Stops and Stars
By Bob Corwin
Having stopped off and spent a day at a couple of events on December 27 and 28, I thought it was a good time to highlight some of the players I saw at each of those one-day stops (previously covered the Naples Holiday Shootout visited December 29-30). As I was at these events well before the finals, I will only mention the teams that won and focus on players from the 2018 and 2019 classes that caught my attention in those one-game viewings. In part 2, players from the 2020 and 2021 classes will be discussed.
John Wall Holiday Invitational
On December 27, I attended day one of the John Wall Holiday Invitational presented by the Triangle Educational Advancement Foundation. The event, featuring eight of the best teams in North Carolina, has been around for decades with the John Wall Family Foundation the current title sponsor. The title was won by Southeast Raleigh (North Carolina) High School 44-27 over Heritage High School of Wake Forest, North Carolina. Nationally ranked, what makes Southeast Raleigh so good is the combination of athleticism, playing hard possession after possession and the ability of so many players to make a positive impact on the game. This event, held at Cary Prep in Cary, North Carolina, had the best attendance of college coaches (be they mostly from states along the East Coast) and fans of three post-Christmas events I attended with talent quite rich for just eight teams.
Tampa Bay Christmas Invitational
This event, in its second year, was presented by and held at Seffner Christian Academy and ran from December 28-30 with my stop on day one (December 28). Sixteen teams were split into two brackets of eight. Whether intentional or not, it appears the best teams were placed fairly evenly into each bracket so the finals of each bracket (called Gold and Silver) had some quality to it. The Gold Bracket was won by Oxbridge Academy of West Palm Beach, Florida, 55-47 over St. Basil Academy of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. The Silver Bracket was won by Wesleyan School of Norcross, Georgia, 71-35 over Strongsville (Ohio) High School. Below, some players of note from both events will be briefly discussed. See part 2 for the younger class players (2020 and 2021).
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 of some level of NCAA Division 1. Players seen at the Tampa Bay Christmas Invitational are designated with a (**).
Shaniya Jones, 5-6, guard, Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, North Carolina)
Signed with Virginia Tech, Jones was one of the stars of day one of the event. A good athlete, Jones posted 28 points hitting from the perimeter and driving right to the basket.
Nydia Lampkin, 6-3, center, Heritage High School (Palm Bay, Florida)
Signed with Oklahoma, Lampkin is a quality athlete able to score going left or right at the rim.
Isabela Leite, 5-9, guard, Neuse Christian Academy (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Signed with Florida State, this Brazilian sees the court well and can drive to the rim. Her outside shooting needs to be more consistently on target.
Sydney Levy, 5-8, shooting guard, Appleton North High School (Appleton, Wisconsin)
Signed with Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Levy has a nice perimeter stroke to beyond the arc posting 20 points on day one of the event.
Jada McMillian, 5-7, point guard, Southeast Raleigh High School (Raleigh, North Carolina)
A UNC Charlotte signee, McMillian does what is needed to help her team win, scoring if required, but otherwise content to just run offense for this currently nationally ranked team.
Alissa Smalls, 5-7, point guard, Heritage High School (Wake Forest, North Carolina)
Signed with Morehead State, Smalls makes big plays (can shoot the three) for Heritage but will be content to let others do the scoring if the offense is running well.
Ahlana Smith, 5-8, shooting guard, Mallard Creek High School (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Signed with UCLA, Smith can hit the three or get to the basket with gusto (posted 23 points in a day one victory).
Lindsey Thall, 6-2, power forward, Strongsville High School (Strongsville, Ohio)
Signed with Kent State, Thall can step out and hit the three or score in lower paint (15 points in day one victory).
Arielle Wilson, 6-5, center, Northwood Temple Academy (Fayetteville, North Carolina)
Unsigned but obvious Division One prospect, Wilson is above average athletically and shot blocker but needs to improve finishing skills in paint and get stronger physically.
Uju Ezeudu, 6-0, center, Reynoldsburg High School (Reynoldsburg, Ohio)
Ezeudu may be a bit small as centers go but she makes up for it with power in the lower key (23 points on day one).
Anaia Hoard, 6-0, guard, Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, North Carolina)
From France, Hoard, an above average athlete, is a versatile perimeter player attracting Power 5 interest as her best ball is still ahead of her.
Cydney Johnson, 5-11, forward, Heritage High School (Wake Forest, North Carolina)
Johnson may be a bit undersized but she makes up for it with low post physicality (posted 17 points in a day one victory).
Tamari Key, 6-5, center, Cary High School (Cary, North Carolina)
An obvious Power 5 prospect due to height and shot disrupting ability, Key moves well but needs to add offensive skill and physical strength as she plays primarily in the paint.
Dazia Lawerence, 5-8, point guard, Mallard Creek High School (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Lawerence is her team’s point guard but can also post numbers in the scoring column hitting multiple threes in a given game (24 in a day one victory).
Ciara Moore, 5-8, shooting guard, Northwood Temple Academy (Fayetteville, North Carolina)
Right-handed, Moore loves to go left to attack the basket but will hit a three to keep the defense honest (17 points on day one).
Kendal Moore, 5-6, point guard, Northwood Temple Academy (Fayetteville, North Carolina)
Orally committed to NC State, Kendal (Ciara’s cousin) is a decent athlete and her team’s primary ball handler. She is a good passer with decent court vision (posted 16 points on day one).
Casey Remolde, 5-10, small forward, St. Basil Academy (Jenkintown, Pennsylvania)
Playing within the system of her team, Remolde showed a perimeter stroke (needs to quicken her release) but also showed a willingness to defend (successfully) the opponent’s top scorer (posting 16 points in day one victory).
Kaylon Smith, 6-0, center, Oxbridge Academy (West Palm Beach, Florida)
Muscular in build and physical in nature, Smith makes up for being a bit undersized in the low post.
Aaliyah Stanley, 5-4, point guard, Oxbridge Academy (West Palm Beach, Florida)
Stanley is fast and quick, able to get to the rim starring in day one at Seffner with 28 points. Having offers from the Power 5 level and down, she just needs to be more consistent game to game.
Izabel Verajao, 6-4, power forward, Neuse Christian Academy (Raleigh, North Carolina)
From Brazil, Verajao runs very well for her size and during the game will make a move that gets your attention, just needing to do so more frequently (getting Power 5 interest regardless).