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Nike National Invitational Tournament (2016) Standouts



2016 Nike Chicago

This year’s number of Canadian Teams at the 2016 Nike Chicago Tournament of Champions was pared down considerably compared to last year. Regardless, there was quite a bit to take in when the Canadians to to the courts in their games.

From July 10-12, there was a little something for colleges and universities of all levels to take in of player participating from north of the border. Here are just some of the players that’s stood out:


Shaina Pellington
The Shaina-show took on Chicago and did not disappoint. Pellington kept defences off balance with off speed drives, each initiated by a quick first step and much success upon completion. Her stock has been soaring since her April showing with the Toronto Matrix. And now, fresh off her return from her FIBA Worlds appearance with the Canadian National U17 team, she is peaking at just the right time with the Team Ontario U17s and will surely have a busy August considering the pros and cons of all of the offers she has picked up and still has to pick up before then.

Sarah GatesSarah Gates
Gates is a survivor, although not quite of the life and death variety. Over the past couple of years, Gates has had a significant injury to an ankle, a broken nose and a torn ACL. She has now been back since a couple of months into 2016 and is starting to find her legs again. According to her Coach, Gad Perlmutter, on top of her putting in the hours of late to get her fitness levels back to where they were prior to the bad luck run of injuries, she is also putting extra ball work into the gym as well. In watching her play this weekend she is starting to show some of the return to form with the way that she controls the ball in the open court. I look forward to the time where her shot is as consistent was it once, which is well within reason. In doing so, she will wind up being a sleeper on a university team’s roster that was able to look past the play of a player on the mend.

Brianna Livingston
Back once again is Livingston, who has opted to return for this, her fifth year of high school. The athletic two-guard brought more of that same offensive mindset with her to Chicago. Unfortunately the Matrix had a rough go of things in this event, losing all five of their games in a tough division. On the surface, they appeared to be continuing to work out the kinks that come with changes they have made to the team that is not entirely the same as it was in April. Regardless, Livingston’s play stood out for her team, as they looked to her for heavy minutes and as a key to penetrate the defences they faced. Although I would like to see some improvement to her fitness levels, especially as she understands how much her team will be leaning on her for, she continues to be a player that can be looked to be a very good scorer at the mid-major level south of the border.  And with another year of fine tuning in high school, I would like to see her already high stock continue to rise a tick or two by the time she is ready to commit.


Laeticia Amihere
Thinking back to Amihere’s initial performance at Nike Chicago back in 2014, and one can quickly recognize just how much improvement has been made. Gone are the days of the very long Forward that seemed to overthink each of her possessions, still unsure of her potential. To this past weekend, where she displayed the culmination of all of the steady improvement and hard work she has been putting in. At this point, this 5-star player should no longer be a secret, and the crowds that she draws, is evidence of that. Regardless of how big the crowd, Amihere plays up to her billing each and every time. From out jumping opponents, to looking very comfortable leading the break, it doesn’t take more than a couple of plays to see how special she is, especially when considering she is two, sometimes three years younger than her competitors. She is definitely worthy of the BCS she is garnering.

Claire SignatovichClaire Signatovich
Signatovich is an intriguing player that demonstrated a lot of promise throughout the games of her that I took in. By all accounts, her game is a bit rough around the edges, but there is enough to this player to leave me interested to see how her career develops. She often played a face-up Forward position and did a fair bit of her work out of the high Post, where she was offensive minded, and not afraid to shoot, when there was room, or even look to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket utilizing her very long reach and good jumping ability. I would like to see her develop more of a competitive spirit when on the floor, and not look to take any mess from opponents. That will require her to get stronger, especially in her upper body, and work on improving her first step. But as she continues to work on her game over the coming years, I’ll be interested to see how she builds on the foundation of tools she put on display in Chicago 2016.


Merissah Russell
As predicted before the start of this event, Russell was a player that proved that she was capable of doing very well. Her ability and size opened the door for her to score in multiple ways, as was the case in Team Ontario’s narrow 47-43 against the Lady Running Rebels. As Russell continues to build strength that will help with both her balance and her ability to establish position, watch for her scoring prowess to rise to a very high level. This means that many need to put her on their radars now, as a player with an extremely high potential.