With the exception of the Spring NCAA Evaluation Period, Memorial Day has become one of the busiest and exciting nonrecruiting weekends for girls travel ball event staffers, coaches, players and parents. There are a multitude of tournaments spanning across the country and I decided to split my time between two in particular. The Adidas Memorial Day Showcase in Franklin, Tenn. and the Alabama AAU State Championships in Birmingham, Ala. made up my holiday weekend swing through the south. The following players from both events caught my eye with noteworthy performances.
Areleatha Gipson 5-6, Alabama Roadrunners McCall
Gipson, the 5-6 cat-quick, ultra speedy guard played a stellar all-around game. Gipson likes to attack off the dribble, with either hand, looking to create contact and finish in traffic. She also showed the willingness to manufacturer her shot by attacking off the bounce as well as consistently draining the spot up jumper and three pointers. Gipson did a great job of pushing the ball up the floor on made and missed baskets. When the other team made a run to cut into the Roadrunners lead, Gipson calmly drained several big buckets and converted back-to-back steals into points, putting the game out of reach. Gipson played aggressive at both end of the court and has a knack for being around the ball. She dropped several timely dimes in crunch time as well. She rebounds well for her position. Gipson has all the tools to be a big time point guard. Gipson has BCS conference potential written all over her game.
Deja Faulkner 6-0, Team PoPo 14U
If you're looking for an athletic all-around player that plays the game the way it is supposed to be played, then the 6-0 Faulkner is your prospect. She has a solid body with long arms that take up space in the lane. Faulkner plays a very aggressive game at both ends of the court. She has a nice low-post game and finishes well in the paint or gets to the line where she is a good free-throw shooter. Faulkner also showed that she has a smooth face-up game. She used her long arms and good leaping ability to dominant the boards and push the ball up the floor. Defensively, Faulkner defended the low post and perimeter extremely well with a fearless, reckless abandon, blocking several shots. Faulkner has a tremendous upside a BCS caliber prospect.
Shakayla Thomas 6-1, Southern Starz Bush Sylacauga, Ala.
The explosive, athletic 6-foot wing showed the ability to play on the perimeter as well as in the low post. In the low post she used a very nice up-and-under move to effectively score. Thomas likes to face up and attack off the dribble, finishing at the basket or stroking the short pull-up jumper. On the perimeter, she can knock down the mid-range or 3-point shot. She loves to get out and finish off the break and used her excellent body control to adjust in mid-air to get her shot off against taller defenders. She has a series of spin and hesitation moves that create space to finish at the rack. Thomas rebounds extremely well and can defend on the perimeter or post quite effectively. She has a mature game with a body like a super hero. Thomas game and body is unmatched in her class and should be considered among the best.
Shandricka Sessom 5-9, Mississippi Glory Byhlia, Miss.
While walking from court to court looking for a game to watch I received a tip from a friend to stop and checkout number 3 and honestly I have to tell you that I’m glad I need. Number turned out to be Sessom. Sessom is an extremely athletic guard with the ability to play multiple positions. She is a sleeper BCS prospect with the total package. Slaughter's game reminds of a young Tamika Catchings all the way down to her athletic frame. Sessom played with a motor that wouldn't quit, wasn't afraid to dive for loose balls and she ran the floor like a gazelle. Sessom was really smooth handling the rock in transition with a nice change-of-direction dribble. She showed off her well- rounded game posting up, attacking off the bounce, facing up and knocking down the mid-range jumper. Sessom was just as comfortable on the wing; she used her ball handling skills and nice spin move to score in the paint. She has a really soft touch from 10 to 22 feet. Sessom rebounded really well, grabbing the ball from its highest point. Defensively, Sessom creates havoc for opposing players by jumping the passing lanes and either finishing off the break or creating for her teammates. She is an excellent on-ball defender and showed the ability to defend multiple positions. Sessom has the rare trait of being a super athletic with a fundamentally sound game. She is truly the total package.
Laniqua Collins 5-10, Tennessee Glory 15U Nashville, Tenn.
Collins has an athletic build and runs the floor like a gazelle. She has a nice 3pt stroke. Collins can score in the post with a sweet turnaround jumper or attacking from the wing with a quick first step. She has soft touch out to 17 feet and does a nice job finishing in the paint. Defensively, Collins is a solid defender with great leaping ability. She is a high energy player. Collins needs to be more assertive on the boards but otherwise a solid low to mid major prospect.
Morgan William 5-3, Alabama TarHeels, Birmingham, Ala
The 5-3 playmaker played an outstanding game against favored Southern Starz 10 Grade squad featuring 2014’s 6-0 Shakayla Thomas, 5-5 Leah Strain and 2015 Kristian Hudson. All three of which have garnered a lot of attention from BCS programs. William loves to attack the rim; she finishes extremely well with an array of acrobatic move or drops the ball off to slashing teammates. She keeps defenses honest with her silky smooth shot that extends out beyond the three point arc. William, a very good leaper for her size, has the ability to hang in the air to draw the contact and finish at the basket. She used her speed and quickness to consistently beat her opponent for the bucket. William played a solid game defensively, using her 5-9 wing span, jumping the passing lanes and forcing her opponent into several turnovers. Despite her size Williams will be the perfect fit for some luck y DI program.
Justice Martin 5-10, Mississippi Glory Holly Springs, Miss.
Martin has a college-ready body and the competitive fire to go along with her versatile game. From tipoff to the final horn Martin was constantly on the attack. Offensively she used her ball handling skills to create space to knock down the three pointers. In the half court sets Martin was a beast in the low post scoring using a variety of moves which included a nice up-and-under and some well-timed spin moves. She used her face up game to stroke several mid-range jumpers as well attack off the dribble. Defensively, Martin defended on the block quite well holding off taller opposing players. She also showed the ability to defend on the perimeter. Martin did a great job communicating at both ends of the court. Martin has a nice game with DI talent.
Keonna Farmer 6-1, Alabama Roadrunner, Birmingham, Ala,
Farmer, the 6-1 Auburn commit, literally willed her team to the 11th Grade Alabama AAU State Championship overtime victory over a very game Bama Storm team. Farmer was on a mission to take home the State AAU title. She showed why the Lady Tigers coveted the extremely athletic wing. Farmer was a force in the paint at both ends -- scoring, rebounding and blocking shots. She stroked several mid-range jumpers and a couple of big baskets in the paint to keep her team in the game and eventually the win. Farmer will be a welcome addition to new Auburn Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy up-tempo high intensity brand of basketball.
Jill Morrison 5-8, Indiana Elite, Evansville, Ind,
The 5-8 combo guard is feisty and crafty. Morrison stroked multiple treys. She finished well off the break; attacked the rim; and either finished or dropped dimes to her teammates. Morrison also displayed a nice mid-range touch. She had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Defensively, she played aggressive on-ball defense and made a living off of pressuring her opponent and creating turnovers. Morrison is an complete player fundamentally sound clutch performer made several big plays. She has the tools to be a sleeper Division I prospect.
Prentice Beverly is a National Evaluator for Blue Star Media and the owner of Balln Prep Girls. He also works for Girl Powher Showcases, Schollyme.com and is the Author of “Navigating the Maze” a grassroots reference guide to women’s college basketball recruiting. Beverly has spent 15 years coaching high school and club basketball and resides in Montgomery, Alabama.