- Chris Hansen, ESPNHS HoopGurlz
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When you think of a top gunner you probably don't think of Tom Cruise. But just what is a gunner these days? In today's game you have your shooters and you have your scorers. Both have a similar job to do and that's get those L.E.D. lights on the scoreboard changing often under their team's name. The difference is of course the manner in which they light it up yet we recognize both in our Best of Summer Series.
Top Gunners (best shooters and scorers)
1. Tayler Hill (2009), Minnesota NC Heat
2. Ta'Shauna Rodgers (2009), Boo Williams
3. Taber Spani (2009), Cy-Fair Shock
4. Kaleena Lewis (2011), West Coast Premier
5. Kathryn Reynolds (2010), Cincy's Finest
6. Allie Turner (2010), Ohio Lady Diamonds
7. Kelsey Harris (2010), Cal Swish
8. Angela Rodriguez (2010) F.P.L.L.
9. Jaime Printy (2009), IBCA Iowa Select
10. Adrienne GodBold (2009), Illinois Hustle
11. Tarik Hislop (2009), DC Heat
12. Laurin Mincy (2010), NJ Flames
13. Alexandria Bentley (2009), Family
14. Kaneisha Horn (2009), Ala. Roadrunners
15. Lauren Avant (2010), Memphis Elite
16. Samarie Walker (2010), Ohio Lady Diamonds
17. Erica Wheeler (2009), Essence
18. Mary Bokenkamp (2009), Mile Hi Magic
19. Katie Rutan (2009), Philadelphia Belles
20. Rachel Messer (2009), Mile High Magic
21. Nikki Lewis (2010), Team Anonymous
22. Taylor Wurtz (2009), Wisconsin Fastbreak
23. Erika Radonovich (2010), East Bay Xplosion Black
24. Maggie Lucas (2010), Philadelphia Belles
25. Deja Mann (2009), Modesto Magic Elite
The great thing about the game of basketball is the sense of style and how those individual styles fit together for a team goal. Some love to put it on the floor and make things happen while others prefer to rip the net from behind the arc and beyond. Yet there are some, such as Tayler Hill (Minneapolis, Minn.), who have become truly dynamic offensive players by blending the two styles. She combines one of the quickest first steps in all of girls' basketball with the ability to hit the defender off with a rat-tat-tat dribble move as well as range to 20 feet. Take one of those away and you make the other that much easier.
Boo Williams' Ta'Shauna Rodgers (Suffolk, Va.) is known by those close to her as "Sugar." Ironically it helps describe her in basketball as she has such a sweet stroke and one of the quickest triggers in the game. She is another who falls in the combo-gunner category as she can also put the ball on the floor and make plays with her quickness.
But what about the shooters you ask? This summer was definitely filled with ample long-range exploits from coast to coast. From the diminutive Kathryn Reynolds (Cincinnati, Ohio), who stands just 5 feet 4, to the much taller marksmen such as Taber Spani (Lee's Summit, Mo.) who stands 6-1, shooters were doing their thing. And speaking of shooters, everyone seemed to be able to hit the three at the Native American Basketball Invitational in Phoenix, but Nikki Lewis (Tahlequah, Okla., and the sister of Angel Goodrich) helped shoot her team to the championship.
Angela Rodriguez (Oak Creek, Wisc.) first caught our attention in the spring by attacking off the dribble with ease yet this summer emerged as one of the biggest deep threats in the nation. She looked as comfortable as anyone sitting on the weakside corner waiting for the kickout pass. First standing out with tremendous defensively ability and top shelf athleticism Adrienne Godbold (Chicago, Ill.) showed out all summer as one of the better three-point shooters on the circuit. Both of these two have other skills while still being among the best at knocking down long-range shots.
Rachel Messer (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) showed back in December she could shoot the ball with her high-school team, but this summer had a swagger and confidence about her that turned shooting ability into momentum manipulation. There is nothing in the girls' game that can change the flow of the game more than a timely three-point bomb.
While we're talking about momentum, nothing is as fun to watch as a shooter on a hot streak which is what Kelsey Harris (Brea, Calif.) treated us to in North Augusta, S.C. Harris went on a five minute run for the ages ultimately leading to an 18 point first half despite playing just a few minutes.
Nobody is immune to injury but as they say it's how you get up and come back that defines you. Iowa's Jamie Printy (Marion, Iowa) played the summer with a knee brace protecting her previously injured knee but played as if she was never injured. The 5-10 point guard also had the deepest range of any of our gunners. Seeing Printy shoot from 25 feet or even deeper caught many defenders off guard. Printy wasn't the only one scoring with an injury though as Deja Mann (Merced, Calif.) was sporting the knee brace while putting the ball in the basket from distance and on some creative drives to the basket.
One of the most confident shooters you will find is Katie Rutan (Philadelphia, Pa.). Her teammates start clapping before the ball is even airborne, they believe in her that much. Her shooting is also contagious as when she got it going this summer the Philly Belles rolled.
But the shooters aren't the only queens of the hardwood when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. Some, like Erica Wheeler (Miramar, Fla.) or Kaneisha Horn (Birmingham, Ala.), just know how to put the ball in the basket. Wheeler is a wheeler and dealer with the basketball using her yo-yo handle to break down entire defenses while Horn is a slashing scorer from the wing. Joining Wheeler in the shaken not stirred category are Lauren Avant (Memphis, Tenn.), Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.), and Laurin Mincy (Newark, N.J.). None of these ladies need a play run for them to score the rock.
Regardless of style these gunners put on a show and filled up box scores this summer.
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Chris Hansen covers girls' high school basketball nationally for ESPN.com and leads the panel that ranks and evaluates players for the network. He is a graduate of the University of Washington with a Communications degree. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second part of the Best of Summer Series looks at the Top Gunners.