-6, point guard, 2022, FGB Future 14U (Tallahassee, Florida)
When your father is a college coach, your mother a former WNBA player and your older sister receiving Power 5 offers, there is a lot to live up to! Yet Audia appears unhindered by expectations. Her motor is very high and basketball IQ above average. She makes things happen on the court often things that do not show up in the box score (deflections, possessing loose balls on the floor). A lefty, she needs to go right more and improve shooting range. Regardless, her progress needs to be monitored from the Power 5 level down.