It wasn’t much of a spring fling for the other clubs, but Essence had a great time at the Spring Fling 2 at Disney World May 10-12.
The Florida operation won the premier brackets for both the tenth and 11th grade and in both cases Essence defeated sister Nike-sponsored Central Florida Elite (CFE as their uniform logo goes).
Though the tournament hosted all ages from rising seniors down to elementary school groupings. Full Court primarily followed the action in the older sections but did find future stars in the middle school ranks.
Essence Purple 71, Central Florida Elite 2014 59
In 11th grade pool play, Essence was upset 59-57 by the often over-achieving Blue Star Florida Elite 2014. Thus the event co-favorites (Essence and Miami Suns Team Fowles) had to play in the quarterfinals, which was won by Essence 53-50 in a back-and-forth affair. After which, Essence won out without being challenged down the stretch even though the final margins of each game were not wide. In the semifinal, Essence defeated Below The Rim out of southeastern Florida in an affair that they controlled, be the final margin only 47-41. In the final, Essence led only 34-32 at half but dominated the second half with its much greater size and superior depth of BCS level talent.
The winning side was led by Vionise Pierre-Louis (see below) with 18 points and Dyandria Anderson (5-9 2014 small forward) with 14 points. CFE was led by Nyala Shuler (see below) with 19 points and Rolanda Hayes (5-7 2014 point) with 14 points.
Essence 2015 55, Central Florida Elite 2015 47
Here again, in the tenth grade final, it was superior size and talent that won out. Essence draws players from all over Florida while the CFE’s forces are primarily from cities and towns along the I-4 corridor of central Florida. Even though the final score was relatively close, Essence was in control most of the way. Kelsey Marshall (see below) and Kayla Rogers (5-7 2016 shooting guard) each had 14 points, while CFE was led by Janiah Denae Mckay (5-5 2015 guards) with 11 points.
On to the players…
There was plenty of talent in the event, in fact so much it was hard to choose who to feature below. Here are ten you should know about if you follow prep girls basketball in the Southeast. A few are included who didn’t have enough team around them to make a deep run in the event. Players are listed alphabetically within each class. Home town is in parenthesis.
Danielle Minott, 5-7 shooting guard, Below The Rim (Miami Gardens FL)
Minott is a player with a fairly sizable offensive skill package, just lacking a high level of consistency game to game. She has three-point range and can attack the basket going left or right, throwing in a nice spin move on occasion. Minott has a jumper but often attacks with more difficult (less likely to be successful) floaters. Already with several midmajor offers in hand, she could easily move on to BCS radar with a strong July if she desires to wait rather than taking an offer already on the table.
Vionise Pierre-Louis, 6-3 center, Essence Purple (Lake Worth FL)
Pierre-Louis was our Full Court unofficial event MVP. Why? Consistency. Game after game, she did her job (posting up hard on offense, hitting some face-up shots, rebounding, making a few high-low passes and finally defending her opposite number at the other end of the court). To cap these off, she led her team with 18 points in the final win over Central Florida Elite 2014.
Nyala Shuler, 5-11 forward, Central Florida Elite 2014 (Winter Garden FL)
Shuler was a consistent force for her team at Disney. While she lined up as her team’s power forward, she was often out on the perimeter taking mid-range jumpers and driving to the basket, particularly along the baseline. She led CFE 2014 in scoring with 19 points in the final’s loss to Essence Purple. Word in the gym was that she is getting midmajor offers but many BCS schools below the top may be missing out here. They probably view her as an undersized power forward when she is really a small forward forced inside by lack of team height. She does need to work on her ball handling which she doesn’t get to in enough game situations.
Kayla Thigpen, 5-7 guard, Essence 2015 (Delray Beach FL)
Thigpen is in attack mode from the moment she steps on the court and her presence seems to raise the team’s energy level in a similar way to her club coach Amber Smith (who was a point guard at Kentucky and soon to be graduate assistant at Tennessee) when she played in high school and college. In spite of her attacking mentality, her basketball IQ appears to be above average which is often not the case with aggressive players. She can also shoot the three but that is not currently her strength. Of medium-thin build, Thigpen needs to add some bulk lest she wear down from on-court contact.
Kyra Allison, 5-10 wing, FL Flight 2015 (Orlando FL)
Allison must be patient by nature as in high school ball, she came off the bench for State Champion Orlando Dr. Phillips but should have a more significant role for them this coming year. On the Flight, she is on a team dominated by sophomores who do not appear to be anxious to defer to a talented freshman. With a lean athletic build, Allison can go strongly to the basket having a liking for the baseline attack. On top of that, she demonstrated a decent midrange jump shot. Being a bit too unselfish at times, she might need to improve her passing technique as well as add to her shooting range. Likely at least a strong midlevel prospect, if everything comes together over the next few years, a BCS future certainly is possible.
Jazmine Jones, 5-10 shooting guard, North Florida Elite Gold (Tallahassee FL)
Here was the first of several very good players on a sub-par teams. As one of her fans shouted during a game when her team was struggling: “If not you, who?” Jones has a medium-solid, somewhat muscular, athletic build. She is very adept at shooting off the dribble and driving to the basket primarily to her dominant right hand with good finish versus contact. It appears she needs to play with emotion to be near the top of her game. She still needs to think the game better and increase her shooting range but she is certainly one of Florida’s best in the 2016 class.
Kornelia Wright, 5-6 point, Orlando Yellow Jackets (Orlando FL)
Wright is an athletic, medium-built field general. She frames her passes well and has good handles. Her feet are quick on defense and help her to get to the rim when penetrating. She has decent form on her foul shot but needs to add perimeter shooting range. With increased consistency of play, a BCS future could be down the road.
Kelsey Marshall, 5-7 guard, Essence 2015 (Davie FL)
Marshall was one of the better players on a talented Essence 2015 team, with most a grade or two ahead of her. Of medium build, she already has three-point range as well as being able to go to the basket finishing with good body control. On defense, she reads the passing lanes well. Likely one of Florida’s best in the 2017 class, an interesting footnote is that her brother plays basketball at Butler University in Indiana.
Jada Perry, 5-10 guard, FL TGFB (Lady Lake FL)
Here was a second good player on another sub-par team. Perry, an athlete with a lean build, had to bring the ball up the court in spite of not being a true lead guard and still be her team’s primary scoring option. She has good court vision but still needs to add more dribbling skill going left. She has a pull-up jumper but it is still in the formative stage.
Glenisha Harkless, 5-10 guard, Showtime Elite (Jacksonville FL)
Harkless’s team went winless at the event but that did not diminish what she showed individually. Her skill set is very advanced for someone in just the seventh grade. With a medium frame, she possesses above average athleticism and is a superior passer who understands how to lead the receiver to the ball. She enters the ball to the post like a point although she is probably a natural shooting guard. She has a nice perimeter stroke but is also very creative off the bounce. She needs to strengthen her left hand dribble and improve her defensive slides, but even so long term, one might judge her the best long term college prospect in the entire event at Disney World. With normal maturation, high majors will be lining up for this superior talent who has a chance to be high on the 2018 national roster of players.