KISSIMMEE, Fla. – AAU Girls Basketball has been a mainstay for college basketball recruiters going back over 30 years. This summer’s line up of events includes championships for age groups ranging from second grade through the upcoming senior class in three separate divisions. Also on tap for the fifth year were five separate Showcase events in 8th, 9th, 10th grades as well as both a Gold and Silver division for 11th grade.
The 2012 Gold Showcase featured some of the highest profile teams and players in club basketball. In all, 23 teams from 14 different states made the trip to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to compete in both pool and bracket play. Running simultaneously with two national championships as well as the Silver Showcase, in excess of 500 coaches made AAU a stop on their recruiting trail.
The semifinal and championship games were broadcast on live on ESPN 3 and highlighted just how competitive play was. In the 11 bracket games following pool competition not one contest was decided by more than eight points. In the first semi the All Iowa Attack fell to the Miami Suns Team Fowles by a final score of 56 – 49. In the second semifinal matchup the AOT Rebels came up short against All Ohio 74 – 68 sending them into the final. All Ohio jumped out early on the Suns in the title game but the group from Miami fought back and both teams traded punches through the final buzzer. In the end it was the Miami Suns taking home the gold by just a three point final margin 64 – 61.
Complete results for the Gold Showcase as well as other AAU events are available at
With such a collection of established and talented programs there were bound to be some impressive individual performances. While we take a look at a few who excelled, it’s worth noting that standouts like Diamond DeShields, Tyler Scaife, Ieshia Small, Rebekah Dahlman, Sierra Calhoun, Jatarie White and many others were on hand as well.
Last time we saw this 5-9 guard from the All Iowa Attack in action she wasn’t quite on top of her usual game. This time around Jada Buckley offered up the kind of play that has the folks at Iowa State looking forward to her arrival on campus. Playing with an assertive and aggressive approach, she and her teammates were constantly on the attack and creating their offense from the conversion of opponent’s turnovers and transition from both makes and misses. In the halfcourt Buckley is a threat both with and without the ball. Her cutting is something her peers across club ball sould take note of. Off the drive she’s finishing better in traffic and not hesitant to take the contact as opposing bigs rotate her way. Defensively she’s physical both on ball and in handling cutters. The footspeed is sound and will serve her well but isn’t quite on par with the ultra quicks she’ll face down the line. At the same time her court awareness and vision makes her a strong asset on the weakside of the floor. The Cyclones have a lot to be happy about.
Fairfax Stars post Brionna Jones has been constant and steady in the advancement of her game across the past few summers. Looking more fit, she’s active and the aggressive approach that has always been there has been turned up a notch. Jones has always been deceiving in her agility and footspeed leading many to underestimate the future 6-3 Maryland Terrapin. In a pool match up with in state rival Boo Williams Jones was putting a body on anything that moved, hitting the floor for loose balls and clearing space for rebounds on every shot. She can hold her ground on the low block and does a good job of getting a defender sealed. Her hands allow her to pull in some marginal passes and given a good look she finishes with consistency. There’s still some refinement to come on contested shots as she had a few chip shots get away from her with contact. Defensively she’s not hesitant to mix things up and makes an effort to get a hand in passing lanes and limit entries to the low post.
Leading her Miami Suns teammates to the Gold Showcase Championship, Raigyne Moncreif provided a glimpse of some dynamic and even acrobatic basketball. The 5-9 guard is as explosive athletically as any player you’re going to see on the high school level. In Florida she capitalized on both her first step and elevation to make opponent after opponent go from defender to observer as she racked up both jumpers and finishes at the rim. Her ability to slash and navigate traffic combines with those physical qualities to make her one of the toughest one on one match ups for defenders. While she shot it well in the Showcase, the consistency still comes and goes on her at times and will need to be expanded to make her the complete threat she’s capable of becoming. She handles the ball well in transition but most would rather see her on the receiving end of an entry pass rather than making it. Defensively she has the capability to lock down virtually any backcourt match up and could be a nightmare in trapping situations. One other facet that stood out in the Suns success was Moncreif’s rebounding. Getting that kind of production on the glass from the backcourt would keep any coach smiling.
While not listed on the original Illinois Hustle roster, Nia Pappas offered up some play that had a few coaches looking for some information on the 5-4 point guard. This quick and heady floor leader is the kind of player you want the ball in the hands of. Her individual ball skills allow her to create and improve options for both herself and her teammates while her passes are delivered on a line with plenty of zip. Despite her diminutive size she’s cut and athletic with some deceiving speed and quickness. The ability is there to push the ball and make decisions in transition but also the capacity to get her teammates into a halfcourt set while handling assertive defensive pressure. Her own on ball defense is feisty and quick. Pappas anticipates well and can turn a ballhandler several times in one possession. Again, despite her size, she was competitive and made plays in defensive rotations, even among the bigs. While this was the first look we’ve had it’s a safe bet some recruiters will want another.
The play of Central Florida Elite wing / forward Ronni Williams seldom disappoints those in the gym unless it’s the folks in the other uniform. Her length and athleticism combine with refined individual ball skills to give her a game well beyond the high school level. Williams has been on the radar for some time now and continues to show extensive promise for a successful and long career with the right focus. On the catch she’s quick to read and can get all the way to the rim or simply settle for the soft midrange jumper with some impressive consistency. She’s much more effective with the ball in her hands and will need to be more active off the cut or simply occupying helpside defenders away from the ball. When she does cut she’s fluid and smooth while having the look of a wide receiver pulling a pass in over the middle. Defensively the footspeed is there to coral quicker and smaller defenders making her an enormous asset in pressing situations. The potential is there to play more physical around the rim which would make her all the more complete as she moves on to the top tier at the next level.
While All Ohio and guard Kelsey Mitchell may have come up three points short in the final, the 5-7 guard may have provided the most effective and eye catching performance of the event. Making her play all the more impressive was the fact that she was also putting in time with All Ohio’s Red team in the Silver Showcase. Opponents may not be interested in taking on a fresh version of Mitchell’s game. What ultimately sets her apart from the crowd is the ability to create her own looks either off the drive or from the deep perimeter. Her acceleration with the ball in her hands leaves even the quickest defenders standing after a crossover or hesitation. The step back she calls upon creates not just marginal separation but provides her time to knock done her jumper and read the newspaper. The range is well beyond the arch and comes from a true jump shot that is hard to contest. Beyond her own scoring, Mitchell is providing more and more sharp interior passing that leads to some easy looks for teammates. Add to that an active effort off the cut or from inbound sets and opponents will be looking forward to the next time out for a break. Defensively she’s active and quick both on and off the ball. Occasionally her vision is ball oriented and she can lose her match up or get back cut. For good measure, she’ll pull more than her fair share of rebounds, often taking it herself to trigger the break.
Next to Kelsey Mitchell’s performance A’Ja Wilson may have generated the most conversation throughout the coach’s seating. Wilson is one of the few players who many would be more than happy to buy a ticket to watch in action. Her combination of size and skills is a good start but add to that a fluid and mature athleticism and you’ve got unlimited possibilities. The 6-3 Palmetto 76er can create her own looks at will from penetration or off the cut. On the catch she can elevate for the jumper but her head fake and lengthy first step gets her into the paint time and again. The pull up works effectively and the fall away is difficult to challenge. Her floater is high arching and released at full extension which is impressive at any level. On the boards and defensively she uses her size and athleticism just as effectively. There are still some moments that her youth comes through but the potential is obvious. Wilson has the making of the class’s top prospect…what she does with it is up to her.
The 2015’s were out in force in the Gold Showcase and Te’A Cooper provided a good look at where she’s taking her game. The 5-8 point guard for the AOT Rebels had some good moments here and there throughout the tournament before producing a gem in the semifinal loss to All Ohio. Her aggressive attack got her looks time and again deep in the paint or off her stop on a dime pull up. The added strength that has come with Cooper’s maturity is allowing her to handle physical contact off the drive much more effectively as well as providing her multiple trips to the line. She is more and more adept at drawing defenders out of their stance and is more patient in reading their positioning as she penetrates. She connected both on pull ups as well as perimeter spot ups forcing opponents to close out tighter and become more vulnerable. The added physical strength also serves her well defensively and there’s no hesitancy on her part to “body up” an opponent who’s on the drive. Cooper’s good is very good, however the issue may well be consistency. Though she’s on a team with a loaded roster, she shouldn’t be taking a backseat or be content to enter the ball and watch. She’s an impact player and from the point should be making her presence felt on every possession.
Asia Durr’s evolution as a top tier prospect continues to progress at an impressive rate. Virtually every time out the 5-10 Georgia Pistol seems to add to her game and refine the skills that are making her one of the class’s premier prospects. Off the drive she has a multi-faceted attack that allows her to score either at the rim or from a pull up that shows some impressive elevation. She’s making good decisions with the ball both in her shot selection as well as in her passing decisions. On the catch she’s immediately looking to create immediately working over her defender both with head and ball fakes followed by an explosive first step. In traffic she’s handling physical play more efficiently and finding her way to the line more and more often. The same speed and quickness that allows her to excel offensively provides her the tools to be a lock down defender as well. It’s not the strength that it should be yet but there are flashes that tell you the potential is in place and it has improved over the past year. If the defensive end catches up with the offensive output the sky will be the limit.
While the Gauchos didn’t get beyond the first round of bracket play it was hard not to take notice of the continued maturation and development of Aliyah Jeune. The lean 5-10 wing and Rutgers commit continues to refine and add to her game the things that will serve her well the next three years and as she moves on to the colligate level. The depth of her skill set now allows her to score in more ways than just spotting up on the perimeter. The stroke and range are there and failure to close out has a price. At the same time she’s becoming a more consistent threat off the drive and even has a pull up that’s coming along. She’s still very upright when she puts the ball on the floor making her vulnerable to helping hands but she also is very aware of defenders other than her own. One other aspect of her offensive attack is her willingness to get out and run the floor. Jeune gets a good jump and will make opposing teams pay that aren’t paying attention. Defensively she’s a position player but needs to take away more options from her match up both off the drive or pass.
Mark Lewis is a national evaluator and photographer for Blue Star Basketball as well as the lead columnist for Blue Star Media. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 Division I assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and Washington State. Lewis also serves as a member of the prestigious McDonald’s All-American selection committee.