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Back To Life, Back To Reality Standouts



On October 9, 2011, Bring Your ‘A’ Game Basketball hosted their Back To Life, Back To Reality Exposure Showcase. The event took place at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario and hosted many of the premier players from Ontario and even welcomed a team from the province of Quebec.  There were Coaches from about 15 or so NCAA D1 schools and a handful more from Ontario Universities taking in all of the day’s actions and in speaking with many of them, most were quite intrigued by the talent on display.  The day started off with Bring Your ‘A’ Game’s Yaw Afful, who gave some straight talk about what the participants can expect during post secondary, basketball life should they decide to go that route.  The day’s action saw each team play 3 times, with the players really working up an appetite for their turkey dinners at this Thanksgiving Sunday event.

Class of 2015
Reviewing how players will develop going forward from this age, is always tricky, this showcase event exposed that there is some good budding talent on the horizon. There were some players from this class that I would be interested in seeing how they develop going forward. Candice Wright(6’1″, F, KW Lightning) and Courtney Wright (5’11, F, KW Lightning) are among some of the players that showed promise. As Forwards, both possessed the length and good foundations in terms of their skill but are still missing quite a few elements overall to deem them on the verge of being top in their class.

But, there were three players in this class that are far and away leaders in their class, showing  well advanced skillsets. You could probably even go so far as to say that they stood out in the U17 games that they played in:

Eternati Willock (6’2″, F, Advantage Titans – Junior)
When you look at Willock for the first time, you can’t help but notice her  lengthy physique. You will also notice that she plays strong and doesn’t shy away from physical contact.  She is extremely vocal on the defensive end and makes sure of that the rest of her team speaks up as well. Her reach and an ability to time the release of opponents’ shots earned her multiple blocks on this day. Despite some of the challenges that some players of her length experience when they are moving with the ball, this lean, 6’2″ Forward, has the wherewithal to stay low in order to protect her dribble when looking to drive. Her long legs result in long strides getting from point A to point B. She can run the floor with no signs of labouring and despite all the positives she has going for her, it is scary to think that she still getting used to her body.

Danielle Garvin (5’11”, F, Advantage Titans – Junior)
Garvin is a versatile player seemingly able to play positions 2, 3 and 4 and do a very good job either of them. She spent a fair amount of time on the perimetter where she often found size mismatches. She exhibitted good ball control that gave defenders fits trying to get a stop when she drove to the basket because of the matchup problems she caused. When she wasn’t driving, she had a good fluid shooting form and did a good job knocking down mid range jumpers. Throughout the weekend she played with the overall game of players far older than her which bodes very well for her long term potential.

Chelayne Bailey (5’6″, F, Advantage Titans – Junior)
Bailey has the speed and ball control to show that she has great upside to her game. She showed that she has what it takes to be a team’s playmaker by creating opportunities for her team and that she has the ability to make split second decision when necessary. As she grows stronger, she will be able to fight through some of the traffic issues she encountered from time to time.

Class of 2014
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that there would be some major talent from the Class of 2014 that was expected to be there, were not in attendance. Just a week prior to this showcase, Kia Nurse (5’11”, G, Canada Drive, 2014) had suffered a shoulder injury in the finals of the St Marys Tip-Off Classic, and handn’t been able to heal in time for this event. Also, I learned that the long awaited coming out of Shay Colley (5’9″, G, Brampton JUEL, 2014), is still on hold as she awaits clearance from her doctors on an injury that has seen her out of commission since early 2011.

Besides those missing gems, there was still plenty this Class had to offer to put those particular injuries to the back of your mind:

Christina Buttenham (5’11”, G/F, Canada Drive)
Buttenham burned more than one defender caught napping on approaching screens as she showed time and time again how she works well curling off of those screens, hands ready and in the seated position, ready to let accurate shots fly. Operating from her favorite spot on the floor, the left corner, she did a good job stretching the defense by forcing them to step out on her. Of course, she was more than willing to burn defenders off the dribble who were under the impression that she was a one dimensional scorer.

Hilary Hanaka (5’10”, G, Canada Drive)
Hanaka did a really good job playing the role similar to that of a more traditional Point Guard. Seeing the floor, taking care of the ball, and making accurate passes were among some of the items that she could add to her resume this weekend. She certainly displayed the ability to connect from long range with a smooth looking shot, while done in the context of taking what the defense gave her.

Anne Rene (5’3″, G, Champlain College)
Rene is very small Guard that does many of the little things that a team needs in order to be successful. She passes well, she also finds a way to get to the basket. En route, if there is any contact for which she did not shy away from, she was given the benefit of the doubt regarding earning foul calls due to her control and the optics going up against Bigs that were over a foot taller than her. Unfortunately, I noticed that she had to think twice in various situations where she appeared set to fire from long range, ever mindful of her height and the increased possibility of having her shot blocked.  I believe that strength may need to be added to help her fight through screens in order to maintain at the next level.

Nancy Kessler (6’3″, C, St Catharines Rebels ETP)
For a player of her size, Kessler runs the floor well, with a stride that often sees her running on her toes. She posses a good height and frame for her position and doesn’t shy away from using her strength when necessary. she often showed a hunger for the ball after establishing a post up position by the showing of her non-sealing hand as a target and calling for the ball, demonstrated that she is well aware that her contribution will go a long way to her team’s ultimate success. While her moves still lack the refinement and speed necessary to take her game to the next level, what she did show is intriguing enough to indicate that her progression going forward is certainly worth monitoring.

Class of 2013
The Class of 2013 contained quite a few gems to strongly demonstrate that the supply of players are quite evenly distributed amongst the classes.  Players worthy of mention include Cassandra Edwards (5’10”, G/F, Brampton Warriors-JUEL), whose use of strength and rebounding were in good form and Rochelle Reece (5’9″, G, Advantage Titans-JUEL) who did a worthy job of taking care of the ball and being an on-court general on the offensive end.  A dark horse in this class would be Alexandra Spadaro (6’0″, G/F, St Catharines Rebels ETP).  She caught my eye as she played well through contact, demonstrated a nice stroke and continually seemed to make smart plays with the ball.

Nonetheless I would give my nod to the following player as standouts in this class:

Kayla Davis (5’7″, G, Brampton Warriors-JUEL)
Davis was in fine form, buzzing around on the offensive end, and pressuring opponents on the defensive end. Her exceptional ball handling skills was coupled with a very nice looking shot release. She stayed on her toes while getting down into an aggressive, defensive stance and did well pressuring opposing Guards.  She was consistently diligent in letting nothing in front of her come easy.

Chanel Ramcharran (5’6″, G, Advantage Titans – Junior)
Ramcharran consistently pushed the pace of the games while she was playing. As a Point Guard for her Advantage Titans, she used her speed and controlled the ball well. She was consistently making good first passes to get her offense’s game plan under way by being vocal with play calling, passes that were often zipped through tight spaces, yet on target. She was able to beat her man time and time again the aforementioned speed. She she coupled that pace along with demonstrating a good ability to change directions, while dribbling  comfortably with either hand, which then opened up many possibilities throughout her games.

Rashida Atkinson (5’9″, G, A-Game)
Atkinson is generally a raw player that showed enough flashes of brilliance on offense to have considered her day quite productive. She sold a jab step very effectively to make defenders fall back on their heels and was able to either nail down a shot, or drive and cut through defenses. On her drives to the basket, she had executed very nice spin moves that were done at just the right time to not come across as too excessive or showy. Her achilles heel may be on defense where I would have liked to seen more discipline as I found attention to detail an issue including getting swept up in staying with her man during more complex opponent offensive plays.

Cheyanne Roger (6’2″, F, North Toronto – JUEL)
Roger really came to play this weekend, by running the floor really well and showing an aggressive side that one would hope would be more consistently present when she plays. With this “I’m looking to take this game over mentality”, all of her potential shined brightly as a player that can truly dominate on the boards and looks to draw fouls from those that can’t handle her size and strength when she decides to take the ball to the rim.  Her overall appeal would increase dramatically if this alter ego showed itself more often.

Kiana Batagelj (6’0″, F, Canada Drive)
To this point in her basketball development, it seemed as though Batagelj was being groomed for the Power Forward spot, which it seemed as though she had to play due to roster obligations.  Although her body build is quite solid, she gives up a few inches in height for that position which made for an uphill battle on occasion when going up against taller opponents.  It now seems as though the realization has set in, that she will continue to have that uphill battle at the next level if she stays at that PF position.  And with that knowledge she appears to be getting accustomed to the receiving the ball on the perimeter, the way a player at the Shooting Forward position would, and is finding some success.  Overall, Batagelj is a strong player that has an inside and outside game that shouldn’t be taken for granted. At this event she mixed up her plan of attack, by showing that she is capable of knocking down shots from downtown and that she does well with inside moves, albeit a bit on the unpolished side.

Class of 2012
The play of the Class of 2012 nicely rounded out the play of the event overall. I was a little bit disappointed that Michelle Hudyn (6’2″, PF, KW Lightning-JUEL), didn’t make an appearance, but because of her recent commitment to Missouri, I could understand why she may have wanted to pass this on this event. Brianna Thomas (5’10”, G/F, Advantage Titans-JUEL), who is sought after by a good number of teams did show up, however stayed in street clothes and did not play as she continues to nurse herself back to the form that garnered her so much interest this past summer. But I was pleased to see Northeastern commit, Sade Iriah (6’0″, F) suit up to represent for Brampton Warriors JUEL and do a good job doing so.

Honourable mention goes out to Billiquees Grant (5’9″, F, A-Game) did an excellent securing rebounds and cleaning up on second chance points and Kaitlyn Schenck (G, KW Lightning-JUEL), who showed a lot of promise in the way she ran the point.

The following played in a way that stood out amongst their peers:

Cassandra Nofuente (5’9″, G, Scarborough Blues – JUEL)
The games during this showcase seemed to come so easy for this 5’9″ Guard, who probably should be in any conversation discussing the best of the best on this day. Pressuring opposing Guards and waiting for the opportune time to commit her body for steals almost seemed routine. She demonstrated a great nose for rebounding as time and time again she would rack up several per game. Her drives to the basket were completed with an obvious understanding of how to position her body in order to protect the ball, while still maintaining quality attempts. The only blemish I was able to find was a couple of times I noticed during man to man defensive sets, that she found herself in no mans land – between looking to read whether help defense was necessary, and keeping tabs on her man that began separating away from her into the open.

Dakota Whyte (5’8″, G, Advantage Titans-JUEL)
Going into this event I was certainly interested in seeing how Whyte would respond to the adversity she would surely encounter in this event, both from her competition and from the analyzing eyes of the Coaches in attendance that have already expressed intrest in her. While on one hand, she brought some of her trademark speed and brought her smooth ball control which she used to slash through traffic en route to the basket finding a measure of success. On the other hand, I found her shot to be flat and not dropping as it would have in the past, perhaps indicating a bit of fatigue throughout the majority of the day.

Alex Klein (6’0″, F, KW Lightning – JUEL)
Klein rebounded well earned every inch she was able to gain on opponents when fighting for territory inside. I noticed that she has the ability to seal off very well when anticipating an entry pass. Once she has the ball with her back to the basket on the block, she more than once demonstrated a nice sweep move while attempting to face the basket for an easy lay-in and occaissionally showing a hook shot in her repertoire. She showed that she can be really competitive and that she has a feisty streak about her. Being able to be more fluid especially in her footwork would continue to elevate her game on both sides of the ball.

Taijah Campbell (6’3″, F/C, Advantage Titans-JUEL)
Campbell was recently selected to represent Team Canada at the 2011 Pan Am Games and showed well in this event. She protected the ball well and brought a lot of hustle while she played. She is very much a team player and showed that she understands her role well by not trying to do more than she should, such as take shots that are outside of her range.