BENSALEM, Pa. – It’s that time of year again.
The Blue Star Media Elite 25 girls’ basketball preseason rankings launch with 25 teams listed alphabetically. We’ve divided the teams into two categories: Terrific 10 and the Next 15. Our goal is to find the nation’s top schoolgirl teams and the months of November and December will factor in heavily.
When we return the week prior to Christmas, this will give the nation ample time to get rolling. Some states have been playing since the first week of November but it has not affected the Elite 25.
That will inevitably change. Teams that were overlooked and build a solid resume will slide in and the pretenders will be dropped.
Check back regularly at www.bluestarmedia.org for staff updates from showcase events and key games all season. We will keep you abreast of anything breaking in the girls’ hoop world.
We hope to see you at a game soon. Have a Happy Thanksgiving! – Christopher Lawlor
Blue Star Media Elite 25 Girls’ Basketball preseason rankings, Nov. 16, 2017
(Teams are listed alphabetically; records from the 2016-17 season)
Duncanville, Texas (39-2)
Quick Hitters: There’s a reason why the Pantherettes won their second consecutive Class 6A state titles and 10th overall—depth. Last week, Cathy Self-Morgan’s legendary program saw five players sign with colleges. Six-foot G Zarielle Green (with Tennessee), 6-1 Starr Jacobs (Houston) and 5-7 Aniya Thomas (Kansas) were all selected to the 6A all-tournament team last March. F Krislyn Marsh (Howard) and Asha Ross (Division II Eastern New Mexico) also found homes. The Pantherettes are overwhelming favorites to repeat in 6A and a serious candidate to take over the No. 1 spot in the Blue Star Media Elite 25 rankings. The program’s main challenge in December will be hosting the Sandra Meadows Classic.
Hamilton Heights Christian, Chattanooga, Tenn. (29-2)
Quick Hitters: The Lady Hawks won the National Association of Christian Athletes Division I title but lost in the final of the DICK’S Nationals. They will be in the hunt for both titles as 6-0 combo guard Jazmine Massengill (Tennessee signee) regular stuffs the stat sheet Nigerian Elizabeth Balogun (14.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is an explosive 6-0 wing is headed to Georgia Tech, while 5-8 junior Rokia Doumbia (from Mali) and precocious sophomore Treasure Hunt (13.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and 6-6 Brazilian Camilla Cardosa (9.3 ppg, 6.7 ppg) form a solid nucleus.
Incarnate Word Academy, Bel-Nor, Mo. (28-4)
Quick Hitters: The defending Class 4 champions have nine player, headed by 5-9 Sonya Morris (15.0 ppg, 2.5 spg), who signed with DePaul, back running the show. Also expected to contribute are 5-10 G Nakayla Jackson-Morris (9.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg), 5-8 junior Marisa Warren (7.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 6-3 junior post Rickie Woltman (8.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg). The Red Knights will be tested in December with neutral court games with Elite 25 teams Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) and Miami (Fla.) Country Day plus another trip to the Raatz Fence Shootout (Jan. 19-20) in Louisville, Ky.
McEachern, Powder Springs, Ga. (26-6)
Quick Hitters: Though the Indians graduated talent more is waiting in the wings with junior G Victoria Agyin (6.6 ppg) and 5-10 Jasmine Carson, a transfer from Memphis (Tenn.) Central, known to stretch the defense from 3-point land. Indiana-bound 5-6 Chanel Wilson (12.9 ppg, 5.0 apg) is the catalyst and Jewel Smalls (Kennesaw State) also returns. Freshman Denim DeShields and sophomore transfer Mikaylyn Glover are key additions for the defending Class AAAAAAA champions, who have won four straight titles.
Montini Catholic, Lombard, Ill. (33-2)
Quick Hitters: The Lady Broncos placed third at the Class 4A state tournament and return 6-3 Aaliyah Patty (Ohio State) and 6-4, four-year starter Lindsey Jarosinski (Wake Forest). Mix in 5-10 junior Zoe Zacker, 5-6 Sam Mitchell, 5-11 sophomore Sydney Prochaska, 5-7 Illysse Pitts and 5-10 junior Frankie Kokkines to round out the returnees.
Paul VI, Fairfax, Va. (32-2)
Quick hitters: The Lady Panthers won an 11th straight Virginia Independent Schools Division I state tournament but fell short in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference final. Though players have transferred, don’t sleep on this powerhouse program that plays as competitive a schedule in the nation as anyone. The lineup is built on 6-3 F Amira Collins (Tennessee) 6-0 swing Katie Klimkiewicz (Boston College) and 5-11 junior Ashley Owusu (Maryland commit). Sophomore guards Jacqueline Dianis and Aurea Gingras are budding stars.
Riverdale, Murfreesboro, Tenn. (34-0)
Quick hitters: The Lady Warriors captured a second straight Class AAA championship and carry a 42-game win streak into the season. Nine of the top 10 players are back, which includes Brinae Alexander (Vanderbilt), talented junior Aislynn Hayes, sisters Alexis and Amanda Whittington (both to Middle Tennessee State), while sophomore Alasia Hayes, Allison Mayeux and junior Jalyn Holcomb add depth. A year ago, the Lady Warriors missed the Nike Tournament of Champions due to inclement weather, but they will attend the Arizona-based event in December and will get a true test.
Riverdale Baptist School, Upper Marlboro, Md. (20-13)
Quick Hitters: Mike Bozeman inherits a program with a national reputation and loaded roster. Bozeman was a successful coach earlier this century at Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) before going off to George Washington University as an assistant and eventually the head coach (2008-12). With a big-time coach in the fold, there’s a big-time player to build around, Maryland-bound, 6-5 Shakira Austin, who is a double-double machine. Feeding the post will ne 5-10 Honesty Scott-Grayson (Baylor) and adding size inside is 6-4 Lauren Ebo (Penn State), who averaged 10.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. The schedule is highlighted by an appearance at the Nike TOC.
St. John’s College, Washington, D.C. (30-2)
Quick Hitters: The Cadets are reigning champions for the both District of Columbia State Athletic Association and Washington Catholic Athletic Association championships. Coach Jonathan Scribner features three Division I prospects in 5-9 wing Jaylin Carodine (James Madison), 5-7 Asha Scott (Vermont) and 5-11 Sydney Wood (Northwestern). At 6-3, junior Tshitenge-Mutombo (her uncle is Hall of Famers Dikembe Mutombo) is large inside presence but freshman Azzi Fudd will be game-changer nationally for the Cadets.
St. Mary’s, Stockton, Calif. (21-9)
Quick Hitters: The Rams won an 18th CIF-Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship but crashed out in the Northern California Open Division regional playoffs. Hard to believe 6-3 F Aquira DeCosta is finally a senior and signed with Baylor. Aquira averaged 18.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game and won a gold medal with USA 3×3 U18 World Cup Team. She’s joined by classmates 5-9 Ariel Johnson (Florida) and Neenah Young (Princeton). Johnson popped in 15.0 points and handed out 4.0 assists as a junior.
The Next 15
Archbishop Mitty, San Jose, Calif. (28-3)
Quick Hitters: The Monarchs lost to Clovis West (Fresno), 44-40, in CIF Open Division final, but captured highly competitive region and sectional titles. Penn State-bound 6-0 swing Karisma Ortiz and 6-1 junior Haley Jones are the foundation for another run. Coach Sue Phillips will take her team to the Nike TOC before Christmas and after it’s off to the West Coast Jamboree.
Baldwin, N.Y. (20-3)
Quick Hitters: The Bruins finally broke through winning the Class AA state title but lost in the Federation AA semifinals. With a full squad, meaning injuries have cleared and a transfer is on board, the Long Island school is primed for bigger things. The lineup features 5-7 Aziah Hudson (Old Dominion), 5-11 wing Donnetta Johnson (Georgia), 5-6 Kaiah Harrison, 5-5 PG Jenna Annecchiarico (Eastern Michigan) and 6-2 transfer Destiny Samuels (from Long Island Lutheran).
Carmel, Ind. (23-4)
Quick Hitters: The Greyhounds went to the Class 4A regional final and return Michigan-bound 6-0 Amy Dilk (15 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 6.4 apg) and Tomi Taiwo (14 ppg) are the primary scorers. Blake Smith and Jasmine McWilliams provide the inside muscle. Coach Tod Windlan’s crew plays at the Hall of Fame Classic on Dec. 29 and at state powers North Central (Indianapolis) on Dec. 15 and Pike (Indianapolis) on Jan. 19.
Collins Hill, Suwanee, Ga. (25-5)
Quick Hitters: Coach Brian Harmon enters the season as Georgia’s No. 2 team in Class AAAAAAA. The triumvirate of 6-4 post Jada Rice (North Carolina State signee), who brings length and athleticism and guard both post positions, and a pair of juniors 6-3 Javyn Nicholson (Georgia) and 5-7 PG Bria Harmon (Purdue commit), the coach’s daughter. The Eagles hope to push past the state semifinals, where they lost a year ago, and into the final preferably against Elite 25 ranked McEachern (Powder Springs).
Cypress Ranch, Cypress, Texas (32-7)
Quick Hitters: The Mustangs advance to the Class 6A final before losing to Duncanville. They start the season at No. 2 in the Texas 6A rankings with three returning starters and key players from off the bench. Jala Buster (10.8 ppg), Kween Jean (5.0 ppg) and PG D’Asia Collins (5.5 ppg) form the core and sophomore Nia McWhite and Shadiya Thomas will have expanded roles. Collins is considered on the state’s top floor generals and sets the tone. Coach Tresa Martin-Hornsby takes her team to the Mansfield Spring Creek Invitational from Dec. 27-29.
Derby, Kan. (20-5)
Quick Hitters: Virtually everyone is back from a team that advanced to the Class 6A title game. At 6-6, junior Kennedy Brown is one of the nation’s top post prospects, while 5-8 junior Tor’e and 5-8 sophomore Sydney Nilles form a solid one-two punch in the backcourt. One bonus for the season is former Wichita State head coach Jody Adams-Birch will be an assistant on coach Jodie Karsak’s staff.
Franklin, Somerset, N.J. (25-7)
Quick Hitters: It’s never easy to win the State Tournament of Champions in your first try, but the Warriors managed and will be the favorite this season. Senior Camille Gray (LUI-Brooklyn), juniors Tiana Jackson and Diamond Miller, and sophomore sisters Kennedy and Keona Schenck round out an experienced team. The 6-1 Miller, one of the nation’s top players in the Class of 2019, played on the USA U16 National Team last summer and Kennedy Schenck hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer to win the TOC over Manasquan, 50-48, last March.
Hopkins, Minnetonka, Minn. (31-1)
Quick Hitters: After dropping the Class 4A final, the Royals are on a mission. Super sophomore Paige Bueckers (20.8 ppg, 3.6 apg) and 5-7 Raena Suggs (15.6 ppg) are the team’s top two scorers and 5-7 junior Dlayla Chakolis and 6-0 Angie Hammond are the main players controlling the boards. Bueckers is a top-shelf recruit and played on the USA U16 National Team last summer in the FIBA Americas championship in Argentina.
Mallard Creek, Charlotte, N.C. (18-8)
Quick Hitters: A bulk of the team that reached the Class 4A Western Regional final are back. It starts with UCLA-bound 5-9 point guard Ahlana Smith (14.0 ppg), who orchestrates the attack. Seniors 5-9 Janay Sanders (LaSalle recruit) and 5-9 Emya Price and 5-8 junior Dazia Lawrence (17.0 ppg) are experienced returning starters. The Mavericks should battle Southeast Raleigh for state supremacy.
Maryknoll School, Honolulu (28-3)
Quick hitters: The Spartans fell in the Division I final to Konawaena (Kealakekua), but will be the favorites this go around. At 6-1, Isabella Craven is the anchor in the middle. PG Rhianne Omori, Moe Notoa, Kamalu Kamakawiwo’ole and Chayse Milne are reliable starters and Kodee Viena give pop off the bench. Coach Chico Furtado’s team will be tested next month in the Iolani Classic in Honolulu and at Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas before Christmas. A rematch with Konawaena in the state final is likely.
Mercer County, Harrodsburg, Ky. (31-6)
Quick Hitters: The defending Single-Class state champions return 13 roster players, including the senior guard-oriented rotation of 5-10 Seygan Robins (Louisville recruit, 16.5 ppg), 5-7 Faith and 5-6 Lake (both going to Southeast Missouri State), 5-7 Emma Souder (Northern Kentucky) and 5-10 Emma Davis (8.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Robins is a lefty who operates on the perimeter and is smooth in transition. The Titans play a loaded schedule at the Queen of the Commonwealth Tournament and after Christmas at the Naples (Fla.) Holiday Shootout, plus an early season matchup with Sacred Heart Academy (Louisville) on Dec. 9.
Miami (Fla.) Country Day (31-2)
Quick Hitters: The Lady Spartans won their second Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament in three years with three graduated seniors off to college. But wait there’s plenty returning with 5-7 junior Maria Alvarez (11.2 ppg), a 3-point specialist, and senior duo of 6-2 center Aaysia Berry (8.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and 5-10 Asha Taylor (7.2 ppg). Sydney Shaw, a 5-7 eighth-grader, is blue-chip future prospect. Another challenging schedule is on tap for the Class 4A state titlists.
Mount Notre Dame, Cincinnati (27-4)
Quick Hitters: The Cougars captured their sixth state championship (Ohio’s large classification Division I) under coach Dr. Scott Rogers and return a host of players, namely 6-0 junior Julia Hoefling, 5-8 junior Gabbie Marshall, 6-0 Abby Voss, 5-11 junior Anna Keene and 5-8 junior Rebecca Kemper. The Cougars play a competitive schedule that includes a trip to the Classic in the Country (Berlin, Ohio) on Jan. 13 and 14.
New Hope Academy, Landover Hills, Md. (0-0)
Quick hitters: Coach Sam Caldwell, who had successful run previously at Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.), takes over at a startup program from Prince George’s County in suburban Washington (D.C.) and has stocked the roster with a bevy of blue-chip transfers. At 6-5, West Virginia-bound Rochelle Norris is an athletic post and 6-4 Jennifer Ezeh is one of the nation’s juniors. Eight roster players will be back next fall and with a adventurous schedule that includes events in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Arizona, Virginia and Tennessee, Caldwell will build this program in hurry.
Princess Anne, Virginia Beach, Va. (27-2)
Quick Hitters: The Cavaliers won fourth straight Class 5A state crowns and will build around Makayla Dickens (Albany recruit) and Mississippi State-bound Xaria Wiggins. Dickens contributed 15.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 34 steals per game while the 6-0 G/F Wiggins was the All-Tidewater Player of the Year and averaged a team-best 16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. Sophomores Jasha Clinton, Mahogany Lester and Kendra Johnson saw significant playing time during last year’s state tournament run.
High-Fives by Region
- St. Frances Academy, Baltimore (30-1)
- Christ the King, Middle Village, N.J. (19-6)
- North Allegheny, Wexford, Pa. (28-2)
- Rutgers Prep, Somerset, N.J. (31-2)
- South Shore, Brooklyn, N.Y. (25-4)
Geography: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.
- Edison, Detroit (21-5)
- Canton (Ohio) McKinley (23-6)
- North Central, Indianapolis (27-1)
- Rufus King, Milwaukee (25-1)
- Edwardsville, Ill. (32-1)
Geography: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
- Scared Heart Academy, Louisville, Ky. (29-6)
- Canyon, Texas (31-3)
- North Little Rock, Ar. (28-3)
- Southeast, Raleigh, N.C. (32-1)
- Hazel Green, Ala. (37-2)
Geography: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
- Mesquite, Gilbert, Ariz. (31-1)
- Windward, Los Angeles (30-4)
- Kentridge, Kent, Wash. (26-5)
- Regis Jesuit, Aurora, Colo. (20-7)
- Poly, Long Beach, Calif. (27-4)
Geography: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
About: The Blue Star Media Elite 25 High School Girls Basketball Rankings are released weekly from November until the conclusion of the high school season. Criteria considered are the quality of the team and its players, strength of schedule, tradition, and quality of the team’s league, conference, region or district. The rankings are compiled by Blue Star Media’s Christopher Lawlor, who consults with a national network of coaches, talent evaluators and prep sports writers. The final rankings will be released in April. Follow him on Twitter at #clawlor.