Highlights from the GPS Invitational in Atlanta, GA hosted by Ganon Baker. Features top recruits from 2014-2017 including Victoria Vivians, Mikayla Venson, Sydney Bordonaro and Chasity Patterson.
ATLANTA -- The Games, Practice, Skills (G.P.S.) Invitational made its debut in Atlanta over the NCAA Fall Viewing period and did not disappoint. The newly created concept allows for the three major components to be displayed under one setting: Games (five-on-five competition); Practice (team chemistry); and Skills (development of individual skill set). Highly regarded clinician Ganon Baker ran the event and the coaching staff was under the direction of tactician Michael Bailey, former head coach at Bethel (VA) HS, where he coached Allen Iverson.
The first-year event featured a total of 92 players from 19 states, including Quebec.
Jasmine Carter, 5-8 guard, St. Pius X, Atlanta GA
Carter didn’t have to travel far for the opportunity to showcase her skills as this year’s G.P.S. Invitational was held in her hometown of Atlanta. The 5-8 combo guard garnered national attention over the summer as a member of the ever-so-talented group collectively known as, the Georgia Pistols-Martin. Carter, along with sophomore sensation Asia Durr, form one of the top underclass backcourts in the country at St. Pius X. Jasmine possesses a consistent stroke from beyond the arc and always appears engaged in the action but what might be her greatest offensive weapon is her pull-up jump shot, which was better than any other guard's at this year’s invitational. This aspect of her game will make her a viable scoring option at the next level. Her ballhandling is very solid and she does not waste motion (or dribbles) in both the half court or transition game. It is refreshing because she understands what a good guard’s role is, especially considering her better than average athleticism. Plays hard on both ends and impacts the game from the guard spot.
Caylah Cruickshank, 5-8 guard, Dawson HS, Montreal, Quebec
Unlike Carter, Cruickshank’s track to this G.P.S. included a passport, as the broad-shouldered guard traveled from Montreal to Atlanta in hopes of getting some national exposure to many high–level collegiate programs in attendance. While we struggled to identify the last Montreal native to break into the spotlight at the DI level, we offer Caylah as a trailblazer of sort. A lefty penetrator with the ability to drive, draw and dish is probably the simplest way to describe her game. She also has the ability to finish at the rim and shoot the three with extended range. Unlike most young high school guards, Cruickshank is quite comfortable in the halfcourt setting -- in fact, we believe she prefers it. A high-energy prospect with Division I suitors lining up for a trip to Quebec.
Mikayla Venson, 5-7 point guard, Yorktown HS, Arlington VA
We watched Venson over the past four years and “consistency” is the word that always seems to surface. But this time I was able to find another description or two: How about “improved” or “better”? To say that a high-level player has made a jump is a credit to the character of the player. Venson has that, plus work ethic and drive. Her skills are as polished as any 2014 point guard, as is her decision–making. Her ability to shoot the outside jump shot is consistent and passing skills are keen. Two other exquisite aspects of her game are her craftiness and hesitation dribble.
Victoria Vivians, 6-0 forward, South Central HS, Forest MS
Vivians came into camp with the reputation as a big-time scorer having scored over 50 points in several games during her sophomore year at South Central. She left with the same reputation from the many onlookers, and part of the package is her college-ready frame with an extremely strong upper body that allows her to finish easily against contact. Her go-to move is her pull-up jump shot in the mid-key area. She scores in bunches and attacks at a fierce pace. She’ll need to improve her ability to play without the ball and routinely, we noticed her inability to go left to score. But this a high-level player with all-American credentials.
Chinyere Bell, 6-1 forward, Southview HS, Fayetteville NC
One of the more intriguing prospects, Chinyere Bell came in with very little fanfare, but left with the respect of every player, coach and scout. A well-built forward with the agility and finesse of a guard, her power and strength are her tickets to the big time, but her versatility may reserve her a starting role for years to come. At 6-1 and still growing, she already has the frame of a college power forward, but with her ever improving ballhandling and her quick feet defensively, she could easily translate to the small forward in time. If that transition to the small forward position occurs with precision and focus, she could be a one of the best -- and of course, she has time. Other strong traits include the ability to rebound outside of her area at a high rate and the willingness to finish well with either hand around the cup. On the negative side of the ledger, she has a tendency to play a little out of control in transition and must learn to hold and seal in the post game.
Sydney Bordonaro, 5-7 guard, Burwell HS, Lower Burrell PA
Those who favor the team settings the individual camp settings for evaluation purposes usually point to the lack of team chemistry as the primary factor that makes evaluating difficult. But when you find a lead guard who can command the attention of her teammates, get them involved and make play after play, the camp scene can look like the orchestrated brilliance of state finals. Bordonaro was that lead guard over the two days at the G.P.S. A fine athlete who has a great floor game and showed a deadeye shooting touch from outside and more importantly, she made the right reads with the ball and kept her teammates actively following her lead. She also has a good pull-up, a nice north-south directional dribble and active and quick hands defensively, but she did struggle at times to blow by defenders.
Troyian Brooks, 6-1 forward, Helen Cox HS, Harvey LA
Louisiana has produced such stellar stars as Seimone Augustus and Alana Beard and in time, Brooks could move onto that short list. She has every physical quality to make her a future high major prospect, she's a southpaw slinger with a long frame, quickness and confidence, and the ability to run like the wind. You will find it hard to find a player who, at this stage, is as clever in her scoring. She will be difficult to guard on any level and her eventual position could range from the point to the power forward depending on the situation. Her biggest hurdle to gaining long-term elite status, like the aforementioned stars, will be her focus and her willingness to work relentlessly. We love her short term -- only time will tell if we love her long-term.
Ashanti Thomas, 6-4 forward-center, Lafayette HS, Lexington KY
Post players are coveted at every level and when you come across one who has the potential to be game-changing with long-term potential you take note -- and Thomas is that type of player. She has everything you want in a post player, starting with her ability to consistently drain the elbow jump shot and make plays on the defensive end. Around the basket, she showcases her impressive leap to score and in transition, she has the hands, the speed and length to make opposing coaches cringe with envy. This is a long-term buy: She’s one level from domination and she’s only a sophomore.
The state of Texas has given us some of the best high school ballers over the past year, including Baylor’s Brittany Griner and Odyssey Sims, Texas A & M’s Kelsey Bone, Stanford’s Ogumike sisters and Duke incoming freshmen Alexis Jones. We could offer up these two splendid guards as a look into the future of the BIG STATE’S future: 2016 Faith Cook, 5-3, point guard, Goose Creek Memorial HS, Baytown TX and 2017 Chasity Patterson, 5-5 point guard, Cunningham Middle School, Houston TX. Cook is a strong, hard-nosed compact guard with great range and maturity beyond her years. Patterson is an athletic gem with a flair that keeps us on the edge of our bleacher seats. Both will be among the nation’s elite in time.
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