St. John’s (DC) shines brightest amongst many quality teams
By Bob Corwin
Held December 1-3 and presented by Paul VI Catholic High School (host venue as well), the 10th addition of the Art Turner Memorial saw a continuing parade of some of the best high school teams and players in the USA. Sponsored by WGL Energy, 15 quality pre-set games occurred over the three days in Fairfax, Virginia. A total of 60 colleges (over 50 NCAA Division 1) attended one or more days of the event.
Best teams present (playing multiple games)
Our award for best team out of a very good crop of contestants was St. John’s College High School (three players pictured above). Last year, the Cadets finished #1 in the Pass Tha Ball Prep Poll (four national high school polls) of Polls. In spite of significant graduations, the team has a good chance to compete for that prize again this year. The team decisively won its two games and the pieces (five starters) meshed together very well. Three of those players are discussed below.
Next three best (in alphabetical order)
Christ the King (Middle Village, NY) won both its games at the Art Turner Memorial with the big win by one point over Paul VI. The team has plenty of D1 talent (a couple mentioned below) and got the job done on the court this past weekend. However, going forward, the Royals may continue to struggle at point guard (most important position in girls’ high school basketball) where they are forced to play talented but more natural wing players. This may ultimately cause them to lose one or more games. In Fairfax, there were numerous errors related to point guard play but the Royals got away with it.
Hamilton Heights (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
They were probably the most talented team at the event (maybe the USA as well). Over the course of the weekend, Hamilton Heights had to be the most exhausted (playing four quality opponents on four successive nights winning three). On Thursday, the team from Chattanooga had taken on another national power Riverdale Baptist in what ended up a 77-70 instant classic overtime win for Heights. Toward the end of regulation, five players (three from hosts) were almost simultaneously stricken with leg cramps at least in part due to a gym with the temperatures somewhere north of 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Paul VI (Fairfax, Virginia)
PVI suffered an unkind opening night fate as Ashley Owusu (see below) was ill, barely functional in the first half and played only the first few minutes of half two. Still the hosts only lost by just one to Christ the King. Versus Hamilton Heights, Owusu played like a star and the rest of the team (except Amira Collins who played well in all three games) looked so much more together. Hamilton Heights trailed slightly after two and three quarters, getting the more difficult looks most of the night. Paul VI was slightly ahead the last half of the final stanza, pulling away at the end (80-72). In Sunday’s game, the Panthers played a bit fatigued against a testy Life Center Academy (0-3 in Fairfax) but were still too structured and talented to cede the 63-52 victory.
Strength at the top of Maryland
Although each played only one game, Bishop McNamara, Rock Creek Christian and St. Frances (Baltimore) looked impressive enough to also deserve consideration in any national poll. All have at least two Power 5 signees or orally committed underclass players surrounded by additional Division 1 talent of non-Power 5 level. The best high school teams in Metro DC up to Baltimore are very good but there is not the depth of decent to good teams say found in Texas. Note on average nationally, a high school has maybe one Division 1 player graduate every ten years.
Looking at some of the individual talent in alphabetical order with height, position and school within graduation year. Location of school is in parenthesis.
All players discussed below should be considered as prospects at some level of NCAA Division 1.
Elizabeth Balogun, 6-2, small forward, Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
A Georgia Tech signee, Balogun does it all for Hamilton Heights. She is adept at scoring via drive, mid-range and the three. In all games on this East Coast swing, she scored 20+ points. Although not a point guard, she can fill in there for spot duty. Balogun should be getting strong support for McDonald’s All-American as she is not just putting up points but points versus quality opposition.
Nia Clouden, 5-9, guard, St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Maryland)
A Michigan State signee, Clouden may play a lot at point but has a scorer’s mentality (22 points in win over South Shore (NY)). She can hit the three but also attack the basket with above average athletics.
Amira Collins, 6-3, center/power forward, Paul VI Catholic High School (Fairfax, Virginia)
Due to lack of size on her high school team, Collins plays a lot in the paint. However, at the event, this Tennessee signee showed a nice mid-range stroke. She was Paul VI’s most consistent player over the three days of the event, posting double digit scoring in each contest.
Imani Lewis, 6-1, forward, Life Center Academy (Burlington, New Jersey)
Lewis’s team lost all three games to strong WCAC (also known as the DC Catholic League) opposition but this Wisconsin signee showed well. A lefty, she can hit the mid-range shot but is most effective attacking the basket along the baseline.
Makayla Pippin, 6-1, power forward, Rock Creek Christian Academy (Upper Marlboro, Maryland)
Now signed with Lasalle after orally committing to Florida, Pippin has a good motor and is active without the ball. She can score from the perimeter but does most damage getting near the rim (often via a hard cut into the paint). She posted 22 points in her team’s win over Ossining.
Sydney Wood, 5-9, small forward, St. John’s College High School (Chevy Chase, DC)
Wood can score in several ways but what she does best is raise the energy level of her team on the court. Whether it be points, rebounds, steals or assists, the Northwestern signee finds a way to help her team win.
Jakia Brown-Turner, 6-0, forward, Bishop McNamara High School (Forestville, Maryland)
Scouts were treated to a surprise in watching Brown-Turner play. Always known as a lefty with a good motor and ability to score in the lane, this likely future Power 5 player now appears to be a legitimate three-point shooter from multiple spots on the court. In Fairfax, she turned in one of the top performances by posting 30 points in a win over Life Center.
Promise Cunningham, 5-10, small forward, National Christian Academy (Fort Washington, Maryland)
Although her team lost its one game in the event, Cunningham posted a solid showing with 17 points (including four threes). Adding some additional driving ability might raise her stock into the Power 5 level.
Aubrey Griffin, 6-1, small forward, Ossining High School (Ossining, New York)
Not 100% back from an ACL, Griffin was still impressive athletically. She looks to drive the baseline in the quarter court and is a force getting out on a fast break. A Power 5 prospect, she still needs to improve her shooting range if her performance in Fairfax is typical of her play.
Aliyah Matharu, 5-7, guard, Bishop McNamara High School (Forestville, Maryland)
Having great speed with the ball, Matharu sometimes needs to slow down. A good athlete, she gets to the rim but also will find open shooters to pass off to. In posting 21 points in her one game at the event, this Power 5 prospect hit multiple threes.
Ashley Owusu, 5-11, guard, Paul VI Catholic High School (Fairfax, Virginia)
After being sub-par physically (being almost no factor in her team’s one-point loss to Christ the King) on Friday, Owuwu (orally committed to Maryland) starred in her team’s next two games (both wins). She likes to play with ball in hand with tremendous ability to change directions in attacking the basket or dishing off.
Kealynn Satterfield, 6-0, guard/forward, Christ the King High School (Middle Village, New York)
As her team won both games in Fairfax, Satterfield (receiving Power 5 interest) did not score a lot of points but helped keep her team’s offense operating. Strongly built, she is probably a small forward at the next level but was willing to sacrifice some of her scoring to help run a team somewhat deficient in the lead guard area.
Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo, 6-3, center, St. John’s College High School (Chevy Chase, DC)
Malu appears to be getting better now playing with more confidence in the key. Light on her feet with good hands, she posted a couple of double digit performances scoring in the lower paint, also hitting the boards hard as well. Like her uncle Dikembe Mutombo, she should find her way into the D1 majors if she so chooses.
Kamilla Cardoso, 6-7, center, Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
Less than a year ago, Cardoso struggled to score open layups in the season ending Dick’s Sporting Goods Championship in April. Now less than nine months later, this Brazilian has become a dominant low post at both ends of the court (good hands and feet; rebound, blocked shots) and proving herself to be one of the top centers in the 2020 class.
Natalija Marshall, 6-4, power forward, Christ the King High School (Middle Village, New York)
Marshall runs about as well as anyone in the game at her size. At Fairfax, she showed that she can finish going full speed to the rim. In the quarter court, she has a nice face up stroke and soft touch near the rim. An obvious high-level Power 5 recruit, she needs to get stronger, fill out a bit and add a few more moves in the paint.
Mir McLean, 5-11, power forward, Roland Park Country School (Baltimore, Maryland)
If you are looking for a player who jumps out of the gym, finishes close to the rim and hits the boards, McLean is probably for you. Adding range should be her number one goal but Power 5 schools are offering regardless.
Delicia Pinnick, 5-7, shooting guard, St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Maryland)
A decent athlete, Pinnick is a “must-guard” with deadly three-point range off the catch. Adding some attack off the dribble would add to her recruiting stock.
Angel Reese, 6-3, power forward, St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Maryland)
A lefty, Reese has a high motor, scoring in the paint but active all over the court. Her constant movement (along with good passing skill for her size) helps create shots for others. An obvious Power 5 recruit, she needs to increase her shooting range.
Taylor Webster, 5-11, small forward, Georgetown Visitation (Washington, DC)
Webster is another player who could slow down a bit. She has a nice jumper off the bounce (shooting more mid-range than behind the arc). She finishes well going left (is right handed!). While she can create her own shot, adding range would increase her recruiting stock.
Azzi Fudd, 5-10, shooting guard, St. John’s College High School (Chevy Chase, DC)
Perhaps we saved the best for last! Fudd played to rave reviews during the prior club basketball season and that appears unlikely to stop. In Fairfax, she posted two 20+ scoring performances to kick off her high school career. Considered the consensus number one prospect in her class, Azzi (named after former Stanford and WNBA player Jennifer Azzi) is highly skilled at attacking left or right. She makes decisions far beyond her years as to when to shoot or pass and plays with the poise more of a senior than a freshman. Becoming a more consistent three-point shooter is probably one thing she still needs to work on.