During the February 24-25, 2018 weekend, the U17 Gladiator Cup took place in Whitby, ON. The tournament, which also featured a U19 division, hosted Ontario Basketball Association Rep teams from several areas across Ontario.
This year’s U17 event came down to the wire in the Championship game between the Mississauga Jayhawks and the Ancaster Blitz. The Jayhawks eked out a narrow 52-51 win in that Gold Medal game, that was filled with drama and a bit of controversy, right up until the final buzzer. The leading scorer for the Jayhawks in the game was Martina Errazo with 10 points, and for the Blitz was Olive Ude with 14.
In the Bronze Medal game, the host Gladiators Basketball club defeated the Cambridge Centaurs, to claim third spot in the event with a convincing 64-41 win. Alethea Clarke scored 15 points and Jordan Prentice added 13 for the hosts, while the Centaurs were led by Emma Lewis’ 8.
The following are just some of the players that stood out throughout the U17 event:
Class of 2019 Standouts
Clarke is one of those spark plug players that provides the Gladiators instant, sustained energy throughout the games that she played with them. She never appeared to tire throughout the minutes that she played for her team, which translated into many additional possessions because of the extra rebounds that she was able to gather, steals by remaining alert to the cues being given by ball handlers prior to them making passes and even diving for the occasional loose ball. To go along with her mostly routine finishes in short range of the basket, Clarke can round out her contributions to her team with more consistent mid and long range shooting.
Oyual caught my attention because of her sheer athleticism. Her long strides, leaping ability body control were among the best in the tournament. Along with her movement, Oyual also seemed to have some key intangibles which showed that she really enjoys the game. She always seemed to have a smile on her face throughout her games win or lose. She also seemed to regularly be encouraging her teammates, which both says to me that there is a real love for the game. Now if Oyual’s abilities and love for the game be poured into the rounding out of her basketball skills between now and graduation, she could be a real gem at the college level.
Although small in stature, Salazar found ways to be a very solid contributor to her Jayhawks team’s Championship win. She was efficient in the way that she ran the point, relying on tried and true Point Guard principles. She was very comfortable running her teams offence, by distributing the ball using several different types of passes. Several times she was able to get the ball to a teammate running a back door cut, passing it beyond the reach of multiple defenders using deception and the occasional no look pass in order to set up other Jayhawks with great opportunities to score. It was also a positive to see that she herself found ways to score, getting to the basket a couple of times and even connecting behind the arc for a 3-pointer. While her lack of size created some obvious challenges, there should be no doubt that Salazar does not lack in basketball I.Q. and feel for the game.
Class of 2020 Standouts
During the tournament’s Championship game, it struck me that when she is on the court, D’Arrigo only knows how to play hard. She played with lots of energy right from the opening tip and was a tough competitor to deal with on both sides of the ball. When she had the ball in her hands she showed how offensive minded she was by continually looking to attack the basket. She often drew double teams, forcing the opposition to come up with great plays in order to get a stop against her as she welcomed contact or found an open teammate to pass to, or drew contact which she never shied away from. Developing a stronger left hand dribble would take her game to the next level, as a weapon she could rely upon as more of an option in heavy pressure situations.
Lewis is a legitimate 6’5”, solidly built Post who is in the midst of her first full season of organized basketball. In her games, it was apparent that she is still learning what it takes to be successful in the sport, including the pace, positioning and footwork. While those things are a work in progress, she has shown some headway in areas such as possessing a soft shooting touch about five feet out where she routinely makes use of the backboard, and keeping the ball high and out of the way of opponents when rebounding. While Lewis has yet to realize how much she can dominate a game by allowing her strength and physicality to take over, I saw glimpses of her beginning to realize that she does not need to apologize for her physical gifts and talents, but use them to her advantage the way others use theirs.
Ude was a major key to her team’s success. She demonstrated a dangerous first step when driving and along with teammate D’Arrigo, made up very strong front court for the Blitz. One of the main things that made Ude standout, was her defensive intensity. She was very annoying to her opposition in her own end. When there was any hint of a loose ball, Ude’s reflexes were very quick to pounce on loose balls, always willing to go to ground to earn her team an extra possession. She moves her feet very well laterally and was able to leverage good anticipation skills. Her defensive success along with her ability to score, like the way that she led her team with 14 points in the tournament’s Championship Game, makes her a very intriguing prospect.