GILBERT, Ariz.—New York and Macy’s Parade is the place to be for Thanksgiving and Times Square is the go-to destination for New Year’s Eve. However, if you want to celebrate girl’s scholastic basketball, Mecca is indisputably the annual Nike Tournament of Champions in the Valley of the Sun. For the 21st year a collection of some of the top teams from across the country have gathered together to fight for and settle the battle of bragging rights on a national basis.
Over the years, more than 20,000 athletes have taken the floor at the TOC including a multitude of high school All-Americans, future professional players and eight separate Olympians. Teams have made the trip from 44 of 50 states as well as every province north of the border in Canada. Past participants have gone on to win 168 state titles while 16 of the past 18 consensus National Champions ducked no competition making their way to the Tournament of Champions on their journey to a national crown.
This time around 81 teams from 19 different states and the District of Columbia have descended on Gilbert Arizona for a four-day pre-Christmas party that will feature 160 games before all is said and done. Champions will be crowned in five different brackets including the highly regarded and coveted Joe Smith Division.
For brackets and day one results, follow the link below to the National Basketball site and the Tournament of Champions page.
Blue Star Media will be in the gym from start to finish and providing a combination of evaluations and results across the course of the event. Tonight, we take a look at a few players who had some strong first day efforts but might not quite be the household names some of their peers are. It could be that they’re young or on a deep and talented team or possibly are just coming into their own this season. Check back with Blue Star Media throughout the week for additional content from Arizona and the 21st Annual Nike Tournament of Champions.
An agile 6-1 forward, Marisa Davis plays both facing and with her back to the rim. The 6-1 freshman has a soft touch in lane area but also possesses the tools play a physical brand of basketball. A great set of hands allows her to be an impact presence on the glass as well as haul in some tough passes in traffic. The Valley Vista standout has a good understanding of spacing and tempo for player of her limited varsity experience. Despite a single digit loss to La Jolla Country Day there’s lots of success still in front of Davis and her teammates. – Joe Fenelon (Image courtesy Nicc Jackson)
As part of a deep Riverdale Baptist roster, Yanni Hendley has to pick her spots and opportunities. In the Crusaders 12 point win over Archbishop Wood Hendley converted several of those opportunities into key moments critical to holding off the Vikings and moving on in the winners bracket. The 5-7 guard is a solid, strong athlete who can more than hold her own with defenders who might have an inch or two on her in the height department. Hendley is assertive and attacking with the ball in her hands and has the tools create both shots and passes. She efficient with her pull-up but can deliver a sharp inside pass as defenders rotate her way. The passing is there on the break plus she’s an asset on the glass from the perimeter. – Mark Lewis
Archbishop Wood battled Riverdale Baptist tooth and nail before falling in the end by 12 despite a strong effort from senior wing Katie May. The 5-11 lefthander is headed to Northeastern next year and is a key component both statistically and as a floor leader. A fundamental player, she’s assertive offensively and developing a more consistent attack from three point range. Additionally, the passing skills are there to deliver the ball to hard cutting teammates time and again in their well spaced offense. May isn’t going to take you off the dribble often but the vision and basketball IQ are there to read defenders and create space. – Kevin Lynch
Archbishop Mitty had no trouble in their first round match up with Millennium thanks in part to the play of future Westmont College 5-4 point guard Krissy Miyahara. When you play on the same team as Power Five recruits like Karisma Ortiz ( 2018 – Penn State) and Haley Jones ( 2019 – anywhere she wants!) you learn to pick your spots. The spots Miyahara picks are just outside the three point line where the senior has the uncanny ability to convert them into high percentage shots. Outstanding footwork and a quick release enable her to use a fluid stroke to keep opponents of Coach Sue Phillips from doubling her high profile teammates. Beyond her long range touch, she impacts the game with hustle both with and without the ball. Defensively she’s pesky on the ball and anticipates well one and two passes away. – Kevin Lynch
Zaniya Nelson and her Putnam City West team endured a painful two point loss to Omaha Westside Tuesday but the promising sophomore had her share of moments. A versatile, athletic wing at 5-10, Nelson has range out to the arch. Her quick first step gets her into the lane and a college ready frame allows her to deliver once she encounters traffic. Her strength permits her to defend interior players at times while her athleticism lets her match up with opponents on the perimeter as well. – Joe Fenelon
Grandview came up short, 69 – 56, against St. John’s College but even in the loss there were some bright spots. One was agile freshman post Addison O’Grady. At 6-3 she’s strong, physical and skilled. That frame combines with an impressive IQ for her age making any coach happy. Add in some ballhandling skills, a little shot blocking and a hardnosed toughness and you’ve got one to watch for the future. Size, depth of skills and youth will always have folks watching closely. – Joe Fenelon
When you play for a program with a lineage like Windward, expectations are high each time you take the floor. While the Wildcats came up short in their first round match-up with Centennial, they got a solid effort from junior India Otto. The 5-9 guard made herself a factor early in the game contributing in a variety of ways. The ability is there to create off the dribble as well as spot up on the perimeter. The stroke and form are sound but there is a slight twist to the body in her shot. Without the ball, she cuts hard and is adept at reading defenders and making herself an option. She gets out in transition and plays with a lot of effort on both ends of the floor. – Mark Lewis
While she made some major waves this spring during USA Basketball trials Ramani Parker, for some unknown reason, is still not quite the household name many of her peers are. At 6-4, her size and athleticism blend together to make her a match up nightmare for any opponent. Additionally, her length makes her all the more challenging even for those defenders of equal stature. Her impact is felt on both ends of the floor for her Central High School team. The same agility and footwork that makes her an offensive impact player also allows her to be a shot altering defender and dominant rebounder. Elite. – Joe Fenelon (Image courtesy Joe Fenelon)
Headed to Philadelphia Pa. to play for Head Coach Jeff Williams and the LaSalle Explorers, Makayla Pippen brings power and strength to the front court. The 6-1 Rock Creek senior finishes with both hands and possesses a nice jump hook around the rim. Despite making herself at home as a power forward, her ballhandling is sufficient and she gets out in the lanes with the guards on the break. Pippin is a physical presence on defense and gets on the glass at both ends of the floor triggering transition with a quick outlet. Originally a Florida commitment, she should provide an impact as a freshman at LaSalle. – Kevin Lynch
Kennady Tucker, a 5-10 guard from North Little Rock, passes the eye test even in warm ups. Athletic and cut, the junior has the tools to make herself an impact player to whatever degree she chooses. While there’s still work to be done, she can get deep in the paint and has the ability to create her own shot off the dribble. The ballhandling is somewhat high and upright but it still serves her well and makes her a threat on the catch. Perimeter consistency will force opponents to close out tightly and open up additional opportunities for Tucker. Those athletic attributes mentioned earlier make her a real threat as an impact on ball defender if she so chooses. – Mark Lewis
While hardly an “under the radar” player, Santa Clara bound guard Lindsey VanAllen seemed unknown to the defenders from North Little Rock. Playing on her home floor, the Mesquite senior zeroed in from long range time and again enabling the Wildcats to move on to round two on the winner’s side of the Joe Smith bracket. VanAllen is very lean giving off an impression of some length despite standing just 5-9. On the catch, she’s reading and making good choices both with her passes as well as her shot selection. Being a threat from deep, she forces defenders to close tight which she exploits off the drive showcasing a sound pull-up as well as a good touch around the rim. Strength will have to come at the next level to provide a more physical presence on the defensive end of the floor. – Mark Lewis