In Indianapolis, there was a tremendous amount of talent at this year's Nike Skills Academy. The Midwest site was filled with student-athletes from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri all representing 3 graduating classes: 2012, 2013 and 2014. One thing of interest in terms of the 12 Illinois invitees: 9 of them were from either Whitney Young HS in Chicago or Bolingbrook HS in Bolingbrook. I guess it's no surprise that those 2 schools are winning the state championship and being among the Top 10 or so teams in the country according to the USA Today every single year. The instruction these future college stars received came from some of the very best and most respected girls basketball coaches in the entire country, including Dr. Tony Pappas from Iowa, Dan Rolfes from Missouri and Stan Benge from Indiana. Not only have these 3 won multiple state championships, but have also been honored as coach of the year in their respective states on several occasions.
The talent level of the Class of 2012 was pretty high and was led by unanimous Top 20 national recruit Morgan Tuck from Bolingbrook HS. This 6'2 UConn commit plays inside most of the time but at this event she worked with the guards during positional breakdown drills. She needs to fine tune her ball-handling and explosiveness from the wing, but there's no doubt she possesses the athleticism and talent to become an elite guard to go along with her All-American post abilities. Another player that impressed was the Maryland verbal commit, 5'9 guard Chloe Pavlech from Ohio. Her ball-handling and complete offensive skill set will make her a dominant player in the ACC when she gets there. Taylor Manuel, a Purdue commitment, from Incarnate Word Academy in Missouri showed excellent foot work as well as a very soft touch around the basket. Once she gets into a little better condition, she has potential to be a force in the Big Ten. Lastly, one player of note is Nariah Taylor, the 6'4 post from North Central HS in Indianapolis. Her offensive skills need some work, but her thick frame make her a very tough opponent at both ends of the floor. With some hard work, she has potential to be a good to very good player at the next level.
There were not a ton of standouts in the Class of 2013, but one player certainly jumped out and that was Stephanie Mavunga, the 6'2 post player from Brownsburg HS in Indiana. She was very aggressive, showed explosiveness, great footwork on the block and a solid work ethic. She didn't finish as well as I'm sure she'd like, but once that comes she has all the potential to be an elite player at a Top 20 program. Another player that stood out as the weekend concluded was Taylor Agler, the 5'10 point guard and daughter of Brian Agler, coach of the Seattle Storm. She has a slight frame but plays with a ton of heart, showed the ability to pass with both hands, hit 3's from deep and knew how to set up her teammates. When you add that to a motor that never stopped, you have yourself a player that makes your entire team better. One player who showed marked improvement and a big jump in her game was Linnae Harper, the 5'6 Whitney Young (IL) guard. Her frame has filled out and this strong lefty showed great explosiveness with the ball as well as a pull-up jumper.
The Class of 2014 was very well represented from all the states. One of the most impressive players at the Academy was Asia Doss, the lanky 5'6 PG from Detroit (MI) Country Day HS. She showed tremendous quickness, excellent handles, good passing ability and explosiveness to get to the rim or pull up for a jumper. Up next is Erica Moore, an impressive 6' post player from Fishers, Indiana. This thick and strong bodied player showed very strong and powerful moves, finished very well, displayed a fadeaway from the block and played very physical. No question she has the potential to be an elite player in the college game. Another player of note was a 6'1 guard from Fairmont HS in Ketttering, Ohio, Kathryn Westbeld. She was surprisingly agile and showed that if you left her open in the slightest, she would nail the shot every time. With a couple more years of high school, she will develop into a high level recruit. It also helps that her high school teammate, 6'2 Makayla Waterman is at a high level and showed the physical tools to be a high level player as well.
All in all, it was a great event with several of the top players in attendance. Nike once again put on a high level event and showed they are still a leader when it comes to the commitment to developing the future of women's basketball.
Jody Benner - National Evaluator