After her commitment to Cal, La Jolla Country Day’s Alaysia Styles seems to have risen to another level. She, along with one of the top incoming freshmen in the nation, led team competing as Wiggins Waves to 3A Division title. Clovis West of Fresno, competing as Cen Cal Chaos, also did very well during the week.
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SAN DIEGO – It’s hard to believe that the Girls of Summer Caravan is entering its 12th year, but what began at the first girls Nike Elite Skills Academy in Beaverton, Oregon in July of 2005 has now covered over 30,000 miles on the road and another 15,000 miles in the air – and there have been more than 5,000 players observed since it all began.
In a bit of a twist, the top player that first year and the player that has received the highest rating ever during the Girls of Summer tours is now one of the top players in the WNBA, and that’s current Minnesota Lynx superstar Maya Moore.
For the past 10 years, the San Diego Classic has been a Girls of Summer staple during the dark portion of the July NCAA viewing period of certified events but this year the 30th annual affair changed its dates and now kicks off year 12 of the most extensive summer girls basketball coverage in California and in some years parts beyond as well.
This year, the 125-team field for the 3A, 2A and 1A Divisions from California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington used club monikers but the rule that all the girls had to play for the same high school did not change.
As always, the teams played two 20-minute running clock halves with stop time in the last two minutes of every game if the score was within 10 points or the last four minutes of the championships.
Four-time defending champion St. Mary’s of Stockton was not in the field but the last team other than St. Mary’s to win the top division of the largest girls summertime high school basketball tournament in the nation was in the field and showed it will be hard to beat during the 2016-17 season.
After a four-year hiatus, the title in the 3A Division of the San Diego Classic is back in local hands after La Jolla Country Day played five solid and some very dominating games that culminated in a Sunday afternoon 48-40 title-game victory over Clovis West of Fresno.
From the beginning of the tournament, there was little question that La Jolla Country Day, playing as the Wiggins Waves, and Clovis West, playing as Cen Cal Chaos, were the top two teams in the 28-team 3A field.
In the end, Country Day head coach Terri Bamford didn’t have a deeper squad than Clovis West head coach Craig Campbell, but she did have two of the top five players evaluated at the tournament and the top inside-outside punch with Cal-bound incoming senior 6-foot-2 wing Alaysia “Birdy” Styles and incoming 5-foot-9 freshman point guard Te-Hina Paopao.
In the title game, Styles, the ESPN No. 9 rated 2017 wing in the nation, had her sixth double-double in the six games of the tournament after finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds with four assists and two blocks.
Styles had 12 points and 11 rebounds in a Pool B opener against Mayfield of Las Cruces (NM), followed that up with 10 points and 13 rebounds in a 45-29 win over Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills, and then had 20 points, 10 rebounds with three assists in the Pool B final 52-35 win against defending CIF Division IV state champion Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa.
In Pool 1 play and in a game her team led 28-7 at the half, Styles went for 13 points and 11 rebounds in a 51-17 dismantling of a rebuilding defending CIF Open Division champion Chaminade of West Hills. She was particularly dominating in a 61-34 trouncing of Mission Hills of San Marcos in a game Country Day led 37-5 at halftime. In her matchup with 6-foot-1 incoming senior Khayla Rooks of Mission Hills (San Marcos), Styles had 10 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and three assists. Rooks, who is playing this summer despite the death of her father and former NBA star Sean Rooks last month, finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Styles seems to be maturing and is really coming into her own now that she’s committed to Cal. There was little doubt she was by far the best player in the 3A Division and as a result she was named the Cal-Hi Sports Most Valuable Player.
“She’s just playing with so much confidence right now and that’s what we’ve been waiting for. It’s changed our team,” Bamford said.
While Styles was clearly the top player in the tournament, the choice for the No. 2 player was close between Rooks and a Country Day girl that still hasn’t played her first minute of high school basketball, and that’s Paopao.
Paopao, whose talent first surfaced in the 2015 Girls of Summer series when she was an incoming eighth-grader, played magnificently despite coming into the San Diego Classic after missing two weeks of action with an ankle injury. She really didn’t look to score until the semifinal win over Mission Hills, but was content to feed others and play lockdown defense. Against Mission Hills, Paopao nailed five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points, seven assists, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Paopao, who is considered one of the top 2020 point guards in the nation by ESPN analyst Dan Olson, has great court vision, tremendous strength for a girl so young, deceptive quickness and an ability to control the tempo of the game. Against Clovis West, she had eight points and eight assists with five rebounds. In the Chaminade game, Paopao finished with seven points, seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals. Against Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa), she had five points and seven assists with five rebounds and two steals. In another game observed by the Girls of Summer Caravan, Paopao finished with just two points but she had eight assists and six rebounds.
“Te-Hina is simply amazing,” Bamford remarked. “She’s the difference in our team from last year. She’s a floor general that can score or set up others for easy shots. She’s fun to coach and fun to play with.”
Another girl that played very well in all six games was incoming junior guard Kiera Oakry. She’s only 5-foot-9 but plays taller. Against Clovis West, she had 12 points and nine rebounds. In the Mission Hills win, Oakry equaled Paopao with 17 points, including a four-point play.
Jayda Villareal, a sharpshooting incoming junior guard, had a game-high 18 points (five treys) with four assists, four rebounds and four steals in the championship victory over Clovis West. Her stock is rising this summer.
Two other girls played very well, incoming juniors Bianca Notarainni and Kendall Ellenbeck. Columbia is very high on Notarainni, a 6-foot wing, and the 5-foot-10 Ellenbeck, who is returning from missing the entire season with a knee injury, seems to be improving every game.
“What the San Diego Classic showed me is how much the team’s confidence has grown, and that they’re taking their basketball IQ to another level,” concluded Bamford.
Clovis West got a great tournament from incoming Arizona State-verballed senior Bre’yanna Sanders. In fact, had she not gotten a put-back at the buzzer of a 40-39 win over Chaminade to win Pool C, the Fresno girls would have opened Pool 1 play against La Jolla Country Day instead of seeing them in the finals.
Another player that was impressive was Brea Olinda (Brea) incoming 5-foot-10 junior Tyiona Watkins. She had 16 points in the semifinals but it wasn’t enough in a loss to Clovis West.
At least another approximate 20 players will make the Girls of Summer rankings from the San Diego Classic from Brea Olinda, Cardinal Newman, Clovis West, Heritage (Brentwood), Lincoln (Stockton), Oak Ridge and St. Francis of Sacramento.
Look for those rankings when all of the travel ends. This week, it’s on to Cal State Dominguez Hills and to Irvine.
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