- Clay Kallam
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In Oregon City, Ore., at the beginning of the July evaluation period, a passing coach asked about "No. 4" for West Coast Premier, whom he described as "an amazing on-ball defender."
By the end of July, Eliza Pierre -- No. 4, synchronicity in full force -- needed no introductions.
And today Pierre holds a lofty designation as the No. 22 ranked prospect, and No. 3 among points guards, in the ESPNU HoopGurlz Hundred.
Brian Crichlow, the Premier's coach, has had the 5-foot-8 Pierre only for this season, but he's already sold.
"I've never seen anyone like her," he says. "She's like a freak of nature when it comes to defense. Her knack for angles and her foot speed go along with her knowledge of the game."
Pierre helped the Premier get to the final four at the End of the Oregon Trail by making opposing point guards disappear -- and it didn't happen by accident.
"I heard the phrase 'offense wins games but defense wins championships'," she says, "and I figured I wanted some championships."
Pierre might be a little shy of that listed 5-8, and she's not the product of a lot of time in the weight room. Still, she's long and quick and relentless.
"It's all about hustle," she says. "Slide your feet, don't reach and if the ball's on the floor, go get it."
She's also not big on scouting reports. In a matchup against Cy-Fair out of Texas, she drew Monique Smalls, another 2009 elite guard. Pierre made Smalls' life miserable for 32 minutes -- but Pierre had no idea whom she was guarding.
"I have to stop whoever they tell me to stop," she says.
And then she does.
At John Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif., Pierre has to be even more flexible. She plays power forward -- she led a pretty good team in rebounding -- and is assigned to the other team's best player. "Guard, post, it doesn't matter," she says.
If she does have to take on a big, she just gets after it. "I'm faster, so I can get around -- and I front them. And I can jump pretty well, too."
All of that means it doesn't take long for people to notice the demon defender, who got her start playing against boys in third grade. She got serious about basketball in middle school and is just now zeroing in on where she might want to go to college.
"I'm going to be a point guard," Pierre says, but what fans will be cheering her every steal is still unclear. "I'm open to going anywhere," she says. (She concedes two former John Muir players are at UCLA, and she goes to a few Bruins' games every year.)
But wherever she goes, one thing is certain: She'll be the best defender on the team. No one, absolutely no one, is going to look forward to seeing Eliza Pierre eye-to-eye for 40 minutes.
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Clay Kallam is a contributor to ESPN HoopGurlz. He is the founder of Full Court Press, an online magazine devoted to women's basketball; the author of "Girls Basketball: Building a Winning Program" and a voter for several national awards, including McDonald's and Parade All-Americans and the Wooden Award.
Eliza Pierre's defensive acumen and ability to play any position are rare traits, writes Clay Kallam.