Cream of the crop list of top players from Las Vegas girls hoop tourney includes the obvious, but we’re more fired up about those who were breakout performers and those we’ll be seeing in future years.
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Despite the fact there were three games being played simultaneously on the courts laid down on the huge ballroom floor of the Westin Lake Las Vegas, there was no way the Cal-Hi Sports Girls of Summer Caravan could observe and rate every one of the 500 girls participating in the Ballin in the Ballroom’s six brackets.
Hence, the methodology in evaluating players used was the same as at the San Diego Classic, and that’s also been applied in the previous eight years the Girls of Summer Caravan has been rolling around the Western States during the NCAA viewing period.
We cover as many of the top teams as possible the first day, follow the winners until the championship, and then also on the last day we try to catch some games from the teams that lost the first day and won the rest of their games.
Since the tournament hosted by Cal Sparks also had a strong underclass division, we covered the game on the final day between that group’s top teams, and added them in as well.
(All players are listed alphabetically with school, position, height and class)
CREAM OF THE CROP
Jaelyn Brown (Vista Murrieta, Murrieta) F, 6-1, 2016
Not only is her inside game improved but besides posting up down low and finishing with either hand, she can pop the three-pointer with good consistency for a big girl.
Kennedy Burke (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) W, 6-1, 2015
Last year’s Division V Player of the Year is showing improvement finishing with both hands, and unless the CIF kicks them up to the Open Division she will probably be leading the team on the road to a possible repeat.
Jordin Canada (Windward, Los Angeles) PG, 5-7, 2014
Even when she’s not scoring the UCLA-bound smooth as silk point guard does everything else to control the game.
Arica Carter (Long Beach Poly) G, 5-9, 2014
The offers should start to multiply for Carter after the way she has looked this summer, particularly in Las Vegas, and at the Battle In The Boro in Nashville.
Lajahna Drummer (St. Bernard, Play del Rey) F, 6-2, 2014
After missing her entire junior season with a knee injury, Drummer looks like she hasn’t missed a beat. “I didn’t stop working on my game during rehab,” the personable young woman told Cal-Hi Sports. Several times when the colleges chasing her were watching her on the court, the Caravan was watching them and their reactions – and they were loving it.
Kelli Hayes (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose) W, 6-1, 2014
In the only full game observed, she was pretty much a one-girl team, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and three assists, in a 46-44 win over a solid team Team Stingrays from Hawaii.
Bri Moore (St. Mary’s, Stockton) G, 5-9, 2015
There has been no drop-off in her play from San Diego where she played for her school. In Las Vegas, she was the star of Cal Sparks Black (NorCal).
Kristen Simon (Windward, Los Angeles) C, 6-1, 2014
She’s short as college posts go, but this big, muscular, deceptively quick, classical banger dominates the paint at this level and is going to make some noise in college once she gets to the next level.
Jahnay Anderson (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose) G, 5-6, 2016
Has good speed on both ends, can shoot the three, but needs more polish to be a complete player. Still, in the game observed against the Hawaii girls, she popped three 3-pointers, including the one in the waning moments that gave the team a 46-44 victory.
Brijae Brackett (Serra, Gardena) G, 5-8, 2016
She saw limited time on a team that won a CIF Division IV state championship, but with the bulk of the backcourt scoring graduated, look for this solidly-built guard that plays taller than she is to have a breakout season.
Mi Cole Cayton (St. Mary’s, Stockton) G, 5-8, 2016
In the Elite Division title game win over the San Francisco Eagles, she had her breakout game, playing superb defense and also finishing with a game-high 24 points (three 3-pointers) with four assists and three steals.
Mai-Loni Henson (La Jolla Country Day) W, 6-0, 2016
Her team was upset in the semifinals of the Elite Division but Henson continued the stellar play she showed in San Diego. The near miss All State freshman is poised for a breakout season.
Angel Johnson (St. Mary’s, Stockton) G, 5-8, 2016
The Caravan has seen a few girls this summer with the same size and build as Johnson, and with a similar game, but Angel can still fly above them all, and plays maniacal defense no matter how big the opponent.
Khalia Lark (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) W, 6-1, 2014
She was a role player last year but with her size and ability to play inside out and shoot the three, it should make her much more of a contributor this coming season.
Josie Little (St. Ignatius, San Francisco) F, 6-2, 2015
She was held out her entire sophomore season for what was reported as a concussion, but she will definitely be one of the top players in the West Catholic Athletic League.
Jada Matthews (Long Beach Poly) F, 6-0, 2014
She has the size and strength to be a force in the paint at the next level, and although she doesn’t have the flash of many of her Cal Sparks Gold teammates she’s currently being recruited by Kentucky, Ole Miss, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pepperdine, Davidson, Utah, San Jose State and the University of San Diego.
Sydney Raggio (St. Ignatius, San Francisco) F, 6-1, 2015
The big, strong power forward who can finish inside, impressed the Caravan in Stockton, and she picked up right where she left off when observed in La Vegas. In the Elite Division title game loss to St. Mary’s, she had 21 points and nine rebounds.
Simone Sheppard (Sacramento) G, 5-11, 2014
Sheppard’s future coach at UNLV was beaming when told that she had 16 points, 11 rebounds and took charge on both ends of the court in a win over Texas Elite.
Kat Tudor (St. Mary’s Stockton) G, 5-10, 2016
She didn’t have her best shooting tournament of the summer but still had a couple of solid games for a youngster that played six more games (San Diego Classic) and had some tired arms.
Celeste West (Garces, Bakersfield) P, 6-3, 2016
She has the kind of size and strength you can’t coach or teach, and her defense and rebounding are strong, but her offensive skills need a lot of honing, and that’s why she was invited to the USA U16 tryouts but didn’t make the team.
BABIES ON THE RISE
Ayanna Clark (Long Beach Poly) P, 6-0, 2017
Before its said and done, and if she stays injury free, this long, athletic incoming freshman has all the tools, and could be one of the best post players Long Beach Poly head coach Carl Buggs has ever had. Right now, most college coaches and analysts in Las Vegas agreed that Clark is the best 2017 big girl in the state.
Chelsea Gipson (Windward, Los Angeles) PG, 5-6, 2017
Her game isn’t quite as developed as Jordin Canada’s was as an incoming freshman, but she has a similar style and will fit right in with the star able to mentor her before graduating.
Maddie Holland (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose) G, 5-10, 2017
Mitty and USA U16 head coach Sue Phillips has an eye for talent and this girl brings a twinkle to her eye. She’s big and strong for an incoming freshman, plays well on the perimeter, and is unafraid to mix it up in the paint.
Sierra Smith (St. Mary’s, Stockton) PG, 5-6, 2017
Her best game of the summer came in a hard fought semifinal 59-55 victory over West Coast Premier Red, and it didn’t come in the scoring column. Smith had 13 steals and took four offensive charges.
Emma Tolbert (Middle School) C, 6-0, 2018
She has the coordination and fluidity of a girl much older. Increased strength will come with her maturing. She was impressive last year as a seventh-grader and even more impressive this year. In the game observed in full she had 16 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend