CANTON, OH – On Sunday, September 10th some of the best female ballers in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia descended upon the history Canton Memorial Fieldhouse to be a part of the annual NEO Showcase which is presented by Hall of Fame Huddle founder Rich Harland.
Designed to help girls basketball players in the 2018 through the 2021 classes showcase their talents to a bevy of college scouts in attendance the Showcase not only pitted the players against one another in a series of games, but also gave them an opportunity to get valuable coaching and skills help from the likes of Tyler Bates (Former Smithville All-Ohioan, Loudonville Head Coach) and (David ‘Cousy’ Border (Current Hiland Hawk assistant, multiple time state champion).
For their team games each of the color specific named teams were given a coach who has excelled on the court and is currently or on her way to college to continue playing such as Jackson star and future Maryland Terrapin Taylor Mikesell to gain a bit of guidance as they progress their game on the day.
When asked to sum up the event, Harland replied “It just brings so much joy to my heart to see all of these kids enjoying themselves while getting better and playing in front of so many coaches. It’s the biggest day of the year for me and it makes me feel so great to have so much support from the players, coaches, families and everyone involved. It’s truly so gratifying.”
For more information on the Showcase and future events be sure to check out the website at HOF Huddle or follow Rich on twitter @HOFHuddle_Rich
The first ever Northeast Ohio Combine & Showcase took place this past Sunday, September 7th at Tuslaw High School in Massillon, Ohio and was a rousing success according to Rich Harland who operates Hall of Fame Huddle, one of the two organizers of the event:
Jim Dabbelt of the Dabbelt Report, the Dayton girls basketball guru who is hosting his own event in Tipp City on September 21st for young ladies looking to get college exposure also stated he too was more than happy with how well the event went, “I think it went very well and is a great starting point for future events here in Northeast Ohio.”
With many college scouts in attendance, the event got started at 9am with a multitude of skills challenges such as a standing vertical measurement and a lane agility test for all of the 80 young ladies in attendance.
One of the most impressive measurements of the day that I caught a glimpse of was the 74 inch wingspan displayed by Triniti Lee, a Freshman from nearby Massillon Jackson.
Following completion of the measurements and a few drills, the girls were split up into teams to each play a pair of games inside the Tuslaw High School and Middle School gyms.
The first game of the day in the HS gym featured the Purple and Pink teams matching up. Coming into the combine I had heard a lot about a young lady who is the reigning NBC player of the year in Ali Poole, and the Junior from Carrollton lived up to her billing. One of the things I was most impressed with during the course of the two games were the quick hands that Ali showed off as she pilfered a couple of balls and led her team on easy drives to the basket on the opposite end, as she is fantastic with the ball in the open court and as a finisher.
Junior Caitlin Tytler really impressed me underneath the basket in the two games I saw of her as she has a tough personality on the court and is a terrific rebounder with a real nose for the basketball. On one possession in the first game I watched her in awe as she used her body to position herself for three straight offensive boards before being fouled while trying to score one herself.
On the other side of the ball, the pink team had two players jump out at me right away in Karlee Pireu (Junior, Perry) for her high basketball IQ and her quick jumpshot from the perimeter. I’ve got a feeling that Perry is going to be quite good this season between Karlee and teammate Kimmie Borck who is one of the toughest finishers at the rim I saw all day. Gabby Mitchell, a much heralded Freshman who will be plying her trade for the Solon Comets this season also impressed the heck out of me with her great range and ability to hit from deep as she drilled a pair of three pointers with a hand in her face from the wing in the first contest.
With each team playing 25 minute halves, it gave the spectators a chance to rotate gyms and check out a couple of games at a time, something I took full advantage of at halftime to catch a half of the Green vs Orange matchup in the much warmer Tuslaw Middle School gym.
Each team featured a handful of players I was looking forward to seeing, but none moreso than Orange’s Taylor Mikesell (Freshman from Jackson) who is already receiving interest from every major college program (Notre Dame, Florida State, Indiana, Iowa) before she even laces up her Nikes for the first time in a high school game, and the Green squad’s Brandie Snow (Junior, Lake) who had impressed me earlier in the morning during the skills portion of the day.
Both players were true warriors for their respective squads and got a real challenge for being the best player on the court from their teammates in the Green team’s aforementioned Gabby Mitchell (Fr, Solon) who is beyond lightning quick in transition, and the Orange’s Bethany Koons (Jr, Tuslaw) who impressed me with her ability to create her own shots and turn those opportunities into chances at the free throw line. I only got to witness the second half of this one, but it held up the rest of the day as one of the best games of the day. A funny moment from it came however when the Orange team hit a 3 point basket to break a 27-27 tie but was then realized by the referee that both teams were going the wrong way to open the second half before the score was changed to reflect the mistake.
Back in the HS gym it was time for the Red squad to take on the Light Blue squad in what turned out to be quite a physical battle later in the game. Light Blue jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first 3 minutes of the game and kept the Red team scoreless until the 16:06 mark when they dented the scoring column with a 13 foot jumper.
With the whole team full of players who impressed me throughout the day it was hard to pick just a couple of players who stood out, especially for the Light Blue squad. Two of the young ladies that stuck out in the first half of this one were Caitlyn Kroll (JR, Bridgeport) for her ability to read the passing lane on defense and use of her size and Lindsey Baker (JR, Wheeling Central (WV) ) who was one of the days best shooters.
While those two young ladies as well as teammate Cortney Huffman (SR, Sandy Valley) were all impressive to me, it was Hoover Junior Lexi Manos that stole the show. With her astonishing court vision and dribbling skills that the Globetrotters would be envious of, Lexi put her team in a prime position to be up on the scoreboard at all times. It is easy to see that being a part of a Hoover team who made it to the State Championship game has given this young lady worlds of confidence as the leads her team this season.
Team Red has some very nice young scorers on their team that were on display as Camille Adelman (SR, Field) showed off her ballhandling skills with both hands and quick scoring ability on multiple trips down the floor. Camille was joined in throwing in a big performance by Izzy Meese (JR, Garaway) who showed she is a beast to deal with near the rim and will work hard to finish a play at all times.
Destinee Lee (Soph, Jackson) really stood out to me for the Maroon team in the final game of the day in a high scoring contest against the aforementioned Light Blue squad. Her ability to defend and rebound really stood out and helped her team while she was in. Unfortunately for her however, her teammates could not keep up with the frantic and pinpoint rhythm set by Manos and Baker. Jackson is going to have a VERY nice team this year I think because of Destinee and Caitlyn Tytler who both put on solid displays for the scouts in attendance.
If I had to wittle down all of the players I was most impressed with to an “All Combine Team” so to speak it would be these 5:
Lindsey Baker – The Junior from Wheeling Central West Virginia is a nice shooter and all around selfless player.
Taylor Mikesell – I mean come on, there’s a reason BIG schools are after her before her FIRST HIGH SCHOOL GAME.
Ali Poole – I thought she got off to a slow start in the morning but really picked it up and is a fantastic leader/scorer.
Brandie Snow – Lake’s Junior really jumped off the charts at me early in the morning as one of the best all-around players and did nothing to hurt that.
Lexi Manos – There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this young lady. A Magic Johnson-esque touch with the basketball jumps her to the head of the class, schools have to be drooling to get her onto their campus.
A big thank you to all of you for reading this and for Jim and Rich for bringing me in to cover this. If you’d like to send me your thoughts just hit me up on twitter @michaelhirnpbp. Be sure to check out the photo gallery from the event by liking my facebook page at www.facebook.com/michaelhirnpbp