Talent abounds as Poly, Forest Trail and St. Frances claim titles
By Bob Corwin
The 8th Annual National Title IX Holiday Invitational Classic presented by Events DC was once again held at the DC Armory in Washington, DC. on December 28-30. Schools were grouped into six eight-team brackets playing three games total. Representatives of 64 colleges (mostly NCAA Division I from the eastern half of the USA) attended one or more days of the event. Due to other commitments, this reporter only attended the first two days of the event and thus only a brief overview of results is discussed before highlighting some players who stood out in at least one viewing at the event.
Team-wise winners and losers at Title IX
Long Beach Poly (California) won the Pat Summitt Bracket beating Jacksonville (Florida) Ribault 56-52 in the final and in doing so probably will get into or stay in one or more of the four national prep polls after a mediocre 2-2 showing at the Nike TOC.
The big loser in this section was probably National Christian Academy (NCA) of Maryland. NCA, playing short-handed due to injury, will probably drop out (or at least fall) in all national polls having lost to both Ribault in a hard fought semi and Our Lady of Good Counsel of Maryland in the third place game.
Forest Trail Academy of North Carolina upset highly nationally ranked Hamilton Heights (should drop in polls) of Tennessee 46-42 in the final of the Bob Headen Bracket. Some polls do not rank Forest Trail as this private school (non-National Federation of High Schools member) will on occasion re-classify students in high school allowing them five years of participation in the sport, not allowed otherwise in North Carolina. This does not however detract from the excellent job Head Coach Delaney Rudd is doing this year as his team also knocked Wayne High School of Huber Heights, Ohio, out of at least one nation poll earlier this year.
In the Patsy Mink Bracket, undefeated St. Frances of Baltimore, Maryland, beat Eleanor Roosevelt of Greenbelt, Maryland, 63-61 and with the victory should get recognition by one or more national polls.
Looking at some of the individual talent in alphabetical order with listed height, position and school within graduation year. Location of school is in parenthesis.
Janelle Bailey, 6-4, center, 2017, Providence Day School (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Bailey, signed with North Carolina, is what one might call a “meat and potatoes” post player. Her game is mostly around the basket but on occasion, she will step out and hit a shot outside the key. In one viewing, she scored 25 points.
Elizabeth Balogun, 6-1, small forward, 2018, Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Balogun is impressive in how she can score in multiple ways. She can get out and finish on the break or attack the rim in the quarter court. She can also step out and hit the three. On defense, she showed she can block shots. She posted 16 points in each of two viewings.
Kiandra Brown, 6-1, center, 2020, E.S. Saint-Laurent (Saint-Laurent, Quebec, Canada)
Brown was impressive although her team was dominated 72-31 by Hamilton Heights in the game viewed. She posted 10 points showing a willingness to battle in the key and ran the court well. She needs to work to build range given that she has the body type more typical of a forward than low post player.
Jasmine Jones, 6-0, power forward, 2017, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, California)
Jones, committed to Loyola Marymount, has an engine that does not quit. Perhaps a bit undersized by Power 5 standards, posting a double double is something she is fully capable of doing.
Aterria Quick, 5-8, shooting guard, 2017, Forest Trail Academy (Kernersville, North Carolina)
Quick is a player who puts points on the board on a game to game basis. She can shoot the three and attack the basket going right. Unsigned, non-Power 5 programs looking for some perimeter scoring should take a look at this prospect, who posted 32 points total in two viewings.
Janai Crooms, 5-10, guard, 2018, St. Andrew’s School (Barrington, Rhode Island)
Crooms, a Power 5 prospect, scored 20 of her team’s 40 points in a 63-40 first round loss to Forest Trail. Strongly built, she attacks the basket with power but is very willing to pass to open teammates.
Lyric Swann, 5-5, guard, 2019, Long Reach High School (Columbia, Maryland)
Granted, Swann was playing in one of the lower divisions. Still when a player posts 30 (including six threes), one needs to take notice as should Division I (particularly mid-majors) schools which ought to be monitoring her progress.
Taylor Webster, 5-10, forward, 2020, Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School (Washington, DC)
Webster showed a good upside as young players go in one viewing of her team. She has a nice perimeter stroke and good basketball IQ. Division I schools should be monitoring her progress.
Taya Hanson, 5-10, guard/forward, 2018, TRC Academy (Branford, Ontario, Canada)
Hanson showed a versatile skill set scoring in the wing to baseline area. She can hit the three and has a nice mid-range shot. She has a handful of Power 5 offers and is looking to play college ball in the USA.
Aerial Wilson, 5-9, point guard, 2019, TRC Academy (Branford, Ontario, Canada)
Wilson has what a lot of Power 5 schools are looking for in a lead guard. She is relatively tall as lead guards go, moves well with decent handles, has good basketball IQ and has perimeter stroke to beyond the arc. Post game, she indicated a strong interest in playing college ball in the USA.
Octavia Wilson, 5-8, shooting guard, 2017, Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Greenbelt, Maryland)
Wilson, committed to UNC Charlotte, was unrelenting in posting 27 points as her team defeated previously unbeaten Providence Day at Title IX. Given that her team has almost no post offense, she shot as opportunity arose whether it was the three ball, the mid-range shot or getting into the key.