HAMPTON, Va. – Once upon a time… How many great stories start with this phrase? Well, once upon a time, AAU was a noun, short for Amateur Athletic Union, an organization that still today sponsors sports leagues and tournaments for non-professional players all over the country. Once upon a time, teams of amateurs (players who are not receiving a paycheck) played under the AAU banner, and in basketball, AAU season started up a couple weeks after most high school seasons wrapped up. Fast forward to 2017, a time where AAU has become an adjective to describe a time of year when club teams compete at mega events, a second basketball season with all of its pros and cons, legends and stories.
Believe it or not, several teams are still competing under the AAU banner. Last weekend, AAU teams from all over the state of Virginia gathered at the Boo Williams Sportsplex for the Annual State Tournament. Without a doubt, we will see all of these teams very soon on the club circuit, some right back here at the Sportsplex in just a few weeks.
This particular event provided some unique match ups that we may not get to see the rest of the summer. Teams who play on certain circuits were grouped in to the same pools, and we even got to see a young Nike EYBL team battle their older counterparts from the same program, when Boo Williams battled Boo Williams. Watching teams tune up for the upcoming NCAA Evaluation periods provided a good preview for what’s coming next.
Here are some Virginia based standouts to keep an eye on over the next couple of months.
Talent is plentiful on the Boo Williams 15U EYBL squad again this year. Jada Boyd, a 6-3, 2019 post, showed off her elite athleticism this weekend on both sides of the ball. She’s the type of player that rebounds and keeps going back up with it. You will notice that she’s expanded her skill set, making some nice face up moves inside, utilizing her pivot to her advantage. Defensively, she can hedge and even switch on ball screens without issue. Point guard Jada Walker had a strong weekend as well, taking on elite level competition with her smooth handles on the drive and hitting the contested 3 ball. The They still are AAU certified through the membership. 5-6 lefty plays a very poised and mature game for a 2021 grad, and has the potential to really turn some heads very soon.
It’s no secret that 2019 forward Sam Brunelle is very good at basketball. Her smooth three point stroke and scoring ability in the post is almost second nature at this point. But what really makes her elite is her cerebral approach to the game. She’s a player who never stops moving, never gives up on a play, and thinks a few clips ahead. This weekend we saw her scrambling for a loose ball on the ground, only to purposely kick it out of bounds so the other team wouldn’t scoop it up and go. That’s the definition of a competitor. When asked about it after the game she laughed confessing that she knew exactly what she was doing.
Team Loaded 2019 had a great weekend, led by 2020 5’7 point guard Bailey Williams and 6’0 2019 forward Alexi Hempe. Williams is a familiar name to some, and expect many more to know her name in the near future as a dynamic point guard with great wheels and the ability to really pound the ball. She’s really evolved as a floor general and her ability and confidence to shoot the jumper have grown exponentially in the past year. Hempe is a versatile forward with a great build and advanced body control that allows her to play inside and out. She can shoot the three, drive out of the high post, and be a huge factor on the boards. The motor is there and the effort to rebound and defend is commendable.
One young playmaker in the BWSL program is 5’5 2020 point guard Diamond Johnson. Suiting up for BWSL McCray, Johnson is coming off a great freshman campaign at the high school level. With her strong build and a very noticeable competitive nature on both sides of the ball, it’s easy to see why she’s finding success. Her effort and level of fight, especially on defense, will immediately grab your attention. She looks to be the type of player that coaches always wish they had more of in uniform. Teaming with 2017 EGB Middle School All American Games veteran 2021 Ja’Naiya Quinerly, a 5-5 combo guard, this will be a fun team to watch.
We’ve written about 2021 guard/forward Sherese Pittman before, and in our first time seeing her since the fall, the versatile young prospect has continued to add to here game. Suiting up for the Cap City Ballerz 8th grade squad, Pittman had quite a weekend and is one to be excited about as she approaches the start of her high school career. The wingspan and athleticism will catch your eye, but it’s the skill set inside and out that will keep you watching. Pittman does a little bit of everything, handling the ball, rebounding, defending multiple spots, posting, and hitting the mid-range jumper with ease. She’s a “do it all” player with a lot of potential.
Aaliyah Pitts, a 5’11 guard for Team Loaded 703 was a player we profiled during the past high school season. The 2020 grad played big minutes this weekend against competition her own age with her full arsenal was on display. Pitts is a big guard who flat out gets to the basket, splits defenders and elevates, all with a relentless approach. Her height is going to play well on both sides of the ball and expect her to pull a lot of rebounds at the guard spot.
Boo Williams will tell you that basketball runs in the family of 5’11 wing forward De’Aisjah Somerveille. Somerville is a little unconventional at times, but boy can she put points on the board in some different ways. Scoring on both the drive and from beyond the arc, it’s easy to like her burst and athleticism. If the 2021 class member continues to grow and refine her skill set, she could be well on her way to a big high school career.
Mikaya Tynes was coming off a very good weekend in Dallas as a participant in the 2017 Elite Girls Basketball Middle School All American Games. The agile 2021 forward was a standout once again this weekend for the Norfolk Xpress 8th grade crew, featuring a noticeable quick burst when she runs and jumps. The 6-0 Tynes showed off some 3 point range and a very aggressive rip and go drive. She can also handle and pass effectively for a young player at her size. Be on the lookout for this one.