CINCINNATI -- When Marcedes Walker was the captain of the Pitt women's basketball team, her younger sister, Markel, would hang around campus, play in open gyms and thought everyone was so nice to her that, come last November, she figured she'd follow in her sister's footsteps and verbal to the Panthers.
Trouble was, her friends and club teammates had just too much fun with their recruitment and Walker figured she was missing out. So last week, Walker opted back in, rescinding her commitment to Pitt but not eliminating her sister's alma mater from the mix.
"I just want to have the experience," said Walker, the Philadelphian ranked No. 6 in the 2009 class by ESPN HoopGurlz.
Walker says she's working on a final five. Right now, it's Louisville, Maryland, Pitt and two as-yet determined schools.
The 6-foot-1 power wing has been playing with a severely bruised left wrist since the high-school season, when she suffered the injury while bracing a fall. Since she uses both hands to finish around the basket, the injury occasionally impacts her shot. Still, she refuses to take the excuse.
"If I miss layups," she said, "that's me."
Super Sleeper Team
Call it a hit-and-run. Maybe the top unaffiliated team in the country, Peach State Elite Black stepped up in one of the more hugely competitive non-evaluation tournaments of the year and made the semifinals, only to forfeit the game to West Coast Premier, the eventual elite-division champions. Peach State bussed up from the Atlanta area and parents wanted their girls home to finish schoolwork.
Too bad. This is a team that might not got the exposure of teams with shoe contracts, but is very good. It's got two studs -- potentially three.
Krista Gross, a hyperkinetic wing out of Concord, N.C., is a huge pickup. Formerly of the Tennessee Flight, she is 6 feet and ranked No. 34 in the 2009 class by ESPN HoopGurlz. With Peach State, Gross has been able to showcase more of her game, demonstrating her speed and ballhandling in an up-and-down game; her game off the bounce in the half court, and her strength on the low boxes. She has good size and length, goes hard at the glass and has enough handle to take the ballhandling pressure off her point guard.
At 6-3, Blanche Alverson, of Buford, Ga., is a shooter whose shot looks even tighter than last year. No. 46 in her class, Alverson has added definition in her upper body and the 3-pointer now looks like a very easy toss for her. The other thing you have to like is fluidity of movement for a girl her size.
Speaking of fluid, she's not there quite yet, but Mariah Chandler, No. 11 in the 2009 class, is way ahead of schedule after undergoing surgery to repair an ACL tear. Depending on whom she -- or, ultimately, her mother -- listens to, she either will play some this summer (her physical therapist) or miss her last go-round on the club circuit (her surgeon). If she gets green-lighted, that's three highly ranked, pretty complementary players on the same team.
But there's more -- a point guard. There is a lot to like about Keyrra Gillespie's game, but the best word to describe the reigning Ms. Basketball from North Carolina is "pugnacious." She's also very well-built and strong, can take a hit during frequent forays to the rim and has plenty shake on her handle, though she can hang onto the ball a little long at times.
This is a team worth trying to catch. And we mean try. Sometimes you've just go to be able to outrun the team bus.
• Rock Solid, the club team that produced HoopGurlz five-star recruit Jence Rhoads in 2007 won the open (17-16U) division. The team no longer has a player like Rhoads, who made the SEC all-freshman team with Vanderbilt, but it has the same coach -- Rhoad's father, Robert.
• The Memphis Elite won a pretty hot 15U division. They beat the Fairfax Stars in the championship, after going to sudden-death overtime to beat the Tennessee Flight in the semifinals and earlier beating Sports City U, a team from Ohio with some very good young (and big) talent, in three overtimes during the quarters.
The semifinal between Memphis and Tennessee Flight had an interesting backstory because the two programs last year were coupled. Memphis, which has Tennessee commit Lauren Avant from the 2010 class, now is back to an independent program.
• Any coverage of this event would be remiss without mention of Samarie Walker of Dayton, Ohio. She is to the 2010 class what Tayler Hill of Minneapolis is to 2009 -- instant, and easy, offense. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to come up with someone, especially someone 6-1, who scores as easily as does Walker. She hits the 3 with ease, scores off the bounce and has the low-body strength to score on the boxes.
Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more in-depth coverage of women's college-basketball prospects and girls' basketball, visit HoopGurlz.com For more in-depth coverage of women's college-basketball prospects and girl's basketball, visit HoopGurlz.com.