LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The “tournament schedule” within the scholastic season is generally perceived to run from Thanksgiving through the Martin Luther King holiday in mid-January. However, for the past 10 years Keith Baisch and the folks at Mercy Academy in Louisville have taken the calendar into overtime with the Raatz Fence / O’Shea’s Classic. With four games on Friday and a full slate of eight contests Saturday there’s always plenty of talented teams and individuals for the coaches, media and evaluators who make the trip to the Bluegrass State.
This year teams 16 teams representing five different states took part in two days of competitive basketball on the Mercy campus. Friday’s line-up featured an average margin of victory of only 6.75 points per game with just one battle being decided by double digits (12). While Saturday’s gap jumped to 13, the day was highlighted by six extremely tight contests including three decided by five or less.
Looking ahead, teams across the country are now moving back into league or conference play before hitting the homestretch leading into regional competition and state tournament play. In the meantime, here are some of the impressive performances from one of the last in 2016 – 17 in-season events, the Raatz Fence / O’Shea’s Classic.
We’ve seen Sacred Heart senior and Indiana signee Grace Berger multiple times this season alone and she never fails to offer up some eye catching moments. As has been noted in the past, few players can create shots or passes as effectively off the dribble as this 5-10 guard. The tools have always been there to improve her own looks and more and more she’s developing the options of her teammates. On the drive she can take it all the way to the rim but the pull up and floater are effective “go to” moves for her with a deceiving vertical. Berger is gradually becoming more and more active without the ball in her hands and is forcing defenders to stay just a “little tighter” on the weakside of the floor and watering down their helpside rotations. The best is yet to come.
Plenty of youth was on hand in Louisville and one of the promising young standouts in Kentucky reminded us of the reason why on Saturday afternoon. Shelby Calhoun, a 5-10 guard from Christian Academy, continues to play at an advanced level for someone who won’t walk across the graduation stage until 2020. The versatility is there in her game to make her a threat both from the perimeter and off penetration. She utilizes an efficient change of speed by way of her hesitation move and her eyes remain down floor looking for teammates with better options on the break. She can finish with contact but offered up a reliable looking floater as an addition option to call upon. She gets off the floor which aids her finishing around the rim as well as on the glass, particularly the offensive boards.
Watching established young prospects evolve is a treat for any recruiter or evaluator. Zia Cooke stamped her name on recruiting lists a long while back but the 2019 guard continues to add “just a little more” to her already dynamic skill set each time out. Few players can handle the ball in traffic as the Toledo Rogers standout does. Even in tight trapping situations the 5-9 combo can navigate herself free and attack. In two games this weekend she offered up both scoring options of her own as well as improving those of the teammates around her. While the consistency on her jumper will have to come, the 6 – 14 three point effort Saturday serves as a reminder why defenders are forced to close out tighter than common sense might tell them to. On the drive Cooke can provide some entertaining finishes or passes that are fun to watch…for everyone except for the opposition. The maturation in her impressive game is showing more and more.
While Cooke may be “early” in her career, we’ve been fortunate enough to have watched Bullitt East senior and Louisville signee Lindsey Duvall for many years now. The future 5-10 Cardinal guard is one of the most versatile backcourt players in the 2017 class and is more than willing to step up when a big play needs to be made. Watch her closely and you’ll see her reading defenders both on ball and weakside as she attacks. Duvall is a smart player who sees the floor and recognizes her options as well as when the time is appropriate to give it up. Her perimeter shot might be considered a true jumper and she sets it up with an all too hard to find simple shot fake. Off the dribble her crossover serves her well and creates separation for both the pull up and penetration. Lots of depth to her skill set.
One of the quicker, more dynamic performances Saturday came from Louisville Male junior point guard Ciaja Harbison. The underclassman has already provided St. Louis with a verbal commitment and it’s easy to see why the Billikens would be excited about her decision. The 5-5 Harbison is explosive and quick with the ball in her hands. Off the move her acceleration leaves defenders scrambling and her speed with the ball provides little opportunity for them to recover. She’s an effective scorer with the ability to knock it down spotting up, off the pull up or taking it all the way to the rim in traffic. In transition her change of speed keeps the opposition guessing and she’s making good choices with sharp downfloor vision. Defensively, she’s an assertive on ball defender with the same speed and quickness serving her well on both ends of the floor.
As we mentioned earlier, the youth were out in force last weekend and host Mercy Academy has a couple of promising freshmen on the horizon. One of them is 6-0 wing Ta’Ziah Jenks. With lots of length and an obvious promise of some more to come, Jenks is combining some strong physical tools with an already efficient perimeter skill set. Her first step is lengthy and quick leading to an opportunity to get to the rim and create opportunities. Even with a lean build now, she can finish among the rotating bigs and has a good understanding of where they’re coming from and what her options are. She called on a floater a time or two that should be more and more consistent as time goes by. On the catch she’s patient and understands what’s developing in sets before she makes decisions with the ball. All her movement on both ends is smooth and fluid with plenty of potential for more. She’s in the right setting to see just how far she can take her game.
Butler had one of the “big” wins off the event as they took down highly regarded and ranked Montini Catholic out of Illinois. A big reason they were able to capture the win was the play of Indiana signee Jaelynn Penn. A 5-10 guard, Penn seems to be a utility player for the Bearettes as she play two, three and four as needed on both ends of the floor. Athletic and strong, she’s a constant and consistently “makes plays” when needed. With both quickness and strength, the future Hoosier gets to the rim often and has no trouble taking on contact as it comes her way (A trait that will serve her well in the physical Big 10). The first step is quick and the mid-range touch is there as needed. That same footspeed and physical strength serve her well on the defensive end as she’s strong both on ball as well as rotating as needed in helpside situations.
Mercer County split two games and junior guard Seygan Robins did all she could to make it a sweep. The Louisville verbal commit shot 12 of 18 from the floor including a lethal 7 for 10 from three point range. That will keep the defenders honest at any level. Making her even more challenging is the ability of the 5-9 lefty to take it to the rim with equal efficiency. Robins is adept at reading both situations and defenses before commiting to an attack and more often than not is making sound choices both in transition and the halfcourt. She did, however, finish with a combined 11 turnovers in two games. Off the drive she mixes up both speed and direction and the acceleration she utilizes off the move is deceiving to both defenders and observers. The depth to her game makes Robins the kind of guard you want to have the ball in her hands when the game is on the line.
Bailee Adkins – 2020 – 5-6 – Guard – St. Joseph – Combo…Good skills and understanding…Plays with effort and awareness…Hesitation…Can penetrate…Spot up range
Nila Blackford – 2019 – 6-0 – Forward / Post – Dupont Manual – Great size and build for age…Physically strong…Aggressive around the rim on both ends…Decent hands…Makes power moves…Showed a jump hook
Kiki Britzman – 2019 – 5-11 – Wing / Forward – Incarnate Word – Active and aggressive…Decent instincts with the ball…Looking to create off the dribble…Gets on the glass…Had some moments
Cameron Browning – 2019 – 6-1 – Forward / Post – Louisville Male – Promising young player…Nice size and build…Good Strength…Can catch and read on the block…Cuts hard and with intent…Shot Fake is in place…High post drive…Also looks for High-Low passing…Watch closely
Summer Conti – 2017 – 5-5 – Point Guard – Butler – Rollins College commit…Ball skills…Creates…Strong passing in transition…Penetrates in the halfcourt…Can spot up from the perimeter
Tonysha Curry – 2017 – 5-9 – Guard – Dupont Manual – Unsigned athletic guard…Aggressive with and without the ball…Attacks the rim…Not afraid of contact…Impressive first step
Danielle Feldkamp – 2018 – 6-3 – Post – Mercy Academy – Size frame and build…Strong and active…Evolving skills are becoming more and more refined…Seals well down low and holds her ground…Good on the glass…Impressive outletting the ball
Aniah Griffin – 2018 – 5-11 – Wing – Dupont Manual – Has some length and athleticism…Lots of agility…First step is there…Form is there spotting up…Tools…Some refinement needed
Alexis Hall – 2018 – 5-8 – Guard – St. Joseph – Can create off the dribble…Upright at times…Attacking mentality…Three point range is there…Plays hard both ends
Tanziah Hines – 2018 – 6-1 – Forward – Toledo Rogers – Strong, athletic and active…Works hard on both ends of the floor…Can finish effectively…Aggressive on the glass and defensively…Evolving
Lindsey Jarosinski – 2018 – 6-5 – Post – Montini Catholic – Established prospect…Size, build and frame…Works for and holds position…Reads on the catch…Protects the ball on the catch…Looked for her own more effectively later in the game…High post drive on occasion…Looking for consistency
Dena Jerrells – 2019 – 5-4 – Point Guard – St. Joseph – Young point…Strong ballhandling and passing skills…Crossover sets her up…Form is there on the shot…Can get all the way to the rim…Active without the ball as well…Size??
Claudia Kunzer – 2017 – 5-6 – Point Guard – Montini Catholic – South Dakota commit…Assertive and attacking point guard…Always looking to create…Sound ballhandling and passing skills…Shot fake and drive…Makes plays at both ends
Sarah McDonald – 2019 – 5-9 – Wing – Christian Academy – Active…Makes herself and option…Looks to put it on the floor…Change of speed and direction…Narrow base at times…Was 9 of 14 in 28 point game
Lexy Lake – 2018 – 5-7 – Guard – Mercer County – Southeast Missouri commit…Shooter with range…Quick release…Shot is out in front of her a bit…Active in cutting and making herself an options
Molly Lockhart – 2018 – 6-3 – Post – Butler – Solid post with size…Good frame and Lower body strength…Has some sound post moves…Active working for position…Able to finish consistently around the rim…Lots of effort getting to the boards
Nadia Lomax – 2019 – 5-9 – Guard – Columbus North – Solid young guard…Attacking mentality…Can put it on the floor to a degree…Has a floater…Form is there
Bri Mishler – 2018 – 5-9 – Guard – Eastern – Lean build…Fluid and fundamental guard…Active with and without the ball…Uses hesitation off the dribble…Stroke is there…Smooth, consistent form from deep
Sonya Morris – 2018 – 5-9 – Guard – Incarnate Word – Strong, athletic guard…Can create her own…Mixes up both speed and direction…Handles contact on penetration…Assertive on ball defensively…Hit game winner Friday
Aaliyah Patty – 2018 – 6-3 – Post – Montini Catholic – Size, agility and strength…Aggressive…Works the block…Can hold her ground offensively and defensively…Passing up her own opportunities at times on the block…Worked to get to the glass
DeAsia Reed – 2018 – 6-0 – Forward – Princeton – Physically strong…Plays with effort…Can finish down low…Gets on the glass…Goes up strong…Some passing skills…Needs 15 foot consistency
Reese Sexton – 2020 – 5-7 – Guard – Assumption – Had a few moments in limited time…Cuts hard…Smart with good concepts…Shot is off shoulder to a degree…Knocked down a couple…Showed some range
Hope Sivori – 2020 – 5-4 – Point Guard – Mercy Academy – Young point with strong skills and instincts…Pushes the ball at opportunity but with sound decisions for age…Creates shots and passes…Sees the floor in transition…Tools are there
Willow White – 2020 – 5-6 – Point Guard – Princeton – Young guard who had moments…Quick and athletic…Sound ballhandling skills…Has decent form and range…Showed some individual skills
Rickie Woltman – 2019 – 6-3 – Post – Incarnate Word – Has the size and frame…Deceiving vertical for her size…Good understanding of what she’s looking for…Decent hands…Made some tip passes…Must find consistency in finishing after creating good looks…Important time in front of her