Nike EYBL Tennessee Flight Silver and Team Elite 10th Pointer triumph in Montgomery
By Bob Corwin
The fifth annual Capital Cool Classic, presented by Roundball Academy, was held May 20-21 in Montgomery, Alabama, with the spacious Multiplex at Cramton Bowl being the primary site for the event of 78 teams (all from the Southeast). Nike clubs captured the two most prestigious divisions with Tennessee Flight Silver winning the Capital of Dreams (rising seniors and younger) and Team Elite 10th Pointer claiming first place in the Kings Monument (rising juniors and younger). As a dead period event, no NCAA Division 1 schools were present, although a total of seven colleges from NCAA Division 2, NAIA and junior college ranks were present to evaluate the field along with a couple of scouting service reps.
Who is best? Nike EYBL or non-Nike teams
This argument will continue to persist until the better non-Nike teams get more games with the top tier of the 32 Nike EYBL (more simply known as the Nike League) teams. Nike supporters claim that the best of the rest would be no better than just above .500 in the EYBL while adherents of the “other-aligned” or strictly non-aligned clubs refuse to admit to the general superiority of the Nike teams.
As a long time observer, this reporter believes the top tier of EYBL teams are among the best nationally in any given year but there are teams outside the Nike fold capable of beating them if only given the chance (not likely under the current structure where Nike teams spent most time playing each other).
What was seen in Montgomery with traditionally strong Nike teams Essence Purple (out of Florida) and Tennessee Flight Silver present was that these teams are deeper in Power 5 prospects and perhaps more used to intense high level battles. This allowed both to barely escape with wins over non-Nike All-Alabama Roadrunners 11th Grade, Alabama Southern Starz 2018 – Looney and Alabama Heat 11th grade at various points before meeting each other in the bracket final.
Looking briefly at the finals of the top two divisions…
Capital of Dreams
Tennessee Flight Silver 52-43 Essence Purple
The lead changed hands several times in the first half with Essence up 30-26 at the break. Essence’s energy appeared to stem from its guards. Destanni Henderson (see below) led Essence for the game with 10 points followed by Zipporah (Zippy) Broughton (see below) with nine points. Down the stretch, these two went cold/quiet and Flight was a able seize the lead (44-42) on a Jayla Hemingway (see below) three with just under two minutes left after being handicapped by an 0-8 start for the second half. As Essence continued to miss from the field, Flight continued to make foul shots (making its last eight). Essence added but one more point in the last two minutes. For the game, Flight Silver was led by Hemingway with 11 points (see below) and Alexis Whittington (see below) with 10 points.
Team Elite 10th Pointer 45-40 Essence 2019s
This contest between two younger Nike clubs was easy to summarize in just two words – “Jordan Isaacs” of Team Elite Pointer. Thanks to balanced scoring (for what little there was), Essence led 18-14 at half. Isaacs (see below) dominated the second half scoring 12 of her game high 18 points after the break. Team Elite seized the lead with just over seven minutes in this low scoring contest and held a small edge the rest of the way. Erin Turral (see below) led Essence 2019s with 10 points.
Looking at some noteworthy players regardless of division at Capital Cool.
Within graduation year, players are listed alphabetically with listed height, position and club team. Home town is in parenthesis.
Brinae Alexander, 5-10, small forward, Tennessee Flight Silver (Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
Alexander typifies Tennessee basketball. Highly skilled with ability to hit the three but more baseline attacker, for her winning comes first. Some games she may be one of the high scorers and some games not, but she always gives a maximum effort. She is receiving Power 5 offers.
Daishai Almond, 5-8, shooting guard, Blazers Exposure Red (Fort Valley, Georgia)
Almond is an explosive athlete who is more driver than perimeter shooter although she has a nice stroke. Getting Power 5 looks, she has lesser level D1 offers in hand.
Zipporah (Zippy) Broughton, 5-8, combo guard, Essence Purple (Wetumka, Alabama)
Zippy was Essence Purple’s most consistent player at the event. She plays with good energy at times looking to score (via perimeter shot or drive) and at times just distribute. She is being recruited from the Power 5 level down.
Destanni Henderson, 5-7, combo guard, Essence Purple (Fort Myers, Florida)
Orally committed to South Carolina, Henderson was Essence’s best player in the bracket final. She showed the fine perimeter stroke and driving ability which makes her the favorite for Miss Basketball in Florida for the coming year. In that contest, she also distributed the ball well sharing point guard duties with Broughton.
Akira Levy, 5-7, point guard, Tennessee Flight Silver (Cookeville, Tennessee)
When injury put out starting Flight Silver’s starting point guard, Levy stepped up and ran the team over the next three games. Ultimately leading them to the bracket title, she closed matters out with four foul shots in the final two minutes. Orally committed to Western Kentucky, she has a strong driving move when calling her own number. For her efforts, she was designated PassThaBall Division MVP.
Malainna White, 5-7, shooting guard, Essence Purple (Pensacola, Florida)
White was sort of Essence’s fire engine in Montgomery. In trouble in two games prior to the final, White turned potential losses into wins with high defensive effort resulting in multiple turnover/score sequences. A fine athlete, she should be getting Division 1 offers.
Alexis Whittington, 5-11, shooting guard, Tennessee Flight Silver (Christiana, Tennessee)
Some may consider Whittington as a three-point specialist but she gives her team a lot more than that. Orally committed to Middle Tennessee, she is not bashful about attacking the basket if the opening occurs. Like her club (and high school) teammate Alexander (mentioned above) winning comes first and both exemplify why Flight Silver has won so many events over the years.
Alexis Woods, 5-11, power forward, Alabama Southern Starz 2018 – Looney (Athens, Alabama)
Woods is an undersized power forward that many D1 scouts will brand too small for them. With a strong build and good motor, she showed that she can outwork many taller posts in the lower paint.
Maori Davenport, 6-4, power forward, All Alabama Roadrunners 11th Grade (Troy, Alabama)
Davenport almost single-handedly beat Tennessee Flight Silver in bracket play by controlling the lower paint with blockers (close to 10) and rebounds (over 10). Offensively she likes to attack the basket with one or two dribbles. A sure Power 5 recruit, offensively she still could improve movement without the ball and post up with more physicality.
Jayla Hemingway, 5-10, shooting guard, Tennessee Flight Silver (Collierville, Tennessee)
Hemingway, a Power 5 prospect, is a first option driver, but can, as she did in the bracket final, hit a key three. She led Flight in scoring in the championship game.
Jordan Isaacs, 6-2, power forward, Team Elite 10th Pointer (Dallas, Georgia)
Isaacs continued her strong play last reported in our report on the Boo Williams event ( 2017 Boo Williams Part 1 – PASSTHABALL ). She attacked the basket usually going left (strong hand). She hit the glass and ran the court. Essence 2019s had no answer for her and for her efforts she garnered our PassThaBall Division MVP.
Sydney Johnson, 5-7, point guard, Team Elite 10th Pointer (Powder Springs, Georgia)
Johnson showed poised leadership in steering her team to its bracket title. She can hit the three and drive but appears most concerned about involving her teammates. D1 schools should be monitoring her maturation.
Joiya Maddox, 5-10, shooting guard, All Alabama Roadrunners 11th Grade (Hoover, Alabama)
Maddox was a consistent force for All Alabama in Montgomery. Her specialty is to hit the three but also displayed good court vision to set up teammates. Secondarily, she showed a driving ability but dribbling to protect the ball could be improved. Long in build and a decent athlete, she has offers from the Power 5 level and down.
Emily Bowman, 6-5, center, Alabama Southern Starz 2020 – Bush (Owens Cross Roads, Alabama)
Bowman looks, runs and plays like Nancy Mulkey (freshman this year at Oklahoma). The biggest differences are a bit more mobile (a plus) and a few inches shorter (a minus). Bowman is developing nice touch in the key. She needs to get stronger and fill out. Power 5 schools are already monitoring.
Makaya Spears, 6-6, center, Baton Rouge Lady Elite (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
Spears is strongly built with decent hands, running the court adequately. Her skills are just developing but there are not a lot out there with her height. Given that, Power 5 programs and down should be monitoring her progress.
Dontavia Waggoner, 5-11, forward, Tennessee Flight Silver Sophomores (Nashville,Tennessee)
Waggoner, a good athlete and Power 5 prospect, has your baseline to basket game hitting from mid-range or attacking the rim. With long arms, she is active on defense.
Kionna Gaines, 5-7, guard, Blazers Exposure Black (Columbus, Georgia)
Playing up two years, Gaines had at least one double figure scoring game at the event. A good athlete with decent handles, she can get to the rim but also showed a nice mid-range stroke. Word in the gym is that she will be attending Shaw High School in Columbus, Georgia, this year. D1 schools should be monitoring her progress.
Jillian Hollingshead, 6-3, forward, Team Elite 8th Pointer (Marietta, Georgia)
Hollingshead was one of the finds of the event. She is lean (sort of like WNBA’s DeWanna Bonner), has both post and perimeter skills (able to lead or finish the break). She plays with poise and has above average understanding for her age. Word in the gym was that she will attend Holy Innocents’ or Wesleyan (both on the north side of Metro Atlanta). High majors should be tracking her.
Unique Miller, 6-2, center, Team Elite 8th Pointer (Atlanta, Georgia)
Unique is your strong-bodied, good hands and mobile foot post. Her game is around the basket. Her progress should be monitored from the Power 5 ranks and down.
Erin Turral, 5-4, combo guard, Essence 2019s (Tallahassee, Florida)
Turral was her team’s lead scorer in several games here and previously at the Boo Williams event. She can hit the three off the pass and off the bounce. She is also adapt at finishing on the break. She is quick defensively. A certain D1 recruit, a growth spurt would help as she is currently a smaller shooting guard than point. The Power 5 schools generally like their wings taller than Erin’s current height.
Paris Miller, 5-8, combo guard, Team Elite 8th Pointer (Hampton, Georgia)
Paris already has much of what colleges look for in its guards. She has a nice perimeter stroke, decent handles, poise, and good basketball IQ. Her progress should be monitored from the Power 5 ranks and down.