During the weekend of June 30-July 1, the SLAM Summer Challenge took place in Montreal, QC.

Hosted by Champlain College-St Lambert 30 teams gathered for the showcase event with teams from 5 different provinces and four American teams.

With a lot of talent in the gym on this weekend, the following are just a handful of the Canadian players that stood out and why:

Class of 2019

Laura Barhacs
Laura BarhacsBarhacs has improved immensely over the past 9 or so months. The European-born Post appears to be playing with more confidence and it is leading to the success she is finding on the offensive end. I have noticed improved tracking and collection of rebounds, better decision-making with the ball and more resiliency when contact occurs in the paint. While the speed at which she does things stands to improve some (including running the floor and in the execution of her moves), more and more Barhacs is coming into her own and is peaking at a time where she can make one last push to impress this summer.

Class of 2020

Callie Wright
Callie WrightAfter dealing with a number of nagging injuries over the past year or so, Wright appears to be back to 100% again. And now, with her returning back to full game form, I found that she is more assertive and has been executing in ways that had been elusive during the few times she had been on the floor during those injury plagued days. She got in the habit of staying in offensive state of mind this weekend, with an eye on attacking the rim every time she got the ball within 10 feet of the rim whether to finish by herself or to dish when necessary. Never shying away from contact, she had good results cleaning up around the rim and was creative with her moves, which included the use of misdirection on opponents and a number of different fake options. All of this while not forcing the issue on attempts that really were of high risk.

Class of 2021

Kenya Cote-Lysius
Kenya Cote-Lysius Look for Cote-Lysius to become name to look out for over the coming years as she becomes the focal point of her team’s offence. She has already stepped into a prominent role with SLAM Elite, as they ran their offence run through her for a large percentage of her team’s overall trips down the floor. This weekend reconfirmed that the ceiling is pretty high for this 2021 PG, that will be given a lot of opportunities to make decisions, taking into accounts her already high I.Q., and her ability to take care of the ball. She logged heavy minutes this weekend, rarely subbing off against several of the events heavyweights, including Team Ontario U17, New England Crusaders EYBL, A-Game T-Dot and Team Nova Scotia U17. From the opening tip to the final buzzer, she maintained great poise and perseverance regardless of the types of pressure thrown her way, in ways that made her teammates better and allowed her to contribute significantly through scoring.

Teah Stupar
Due to a highly competitive matchup that Team Ontario U15 had with St Jean-Sur-Richelieu, things got a little testy with Stupar and her opposing check. While battling for position and for loose balls, it seemed to stir up something inside of Stupar. In the ensuing possessions, Stupar had her mind made up that she would fight to establish good position in the low post and demand of the ball. And with the ball, she was backing down opponents and finishing with strong quality moves that left no doubt in her intentions to will her team to success by taking over the game. It was very nice to see how she handled that situation. Not only did she not back down, but she used it to fuel her on to successful takes and fed a spirited rebounding hunger on both ends of the floor. Of course in controlled doses, it is a side of her that I would love to see more often and rather than it being left dormant because as it started to take her over, she was executing at a level that very few could contend with.

Lea-Sophie Verret
Don’t be fooled by her small size. Verret has big game ability. This pint sized Point Guard has a very tight handle and can navigate in some very tight spaces with the ball. She plays extremely hard and can finish on either side of the basket. In setting up her team’s offence she proved able to play to one of their strong suits: their size. This rookie to the team routinely looked to get her bigs touches in the post. Also, she regularly positioning herself to be an outlet for them should they run in to any trouble and need to kick the ball out. It’s two PG concepts that is often overlooked by some in her Class, and proved that Verret’s basketball I.Q. is above average.

Leticia Fosso
Fosso exuded confidence throughout her game against SLAM Blue. She was a bully when she got the ball in the paint, collecting just about everything in a five foot radius against her smaller Quebec rivals. Her strength also proved invaluable on the offensive end, where she often finished through contact. While the competition that her team will be facing south of the border in the coming weeks is likely to prove to be tougher, the confidence that she gained in the her last game of this event, just may help to weather those upcoming challenges.

Class of 2022

Shantavia Dawkins
Shantavia DawkinsDemonstrated in different aspects of her games this weekend, Dawkins showed that she can score in several different ways. From deep, she has a nice looking stroke beyond the 3-point line, that looks effortless and very repeatable. Once she gets that going, she has the awareness to incorporate an effective looking shot fake, to be able to put the ball on the floor and to take some real estate to a quality look from midrange. She also showed that she is comfortable in taking the ball all the way to the hole when the opportunity presents itself, wether in the half-court game or running the channels in transition. To Dawkins’ credit, all of these offensive strategies were used by her within the normal flow of the game, very rarely forcing the issue with ill-timed attempts.

Jessica Keripe
A bright spot for the New Brunswick U16B Team was Keripe. Listed as a 2020, Keripe proved to be an athletic, 5’10”, do it all type of player. She featured prominently for her team at a number of different positions and had a motor in which she was able to do so. I noticed that she had the straight ahead speed necessary for fast breaks, the lateral quickness to guard the perimeter and the strength and leaping ability that would be needed to guard player 3-4 inches taller than her in the Post. She demonstrated a ‘won’t back down’ mentality in her game vs. Team Ontario U14s and even found some success navigating in tight quarters with the ball on the offensive end. It seemed that she had very good chemistry with fellow PG Kylee Speedy, and with youth on her side, it will be interesting to see how Keripe’s game continues to evolve.

Aissatou Diop
Strong and solid build are terms that come to mind when needing to describe Diop. These qualities are leveraged when it is time for her to get her team extra possessions that come off the rim. Diop’s game also comes with a slicing spin move when driving from the perimeter that can eat up defenders when she executes it properly. Her game so far has not yet shown very much by the way of long range shooting as her tendency quite often is to drift into the Post and set up shop there while mixing it up with others.

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