Girls of Summer: First stop in tour

St. Mary's of Stockton point guards Naje Murray and Sierra Smith are both among top 20 nationwide for their position in their class. Photo: Harold Abend.

St. Mary’s of Stockton point guards Naje Murray and Sierra Smith are both among the top 20 nationwide for their position in their class. Photo: Harold Abend.

Annual tour of key California summer events for girls basketball begins with a stop at Stockton Summer Classic hosted by Stockton Lincoln coach Chris Roemer. Short-handed St. Mary’s still way too talented for rest of the field in the Platinum Division but other players from other schools also impress.

Note: Thanks to the Orinda Magic club team, West Coast Jamboree and CalStars club team for supporting analyst Harold Abend in his annual Girls of Summer series of stops at many of California leading summer tournaments. Appreciation also goes out to the Mission Valley Sheraton in San Diego, a great place to stay in the heart of the San Diego area’s top attractions.

For a look at leading players in the Gold Division at the Stockton Summer Classic, CLICK HERE.

Just how talented will St. Mary’s of Stockton be this coming season is a question everyone in the California high school girls’ basketball community and probably the entire nation would like to know.

The answer could be in how the Rams looked without their three top players in dominating the Stockton Summer Classic Platinum Division last weekend at Delta College.
Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist and All-State First Team incoming senior Mi’Cole Cayton, First Team All State Junior Kat Tudor and State Freshman of the Year Aquira DeCosta all had previous commitments, but don’t tell any of the four teams St. Mary’s played as the Stockton Mavericks against some of the top club teams in Northern California over the two day event.

The Cal-Hi Sports Girls of Summer Caravan had the pleasure and honor of working alongside Dan Olson, the ESPNW HoopGurlz director and probably the most respected nationwide analyst in girls hoops.

One thing we both agreed on and that was incoming St. Mary’s junior Naje Murray was one of the best players at the Summer Classic based on the way she performed.

In the one Mavericks game both the Caravan and Olson watched, Murray had 31 points, four assists and four steals in a 63-40 win over a Team Tesh squad made up of players from CIF North Coast and Sac-Joaquin Section schools.

Murray made five 3-pointers and they came from the college 22-foot, 1.75-inch line and not the 19-foot, nine-inch high school line.

When she squared up and drained the fifth and final trey, Olson had one word: “Boom.”
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We also both liked a scoop shot Murray put in off the glass Stephen Curry style.

“I like her and have her nationally-ranked but not too high,” said Olson, who has Murray as his No. 16 point guard in the 2017 class. “You can’t take away from the fact the kid can knock down shots. That’s the name of the game – you’ve got to score.”

Another player who has always been a defensive standout and deliverer that has started to knock down shots and go to the rack is St. Mary’s 2017 standout point guard Sierra Smith. In fact, Olson has the duo tied as the No. 16 incoming junior point guard in the nation.

Smith is still content to be primarily a passer but so far this summer she has knocked down mid-range shots and 3-pointers with much greater consistency. Against Team Tesh, she had eight points and six assists with five steals.

Two other Mavericks were impressive. Incoming senior Angel Johnson continues to play like a girl 6-foot-3 in a 5-foot-8 body. Olson was very impressed with her physicality and strength in her legs. Incoming senior Sydney Fadal is looking better down low and will be the inside presence next season to complement DeCosta.

Team Tesh quick and crafty point guard Namiko Adams (West Campus, Sacramento) continued to play well this summer and got kudos from Olson who rates her right up with Murray and Smith from the 2017 class. Incoming Piedmont guard Ny’Dajah Jackson also had a solid effort.
Smith was doing double-duty, so letting Murray take the lead could be expected. Her game for the Mavericks came on only one hour’s rest after she had a sound game for the Cal Ballaz in a 44-34 win over WCP Golden City.

Julia Blackshell-Fair, who like Murray and Smith was a All-State First Team Sophomore selection, continued to impress with her driving, slashing game and solid defense, although all the analysts still agree she needs to work on her outside shooting. Olson ranks her as a No. 14 guard.

IImar’I Thomas of the Ballaz, a 6-foot-1 All-State First Team Sophomore forward from San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral, continues to show improvement in her game but will need to continue conditioning this summer and fall.

The Ballaz girl that may have made the biggest impression on the assembled analysts was Raziya Potter. The 5-foot-11 wing from the Class of 2018 is reportedly transferring from Tracy Kimball to St. Mary’s of Stockton. Last season, she led Kimball in scoring and was second in rebounding (12.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) on a team that started 30-0 before losing in the CIFSJS D2 finals and then the first round of the D2 NorCal playoffs.

With St. Mary’s head coach Tom Gonsalves sitting between the Caravan and Olson, the potential St. Mary’s player was impressive. Gonsalves came early to see her play.

Incoming freshman Makayla Edwards of Richmond Salesian also stood out at recent Queens Court event in Livermore. Photo: Harold Abend.

Incoming freshman Makayla Edwards of Richmond Salesian also stood out at recent Queens Court event in Livermore. Photo: Harold Abend.

“I don’t know anything about the transfer and I’ve really only seen her play once, but she’s good,” Gonsalves remarked.

Olson was very impressed. “She finishes, is mature beyond her years, and can break girls down on the dribble.”

If the transfer does go through, Gonsalves will have another huge weapon and a girl that will be pushing to start.

Two very impressive newcomers were the incoming Salesian (Richmond) frosh duo of Angel Jackson and Makayla Edwards. They were the stars of a NorCal Future team out of the East Bay. The predominately 2019 squad held its own before giving up a 43-42 lead late to lose 48-43 to the older girls of Peninsula Elite.

Jackson, a legitimate 6-foot-5 post, is still developing but has the physicality of an older girl. She was matched up with Elite post Ila Lane, a 6-foot-3 incoming freshman at Portola Valley Woodside Priory, and the daughter of NBA star Juwan Howard.

Both big girls are good but Jackson rates a little higher.

“She needs more consistency in the block but she flashes, ducks in, runs well and has a Wilt Chamberlain build,” Olson remarked. “She’s definitely top 25 in her class.”

Edwards was impressive at the Queens Court event last month and hasn’t stopped. The 5-foot-9 guard/wing has a solid frame but standing next to future Salesian teammate Jackson only shows just what Olson meant about the big girl.

Other Platinum Division girls that got high marks from the assembled analysts

(In alphabetical order, class, high school, club team)

All the girls mentioned above were two star girls or real close, or two stars plus in the case of Murray, Smith and Blackshell-Fair. The following list is a combination of one and two star girls based on how they performed at the Stockton Summer Classic only. It is also not a complete list since not all teams and games were observed.
Ariana Abdulmassih 2017 (St. Ignatius, San Francisco) (WCP Golden City) **
Mylah Andrada 2016 (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) (Cal Ballaz) **
Alyssa Alvarez 2017 (Convent of the Sacred Heart, San Francisco) (WCP Golden City) *plus
Kianna Baker 2016 (Tulare Union, Tulare) (Fresno Lady Heat) **
Ayzhiana Basallo 2017 (St. Ignatius, San Francisco) (WCP Golden City) **
Salihah Bey 2016 (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) (Peninsula Elite) **
Taki Brandon 2016 (Berkeley) (Team TESH) *
Adorah Buggs 2016 (Pittsburg) (Peninsula Elite) *
Amara Chidom 2017 (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) (Team TESH) *
Nia Chinn 2019 (St. Mary’s, Berkeley) (NorCal Future) *
Kambrya Elyz 2018 (Mission Oak, Tulare) (Fresno Lady Heat) **
DeDe Franklin 2021 (Middle school) (Blythe Basketball) *
Angel Galbraith 2019 (Salesian, Richmond) (NorCal Future) *plus
Georgia Hake 2017 (Gunn, Palo Alto) (Peninsula Elite) *
Alexis Harris 2016 (Palo Alto) (Peninsula Elite) **
Alyssa Hayes 2017 (Carlmont, Belmont) (Peninsula Elite) *
Aerial Johnson 2018 (St. Mary’s, Stockton) (Stockton Mavericks) *
Alexus Kelley 2016 (Lincoln, Stockton) (WCP Golden City) **
Seuvahnia Kuka 2016 (Pittsburg) (Team TESH) *plus
Jenesis Merriman 2016 (St. Francis, Mountain View) (Peninsula Elite) *plus
Jerrene Richardson 2016 (Edison, Fresno) (Fresno Lady Heat) *
Tameiya Sadler 2020 (Middle school) (NorCal Future) *
Caroline Stephens 2017 (St. Mary’s, Stockton) (Stockton Mavericks) *
Rodjanae Wade 2016 (Edison, Fresno) (Fresno Lady Heat) **
Nyah Willis 2019 (Valley Christian, San Jose) (NorCal Future) *
Nicole Young 2019 (St. Mary’s, Stockton) (Stockton Mavericks) *

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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