A group of six girls are in line to be selected as the 2013 honoree by Cal-Hi Sports. The Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year list now goes back to 1972 with selected players from earlier years, and includes numerous WNBA superstars.
Similar to the boys finalists for Mr. Basketball, two of last year’s five Ms. Basketball finalists, Kelsey Plum of La Jolla Country Day and Jordin Canada of Windward, are among this year’s crop of six girls. Unlike the eventual boys selection, however, neither Plum nor Canada was the 2012 winner.
Should Plum win, she would become the second winner at Country Day for 2012 State Coach of the Year Terri Bamford. The 2004 winner was the Torreys’ Candice Wiggins, who went on to Stanford and is now with the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock.
Two other finalists will join Plum next week at the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago: Erica McCall of Ridgeview, and Oderah Chidom of Bishop O’Dowd, the only finalist to lead her team to a state championship.
Besides Canada, two other underclass girls made the cut. Mariya Moore of Salesian makes it as a junior, and like Canada last year, Katie Lou Samuelson of Mater Dei makes the final list as a sophomore.
Something different this year in the selection process for the State Player of the Year is the inclusion of opinions and votes of many of the state’s top coaches, including some that have players as finalists this year.
Look for a short feature to accompany the Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year announcement for some insight on why the coaches voted as they did.
Here is a closer look at the six players:
Jordin Canada (Windward, Los Angeles)
Many basketball analysts around the country feel this junior point guard that committed to UCLA on March 24 is the best at her position in any class. The 14 assists, many of the no-look variety, in the 81-71 Windward victory over Mater Dei in the Southern Regional Open Division title game were a thing of beauty and dazzled the crowd. Combined with 17 points meant Canada had a hand in 45 points. With USC-bound Courtney Jaco doing a lot of the scoring, Canada’s job was to score when needed, but also do everything else that got Windward to the open division state championship final. On the season she had 546 points (17 ppg), 234 assists (7.3 per game) and 157 rebounds for a 4.9 per game average despite being only 5-foot-7 and rather thin. Few girls from California have ever been able to do some of the things Canada can do on the court.
Oderah Chidom (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland)
The tallest of the six finalists at 6-foot-4, this Duke-bound senior is also the only one of the nominees victorious at Sleep Train Arena of the three that had a shot at a state championship. A member of the Team USA Gold Medal winners last year, Chidom is also a McDonald’s All-American. With O’Dowd having seven or even eight players that could start anywhere, four with Division I scholarships, and two sophomores that are already on D1 radar screens, Chidom was not called upon to do as much heavy lifting as she would have on another team. Her defense, however, was one of her trademarks, and that was something she showcased in the Open Division final. This year she averaged 14 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game, but of note is many of O’Dowd’s games in league went to a running clock that limited her court time.
Erica McCall (Ridgeview, Bakersfield)
McCall is only the second girl from Bakersfield to be nominated for Ms. Basketball with the other being Nikki Blue in 2002 from Bakersfield West. The Stanford-bound 6-foot-3 McDonald’s All-American and Gatorade State Player of the Year has etched her name in several places in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book but blocked shots is where she is tops. This past season she had 278 swats (8.2 per game) and finishes with 950 for her career. Both figures make her the all-time shot block queen. After averaging over 20 points and 15 rebounds per game this season, McCall also makes the career rebounding list in the No. 4 spot with 1,883 rebounds, and her 2,526 points makes the career list and places her as the No. 2 scorer in CIF Central Section history behind Blue.
Mariya Moore (Salesian, Richmond)
To say Moore put the Pride on her shoulders and took them to the Division IV state championship game would be an understatement. She almost single-handedly won it with her team coming up just short in a 62-60 loss to Gardena Serra. In the game, the solidly-built 5-foot-11 junior that can play any position on the floor had 35 points, which is the second most ever in a Div. IV title game and tied for fifth most all time in any division. Where she stands alone is at the free-throw line. Moore set new state title game records in all divisions by making 17-of-20 free throws, the most ever made and the most attempted. This season she averaged 18.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 4.0 steals per game.
Kelsey Plum (La Jolla Country Day, La Jolla)
Even after losing the Hood twins to graduation, and another talented guard that moved back to Hawaii, coach Terri Bamford still had her girls play one of the nation’s toughest schedules with a young, limited roster led by the 5-foot-9 Washington-bound senior guard. Despite the Torreys taking their lumps, Plum shined and got stronger down the stretch in leading the team to the Southern Regional Open Division semifinals, where it lost 52-46 to Windward despite Plum’s 19 points and 11 rebounds. Along the way, Plum dropped in 50 points against Dobson of Arizona, 40 at the Nike TOC in a loss to New York Christ the King, and 25 at Stockton St. Mary’s and 29 versus Bishop O’Dowd in a MLK Day weekend when she was sick with a stomach virus. This season she averaged 27.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, with 3.7 steals and 3.3 assists per game. Despite being double and triple-teamed every game, she shot 48 percent from the field (33 percent on 3-pointers) and 84 percent from the foul line. Her 805 points this year could make the next record book, and her 2,215 career points is close but falls short of making that list.
Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
The Monarchs didn’t four-peat as state champions, but they did win the top division of the Nike TOC and made it to the Southern Regional Open Division title game where they lost to Windward in great part due to the exploits of the only sophomore candidate. Despite being 6-foot-3 and a force down low when she goes to the paint, “Lou,” as family and teammates call her, is most dangerous on the perimeter. She shot an amazing 54.2 percent from the field, 67 percent from two-point range and 43 percent from beyond the arc, where she made 92 of those shots. From the foul line, last year’s State Freshman of the Year connected 83 percent of the time. Her per game averages were 20.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.2 blocks.
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Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend