FRANKLIN, TN -- Any event hosted by the Tennessee Flight is sure to be talent-rich and the Battle in Franklin was no different. Some of the top young players in the nation took the hardwood this past weekend and while some of the top 2013 players (Rebecca Greenwell, to name one) were involved in other endeavors, it gave an opportunity for the future of the mid-south to make the most of the spotlight.
Alexa Middleton, 5-8 guard, TN Flight Silver (Murfreesboro, TN)
One of the top, if not the top, prospects at the event, Alexa is a coach’s dream. Most players can’t come close to her level of intensity and passion. A fierce competitor, Alexa turned what would have been a tough day for most players into a solid all-around performance versus the Kentucky Premier, which her Flight Silver team handled with ease in large part to Middleton’s competitive fire on both ends.
Shakayla Thomas, 6-1 forward, AL Southern Starz (Sylacauga, AL)
Shakayla left no doubt in my mind after her game on Sunday that she is clearly a top 25 player in her class. She had a dominating performance in which she used her amazing body, strength and athleticism to score, rebound and steal the ball at will. The only thing I didn’t see her do was shoot a perimeter jumper, but quite frankly she didn’t need to. She finishes in transition, on the block, with runners and floaters in the lane and on the offensive rebound putback -- and she can get hammered and still finish. Top that with an aggressiveness and feistiness seen in only true competitors and Shakayla is poised to make a name for herself at the college level and perhaps beyond.
Oleightra Nance, 5-6 guard, AL Southern Starz (Lauderdale Co, AL)
This smooth guard racked up numerous assists pushing the break with her athletic teammates. Even in the halfcourt Nance impressed with her adept passing skills after breaking a defender down off the bounce. She has a great handle and her unselfishness was noteworthy.
Emily Eubanks, 5-10 guard, TN Flight Silver (Murfreesboro, TN)
My first impression of Emily three years ago at Middle Tennessee State University elite camp wa that; here is a lanky guard who doesn’t have a ton of skill but is productive and is a sponge to everything being taught at the camp. Three years later her willingness to learn has produced a combo guard with a competitive fire balanced with a top notch basketball IQ. She’s still productive but now she looks as cool as the other side of the pillow anytime she’s on the floor. With her skills now more refined, Emily has a chance to make a big splash this summer.
Jamisha Jackson, 5-10 guard, TN Flight Soph. (Mt. Juliet, TN)
Clearly a top 25 prospect in the 2015 class, Jamisha plays like she is truly having fun. I’ve seen her play probably 20-25 times now and I can’t remember a game in which she didn’t flash her smile most of the time. That said it’s not a smile you want to see from the opposing bench. Jackson is a smooth operator who glides up and down and nothing ever looks too difficult. She’s strong yet fairly wiry and ultra-athletic. Against the Kentucky Premier Sophomore team, Jackson did what she does best, scored at the rim and found open teammates for easy buckets. She leads the break quite frequently, rebounding on the defensive end and then pushing the ball rapidly up the floor. The sky is truly the limit for this talented sophomore.
Shaquera Wade, 5-11 guard/forward, AL Southern Starz (Huntsville, AL)
When I first started watching the Southern Starz play, I noticed Wade immediately: Her body was perfectly built for basketball as she’s somewhat slender but strong at the same time. For the next few minutes she completely dominated the game. She stole two passes in the press, finishing one and dishing the other to an open teammate. Both were athletic, smart plays. Then Nance and Thomas checked in and Wade faded into her role as complementary role player, hustling for loose balls and rebounding on the defensive end, when Thomas wasn’t snatching them away from everyone. I really liked Wade and can’t wait to see her again.
Maci Morris, 6-0 guard, KY Premier (Pineville, KY)
Some kids just completely look the part, and Maci Morris is one of those kids. She just looks like a ball player. There wasn’t one thing she did that I ever said wow about, but she was consistently the best player on the floor for her team and that’s saying a lot as the Kentucky Premier Organization is loaded with young talent. The part of her game I liked best was her leadership abilities -- it seemed when they needed a bucket her teammates where looking to her for direction and she came through on almost every occasion.
Reauna Cleaver, 6-2 post, KY Premier (Elizabethtown, KY)
I asked a BCS college assistant next to me "Is No. 23 supposed to be a major player because I had never seen her before?" He hadn’t either but we both walked away impressed. This girl is a major beast with a lot of upside. She had great hands and her ability to rebound on both ends afforded her opportunities for easy buckets.She’s thick without looking chunky, just strong as an ox. As her game becomes more polished, look for her name to become more common in recruiting circles.
Crystal Dangerfield, 5-5 point guard, TN Flight Soph. (Murfreesboro, TN)
It’s truly amazing the talent that comes out of Murfreesboro year after year. This winter Dangerfield will be the newest thing to hit the high school scene. She’s a lightning fast guard with a nice handle and she knows how to finish a break in transition. She has some talented teammates and as a young point guard it’s nice to see her willing to share the rock and even put those players in a position to be successful.
Haley Troup, 59 guard, AL Southern Starz (Gadsden, AL)
Eighth grade guards don’t normally flourish playing 16U AAU ball, but then again most eighth grade guards are not 5-9 with a senior’s skill set. Haley certainly isn’t going to wow you with her speed or athleticism but you have a poised player with enough quickness to defend and the ability to take a defender off the dribble. She can hit the perimeter jumper consistently and just needs more experience to become a big time prospect.
Tonysha Curry 5-9 guard, KY Lady Retro’s (Louisville, KY)
Tonysha spent all summer playing 16/17U AAU and it shows in her maturity. She is coachable and takes criticism well, applying it seamlessly during a game. The youngster has already developed a decent handle and her ability to see the floor and hit the open teammate is a skill that she has mastered at a young age. She shoots it well and creates for others in the halfcourt.