All Grown Up

Aly Beebe's relentless approach to the game will serve her well in rehabilitating her knee as well as making an impact at Stanford. Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com

Two years ago, I'd heard Aly Beebe could dunk, and I asked her before a girls' basketball game in Chicago if that was true. She stared. I asked her again. She continued to stare, wordless.

"Oh, she just doesn't know if she can talk to you," one of her Cal Storm Taurasi teammates, Chelsea Gray, explained. "It's OK, Aly, he's not a coach."

That changed things, but not much. George Quintero, her Storm coach, remembers Beebe's first practices with his team, when she'd lurk in the background, quiet as a church mouse.

But there's no more lurking for Beebe. The 6-foot-3 forward from Santa Maria, Calif., is front and center -- the No. 6 overall prospect, and the second-highest-ranked inside player, in the 2012 class. Now a Stanford commit.

Anyone who watched Beebe lead by furious example while St. Joseph (Santa Maria, Calif.) won the CIF Division III championship knows the church-mouse days are done. Anyone who watched Beebe take young Storm teammates Kendall Cooper and Oderah Chidom under her wings realizes maturity has reversed her role as a leader.

Beebe's recent anterior-cruciate injury may have cast a pall on her commitment to the Cardinal and coach Tara VanDerveer, but it should not dampen any enthusiasm over the development.

Sometimes an ACL tear is cause for concern over a player's future effectiveness, especially when athletic explosiveness is so prominent in her game. However, Beebe's career has followed the pathway of a gathering storm and the fact that she's learned to bring a warrior's mentality to the court the past few years bodes well for her approach to rehabilitating her knee.

Beebe's ungodly length is not going to retract. And neither will her heart shrink. Maybe her raw athleticism put Beebe on the basketball map initially, but it is her relentless approach to the game that has pushed her into the rarefied air of her class' elite prospects. The sight of Beebe blocking shots became such a common occurrence during the recent Boo Williams spring view tournament, you almost expected to see it even in games not involving the Storm Taurasi team. She also has made herself into a dangerous offensive threat, learning not only to seal defenders and receive the ball, but finishing plays, either powerfully, with finesse, or simply refusing to be denied.

On the recruiting front, while the Pac-12 coaching ranks continue to churn, VanDerveer and her staff reinforced the notion that they're going to lock down every viable big west of the Mississippi. And now they're not just big – they're big, athletic and versatile. Beebe will have two years with Chiney Ogwumike, whose game she's begun to resemble. Amber Orrange will be her point guard for three.

It was excruciating to watch Beebe take that awkward tumble Sunday afternoon in Pomona, Calif. Watching a kid learn to apply herself and then reap the rewards of hard work is why a lot of us at ESPN HoopGurlz love to do what we do. We've been getting a lot of questions the past week since we expanded our 2012 player rankings about what it takes to crack those rankings. The easy answer has been to follow the development of a player like Alyson Beebe.

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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.