SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. -- The Play 4 Kay Cancer Showcase hosted in early February by JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., saw no real losers as fans enjoyed some good basketball with no shortage of quality Division I talent on display, all while raising money money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Present for the day, to talk to groups of players about Coach Yow and her fight against cancer, was Beth Burns, former San Diego State head coach, who is now spending time working for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. The event itself consisted of a series of preset games; the pairings, designed to be as competitive as possible, were exactly that in more cases than not.
The feature game saw national power Windward School of Los Angeles defeat The Bishop's School (considered by many best in San Diego area) of La Jolla, 50-46. Windward maintained a single-digit lead for most of the game, leading 14–7 after one quarter and 28–22 at the half. The scoring differential remained pretty consistent in the second half with the lead 39–34 after three quarters with the final score, 50 – 46.
As is often the case for Windward, matters were controlled by their dynamic duo of Jordin Canada, the No.-7-ranked player in the Full Court Fresh 50 Class of 2014, who posted 16 points, and Kristen Simon, who put up 17 points. Bishop's has a strong duo of its own in senior Imani Littleton, who logged a game-high 21 points, and (unrelated) freshman Destiny Littleton, who finished with 16 points.
The difference in the game proved to be the greater offensive contributions by Windward’s role players. Windward has been on a major national roll of success lately. In the last few weeks the team has defeated both St. Mary’s of Berkeley and St. Mary’s of Stockton, along with Sierra Canyon and Long Beach Poly, all teams that have been ranked nationally at various times during this high school season. As for team play, California ranks near the top of the list for very strong teams nationally this high school season and these recent victories have moved Windward up the various national lists.
Looking at some of the noteworthy talent by class in the event…
Kandiss Barber, 5-11, shooting guard, Mater Dei High School (Chula Vista, Calif.)
Barber, committed to the University of Hawaii, has a lean build. But don’t be fooled! She is very willing to attack down the lane over and over again. She has good speed with the ball and in this contest often got to the rim, finishing with 26 points as her team defeated Maranatha of Pasadena, California, 61-43. Barber needs to work on improving her shooting range to maximize her success at the next level.
Jordin Canada, 5-6, point guard, Windward School (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Canada continues to be the lead candidate for any overall Miss California basketball awards. Game after game she makes others around her better, while scoring in double-digit more games than not. Yes, she needs to improve her shooting range, which is unreliable much outside the key. However, she is able to penetrate going left or right through very small spaces and even change directions along the way. UCLA has hit the jackpot in landing this premiere lead guard.
Imani Littleton, 6-3, center/forward, The Bishop’s School (La Jolla, Calif.)
Littleton is a player you need to see for at least a whole game to appreciate. At times she can be a bit passive (as she was here in half one) with what might be described as an erratic motor. When she’s on, she looks to be highly athletic and can attack the basket from either side. At times she tries to handle the ball in the open court but her handles are a bit loose, leaving her prone to turnovers. In this contest, she woke up in the second half in which she scored all but four of her 16 points. It will be interesting to see how she does at St. John’s, her college choice, on the other coast. Her well above-average athleticism provides the potential for her to become a very good college player, but if that "motor" remains as erratic as it currently appears to be, her results may be disappointing at the next level.
Chenelle Pelle, 6-2, center/forward, St. Bernard High School (Playa del Rey, Calif.)
In this event, Pelle, an unsigned senior, led her team to a 52-47 victory over St. Anthony’s High School of Long Beach with 28 points on the day. Pelle can score close to the rim with either hand. She also has a decent mid-range face-up shot.At times she does stand around a bit too much and could run the court harder. Non-major Division 1 schools still looking for a 2014 post should check out this strongly built player.
Sarah Porter, 5-10, shooting guard, Horizon Christian Academy (San Diego, Calif.)
Porter, committed to Fresno State, is a shooting guard who loves to put up shots early and often on the perimeter. She has a nice stroke and good accuracy from three-point range. However, at times she passes up good opportunities to drive the paint in favor of yet another outside shot. Remember the phrase "live on the perimeter, die on the perimeter!" In fairness to Porter, her team is shorthanded and she needs to carry a heavy scoring load -- she was good for fully half (27) of Horizon Christian's points in her team's 57-54 loss to Notre Dame Academy of West Los Angeles.
Kristen Simon, 6-1, center, Windward School (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Simon, committed to the University of Southern California, remains Windward’s sole worker in the paint game after game as the team has no other meaningful height for in-key activity. Here, Simon had the tougher assignment compared to teammate Canada’s and thus received the game MVP award with her 17-point performance. At the next level, Simon still needs to add more shooting range to continue her successful post play -- an element of her game on which she already seems to be working.
Erika Bean, 5-7, point guard, Bradshaw Christian High School (Sacramento, Calif.)
Bean, of medium-thin build, has good vision and speed as point guards go. On top of that, she has quick "ups" as players in general go. Her outside shot tends to come and go and she needs to work on consistency in this ara in order to be certain to secure a Division I scholarship, most likely just below the BCS level. She was chosen her team's most outstanding player, finishing with 16 points and five assists In her team's 61-39 loss to JSerra.
Coco Miller, 5-8, shooting guard, JSerra High School (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.)
Miller has filled out some since our last viewing over six months ago. Her build can now be described as medium-solid. Her best skill is spotting up for the three-ball off the catch. She has added some driving ability, most impressively a spin move. She is an above-average passer and has a good basketball IQ. She needs to improve her left-hand dribbling skills and try to up her defensive quickness a bit. Miller is getting offers from many quality mid-level programs but could end up in the BCS before signing is over. She was named game MVP, after posting a strong 31-point performance in her team’s victory over Bradshaw Christian.
Tayler Bennett, 5-7, shooting guard, St. Anthony’s High School (Long Beach, Calif.)
Bennett is a good athlete with a nice skill set. She can shoot the pull-up jumper and is not afraid to go to the glass for offensive rebounds. She can hit the three-ball, though that is not yet her offensive strength. She still needs to improve her left-hand dribbling. Look for her to attract at least mid-level Division I offers down the road
Kendall Chan, 5-6, point guard, Notre Dame Academy (West Los Angeles, Calif.)
Chan is a player who will not be fairly evaluated until her body fills out. Despite her youth, she has an above-average basketball IQ as well as above-average court vision. A lefty, she can go right, but still needs to improve her right-hand dribble. Her favorite move appears to be driving the lane and kicking out to open shooters. She has the basis of a pull-up jumper but it is not strong yet. She also can spot up for the three-ball, but again that does not appear to be her specialty. Her leadership in this game along with her 14 points earned her game MVP honors in defeating Horizon Christian.
Chelsey Gipson, 5-5, guard, Windward School (Los Angeles, Calif.)
The thinly built Gipson is the wildcard in Windward’s arsenal. As a young player, she usually takes a backseat to the play of senior star Jordin Canada. Still, every now and then she puts up big numbers, usually thanks to her spot-up shooting inside and beyond the arc. Her ability to run an offense will probably determine if she turns out to be a mid-level or a BCS-level guard and with Canada present, that is hard to say as the senior dominates the ball. Still, Gipson seems to have above-average basketball IQ; thus, she is already partway home.
Destiny Littleton, 5-8, shooting guard, The Bishop's School (La Jolla, Calif.)
One thing that this Littleton does not need to do is fill out -- she already owns a strong build, and while her quickness is acceptable, power is her trump card even at this early age. Her penetrations to the basket are more like that of a college freshman than a high school freshman. Her outside shot can be pushy at times and that certainly needs work.Her handles are already pretty strong, particularly going right, and she has a nice spin move to get around defenders who might be directly ahead of her. Her basketball IQ and her ability to rebound are also both above-average for a guard of her age. A likely BCS prospect down the line, one observer at the event offered the following description: "If she’s a puppy, she’s a St. Bernard.”