JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Last spring we first heard of a tournament in the northeast corner of the Volunteer State called the Tennessee Miracle Tournament. This year upon examining their list of 118 teams we were impressed with number of talented teams from numerous states spanning from Ohio to Florida and made the trip to Jefferson City to watch the Middle School and High School divisions.
The best division was most likely the 7th grade division which had at least 5 teams that will compete for the AAU National championship. High quality 7th grade teams like the Florida Future and TN Fury (the reigning National Champions), did not even make the play-offs and the Lady Phoenix got crushed in the semi’s by Legacy (KY) who then lost in the championship game quite handily to Tennessee Team Pride. Winners at the event included: Alabama Southern Starz (11/12 Grade Division), Lady Phoenix Rudd (10th Grade Division), Alabama Southern Starz (9th Grade Division), Spectrum (8th Grade Division), TN Team Pride (7th Grade Division), TN Trotters Gold (6th Grade Division), TN Team Pride (5th Grade Division), Dayton Lady Hoopstars (4th Grade Division), TN Trotters (3rd Grade Division).
Below we review 16 of the top players at the event.
Shakayla Thomas, 6-1 forward, AL Southern Starz (Sylacauga, AL)
Easily the top prospect at the event, Shakayla celebrated her birthday by winning a championship in the top bracket. As impressive as she was last fall, it’s easy to see why she’s ranked No. 16 in the Full Court Fresh 50, as she combines ultra-explosiveness with precision and skill. At one point in the championship game she made a steal at mid-court, sprinted down the floor and clapped both hands on the backboard as she laid the ball in near the rim. Thomas’s only down side is sometimes she takes bad shots, often shooting a more difficult spin-move-fade-away-pull-up, when she could have just pulled up. This minor flaw should be corrected when she gets to high major D-1, and the competition from the opponents is more on her level.
Blair Schaefer, 5-7 combo guard, AL Southern Starz (Starksville, MS)
It’s no surprise that Schaefer plays with passion and a high basketball IQ as her Dad (Vic Schaefer) is recognized as one of the top coaches in women's basketball. Blair has the ability to knock down long range jumpers, but it’s her other skills that make her a multi-dimensional player. It would be easy to say she’s a shooter, but we watched her hustle into position to take a charge, on what would have been an easy layup for the other team, use ball-fakes to get defenders in the air and then drive by them for pull-up jumpers over a helpside defender, and do all the little things her team needed her to do to win the championship. Blair is committed to playing for her Dad at Mississippi State.
Katie Smartt 5-10 wing/shooting guard TN Fury (Lenoir City, TN)
Katie is a very hard worker and does all of the little things that coaches love. She is very good defensively, and is not afraid to dive across the floor for a loose ball. Smartt is also extremely athletic, her speed and quickness allow her to not only get out on the fast break but also to stay in front of ball handlers, and get to the rim with ease. She is one of the most underrated players in the state of Tennessee, but Katie showed that she has D1 potential by scoring 21 points in a game on the second day of the tournament.
Dominique Doseck, 5-8 point guard, Team Ohio (Athens, OH)
Dominique does just about everything on the floor. She can shoot the three, lock down the opposing team’s best player, and pulls down rebounds. However, my favorite thing about Doseck is her court vision, and flashy passing, she always finds the open player and made a couple of passes in the championship game that were the best I saw all weekend. Her ability to take contact and still finish is another great attribute, along with her willingness to get on the floor for loose balls. Dominique Doseck is clearly a big time player!
Kristen Levering, 6-2 forward/post, Team Ohio (Powell, OH)
When you look at Kristen your first thought is that she is just a long post player. At 6-2 Levering completely surprised me when I saw her draining threes with ease. She always plays extremely hard on defense, and her length allows her to be an above average defensive player. If she she ads muscle weight and gets a bit stronger she could easily become a dominating player.
Savannah Felgemacher, 6-1 wing/post, Knoxville Lady Panthers (Church Hill, TN)
Felgemacher has really filled out this year and added some serious strength to her frame. In the fall we wrote that she was wiry, but now her frame is solid and she’s only getting better with the added strength. We watched as she pulled down an offensive rebounded and sank the put with one arm as the defender hung on her other arm. In addition, she handles the ball decently in transition and see’s the floor very well especially after defensive rebounds.
Nakiah Black, 5-11 wing, Lady Phoenix Rudd (Concord, NC)
A wiry wing, black has exceptional form on her jumper and a nice mid-range game. Saw her pop some threes and she was all over the court on defensive in Delaney Rudd’s signature swarming defense. Rudd has such a high quality team that it was hard to stand out but Black absolutely made a name for herself this weekend.
Ciani Byrom, 5-5 point guard, Lady Phoenix Rudd (Winston-Salem, NC)
True point guards run a team and Byrom does just that when she’s on the floor for the Lady Phoenix. She’s a strong kid with a "warrior-type" attitude. Byrom didn't look to score much, which is an area she could improve on, but what she does very well is weave thru traffic and set teammates up for easy baskets. She also had a number of “Rondo” type of assists, simple passes to open players who were in position to score. Nothing fancy, nothing falshy, just delivering the ball to the right gal in the right spot, seems simple but it’s often not done, or not done right.
Kiana “Lucky” Rudd, 5-9 shooting guard, Lady Phoenix Rudd (Thomasville, NC)
Lucky is one of my favorite players in the entire 2016 class. She does everything on the court, she is an absolute lights out shooter, and can run with the best of them. I love the intensity that she plays with on both ends of the court as she is not afraid to dive across the floor for a loose ball, and will completely sacrifice her body for the greater good of her team. Rudd was easily one of the best defensive players all weekend and has loads of athleticism. Lucky will only continue to get better as she works towards being one of the top players nationally in the 2016 class.
Kiara Smith, 5-10 combo guard, Havoc City (Washington, DC)
The Bishop MacNamara freshmen impressed with her blazing speed and ridiculous hops. She has long wiry frame and uses her explosiveness to split defenders and get to the rim with ease. She is as smooth as they come and is able to run the PG spot but is more of a three right now then anything. I would like to see some more perimeter game but her ablility to get to the cup and finish is uncanny.
Alexis Houston, 6-1 Post, Spectrum (Roanoke, VA)
Alexis has a great basketball body, I would say she is easily 6-1 already, and very long. Her height and athleticism allows her to dominate the paint at her age level. Houston gets every rebound she wants, and is surprisingly good at knowing when to go up and meet the ball. I think she has the potential and size to be a big time 2017 recruit, college coaches should take note now!
Jordyn Cambridge, 5-7 point guard, TN Team Pride (Nashville, TN)
Long and hyper athletic especially for a 7th grader Jordyn was clearly the MVP of the uber talented 7th grade division. Had I not known better I would have thought Cambridge was a 10th or 11th grader based on her length. She has unbelievable body control and a nice handle, to go along with the ability to finish near the rim with different spins on the ball and the ability to finish with contact. She’s going to be a big time player in the not so distant future…easily a top 25-50 kid nationally, if not higher. Best 7th grader I personally I have ever seen.
Taylor Lamb, 5-9 wing/forward, Knoxville Lady Panthers (Greenville, TN)
Built like a solid 11th grader Taylor is just 13 years old. When she walked in the gym I thought she was just a player arriving late for the game but the Panthers coaches had brought her from her middle school game to play in the 11th grade division. It is impressive that a 7th grader could hold her own playing up, but she did more than that. She knocked down an open jumper, hit a layup in transition and pulled down several rebounds, at least one that was out of her area and she had to battle a much older competitor. Look for Lamb’s name to rise rapidly this summer.
Blair Green, 6-0 forward, TN Fury (Middlesboro, KY)
Blair is a very polished player to be so young, she does things on the court that will surprise you. I love the amount of determination she plays with; when she wants a basket she physically goes and gets it. She can knock down the three, or drive right past her defender for a lay-in. If another player on the court takes a shot, Green is the first one under the basket going for the rebound, and more times than not she comes down with it. She is already a very talented player, and I’m sure she will only continue to get better as she ages.
Sydni Harvey, 5-7 guard, TN Fury (Brentwood, TN)
Sydni’s athleticism is absolutely off the charts. If there is a loose ball or a missed shot, you can almost guarantee the she will be in play for it simply because she is just so quick and can jump with the best of them. Harvey also showed that she can put the ball in the basket at will, there just wasn’t anyone all weekend that could stay in front of her. As she becomes a more polished offensive player she will be unstoppable, and she is already on her way to being one of the top players in Tennessee in the loaded 2018 class.
Mykia Dowdell, 5-8 forward/post, TN Fury (Oak Ridge, TN)
Mykia is a very strong player, she has a great frame, and may not be very tall but she is definitely a player that can physically punish anyone in the paint. Upon watching Dowdell play I thought she was very similar to Olivia Jones, 2013 post player out of Riverdale High School, their body frame and playing style are very similar. She needs to work on becoming a more polished offensive player but she has a leg up on anyone else her age due to her physical strength.
Ally Niece, 5-6 combo guard, Legacy (Taylor Mill, KY)
Ally caught my eye immediately as she stuck out on a very talented team. She might be one of the best penetrating guards at her level, she also has a great handle, and can shoot the ball very well. Let’s not forget to mention that she does all of the intangible things, such as hustle, and vocally lead her team. Niece is a very well rounded guard, and is sure to be one of the top 2018's out of Kentucky.
John McGraw is the Head Women’s Basketball coach at Fisk University and the founder of Insider Exposure, a circuit of NCAA Certified Events. The Insider Exposure website is located at insiderexposure.wordpress.com. You can follow Coach McGraw on twitter @CoachJohnMcGraw
Trevor Goodson is the Assistant Women’s Basketball coach at Fisk University and the Director of Operations for Insider Exposure. You can follow Coach Goodson on Twitter, @CousinTrevvv
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