JACKSONVILLE, FL -- When fans think of recruiting, they think of traditional high schools, with students no older than 18. But there are schools that specialize in fifth-year seniors and foreign students, and talent is available.
The problem is that the talent pool can change drastically year to year -- what looked like a barren cupboard can suddenly become fairly full and vice versa. With that in mind, Full Court dropped in on the recent Mother Morgan Memorial Healthcare Awareness Basketball Shootout (held at Potter’s House Christian Academy in Jacksonville, FL) which featured over a half dozen private school teams of varying sizes and talent levels.
What year are you?
Prep school rosters unfortunately are not always what they seem to be. Not being allowed to interact with parents, college recruiters are thus tied to their roster sheets as they analyze the talent on the court. Being a journalist, I was not under such restriction and accidentally discovered a few important roster errors from one school. Parent A happened to be sitting next to me. “Which one’s your daughter?” A number was given in reply. “Oh, she’s a freshman,” I responded. After some additional questioning as to how much longer the player in question (a foreigner) would be at the school, I concluded she was really a sophomore. Later, a parent seeing me take notes questioned me as to what I was doing. As the conversation proceeded, she was shocked to learn her child was listed as a freshman when eighth grade was the proper classification in the parent’s mind.
Who can you play?
Due to various state governing body regulations, public schools in some states are not allowed to play prep schools. One issue is the use of fifth-year seniors and/or post-graduates. Another can be lack of membership in a certain accrediting body. All of this can result in forcing that certain team to another world of competition away from the main stream of high school talent. In some states, there are leagues and events for home-schooled players while in other states, they can play on a public school team where they live.
A few years back, I attended the Texas State High School Championships (wrote a piece on that well-run event). Alexis Jones (now at Duke) of MacArthur was a headliner in the event but at the same time, one of the voters for the Texas All-State teams had no idea who Moriah Jefferson (now at Connecticut) was since she was home-schooled and did not play under UIL (Texas athletic governing body) sponsorship. Thus in the eyes of most in Texas who follow high school sports, she didn’t exist. That obviously didn’t hurt Moriah’s recruitment (as she was a star on the club basketball circuit), but it does hurt others who do not get as much exposure and have less talent.
With the above in mind, let’s throw some light on players at this event…
Rina Hill (5-7 point guard, IMG Academy, Bradenton FL)
Hill, while more talented than most, typifies many of the foreign students at prep schools. She wants to play sports at an American college/university but could not attract an offer while in her native land. Growing up in Nagoya-Shi, Japan, with an American father and Japanese mother, she started speaking English when she was about four years old.
As a player, Hill is of medium build and light on her feet. She can run an offense but sadly, she did not get to play much in Jacksonville as she was sidelined early in the event by a relatively minor calf injury. The word in the gym was that she is clearly a Division I prospect and schools still searching for a point guard for their 2013 recruiting class should check her out.
Sarah Beal (5-7 point guard, New Hope Christian Academy, Thomasville NC)
“I chose Providence over several mid majors (including Winthrop, High Point, FIU and VCU) and Georgetown,” said Beal. “I really had a good connection with the coaching staff. I really fell in love with the [Providence] campus and I always dreamed about playing in the Big East.”
Beal is a player who could grow on you if you had followed her progress over the last year. The highest compliment you can give any point guard is that she makes her teammates better and that may be Beal’s number one attribute. If this event gave out a MVP award, Beal would have been the leading candidate as she helped her team sweep all three contests, including a 54-34 win over IMG. She attempts to involve others in an ongoing way whether it is passing in transition, ball movement in the quartercourt, or a piercing drive and gentle dish to get an easy look near the basket. Yes, her shot could get better and maybe cut down on turnovers, but we could say that about a lot of point guards.
Khaleann Caron-Goudreau and Audrey Ann Caron-Goudreau (both 6-3 forwards, IMG Academy, Bradenton FL)
Yes, they are identical twins with very similar games (though Khaleann currently has braces and that was the only obvious way to tell them apart). They are solidly built and have a varied, high level skill package and above-average basketball IQ for 6-3 underclass athletes. Both handle and pass the ball well for players of their size. They can start or finish the fast break as foot speed is above average for each. Both are physical battlers on the boards with above average ups and athleticism. Either will post up but both appear most effective working out of the high post area. In watching them twice, they seemed to take turns playing the power forward slot (where they were most effective) and the small forward slot, where both were functional except in shooting at distance. Who’s better? Go watch and decide for yourself.
Coming from French-speaking Gatineau in Quebec, the twins feel IMG is greatly helping their progress as basketball players. Back home both are members of the Canadian National program. With big-time upside, they have stated without hesitation they will go as a package to an American university offering a combination of high academics (both are considering medical-related careers) and high-level hoops. Near the start of their high school careers, their parents, according to their father, sort of orally committed them to the University of Texas but the players themselves never formally did so. With the change in staff at Texas, their recruiting process returned to square one and currently both twins say they are wide open with Florida, Virginia Tech and Texas pursuing most intensely (according to the twins themselves) but they are also communicating with TCU and LSU. Arguably, together they represent the top recruiting prize available from the 2014 class in Florida and should have no trouble finding schools anxious to fill their needs.
Kristina King (6-3 power forward, New Hope Christian Academy, Thomasville NC)
In some self-analysis, King accurately broke down her own game. “I need to work on my ballhandling and my shot. I think I’m best at defense.”
King is a very mobile player for her size, particularly skilled at deflecting passes and guarding a smaller player on the perimeter, thanks to long arms and active feet. Offensively, she can go inside (where she needs to take contact better). She can also knock down a three but that is not her strongest point. Regardless, the upside clearly makes her a solid BCS prospect. She has no list of schools that she is down to but mentionedVirginia Tech, West Virginia and Notre Dame as strongly pursuing her as saw it.
Denisha Swain (5-7 guard, Potter’s House Christian Academy, Jacksonville FL)
It is easy to look at Swain’s nimble medium build and say she qualifies as an athletic guard. Being able to shoot the three, she can also move to the off guard slot although she primarily played the point in this event. She likes to penetrate going right and her biggest need, besides filling out a bit, would be to improve dribbling and attacking going left. Depending on how her game progresses, offers could come from BCS schools but certainly will from mid-majors.
Jasmine Gaines (5-5 guard, Potter’s House Christian Academy, Jacksonville FL)
When any eighth grader can be a factor in a quality high school game, you need to take notice. When it happens repeatedly, you need not only to write down the player’s name but take notes as to what she is doing to be so effective. In several viewings, Gaines plays with unusual poise and confidence for her age. She has a decent midrange jumper and uses her body (fairly strongly built for her age) to get to the basket. Like so many, she needs to improve her off (left) hand and extend her shooting range. Down the road, Division I looks of note should follow.
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