- Brandon Clay, ESPNHS HoopGurlz
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CINCINNATI -- Hosted by the All-Ohio program, the Midwest Showdown is a premier event on the spring evaluation calendar. With over 120 teams in the field for the event, it serves as a Memorial Day staple on schedules for teams from Canada to Texas. This year was no different as there were several players of note competing all weekend long.
Brianna Butler (King of Prussia, Penn.), Exodus NYC: If there was a Most Valuable Player from the weekend, Butler would have been the winner hands down. She was impressive in all three viewings, scoring 20 points in the championship game victory against a talented Mac Irvin Lady Fire team. The 5-foot-11 wing has really elevated her game the last three summers with her New York-based travel team. Two summers ago, she played alongside current UConn standout Bria Hartley. Last summer, Butler eased into the role of a primary scorer. So far this summer, the ESPNHoopgurlz No. 16 ranked player has shown why we and BCS college coaches alike think so highly of her game, showing the skill to score the basketball and handle it when need be.
Chelsea Jennings (Fort Worth, Texas), DFW Elite T-Jack: Unfortunately, Jennings' weekend was cut short after suffering a concussion and a broken nose from an inadvertent elbow. Up to that point, the 5-9 wing was all over the floor, making plays on both ends of the hardwood. Currently ranked 32nd overall nationally in the class, Jennings brings an element of activity to the guard position. Offensively, she is at her best attacking the basket off the dribble to finish at the rim.
Janee Thompson (Chicago, Ill.), Mac Irvin Lady Fire: Thompson is emerging as the next point guard to watch for a program that is known for producing players. Her floor game is legit, complete with the vision and feel to put her in a position to make a play. At 5-6, she's got an average build for the position but has above-average speed that allows her to penetrate the lane creating shots for herself and her teammates. If a defender goes underneath the highball screen, Thompson showed she can make them pay by hitting the open three pointer as well.
Jessy Ward (Clarksville, Tenn.), Georgia Hoopstars Black: Time and time again, Ward has shown she is one of the elite shooters in the class. As her game progresses, she is showing how her ball skill is also a key piece in her overall skill set. The 5-8 guard played on and off the ball during our evaluation in Cincinnati. In a Sunday afternoon game VS. the host team All Ohio, Ward caught the ball near half court with five seconds to go and her team down two. She quickly took two dribbles before launching a 23-foot three pointer that landed softly on the rim, rolled around and proceeded to fall through the net, giving the Hoopstars the win.
Alex Harris (Lorain, Ohio), TNBA West: Harris has used the past twelve months to establish herself as one of the post players to keep an eye on. She has real size at 6-3 and combines that with the ability to play out to 15 feet away from the basket offensively. During a game Sunday morning, she affected shots on the defensive end then ran the floor to finish with a layup on the other end. Harris also showed deft touch on her passes from the high post, throwing a backdoor to a cutting teammate for a finish at the rim.
Chloe Orrvar (Greenwood, Ind.), Spiece Indy Gym Rats: A sharpshooting forward, Orrvar knocked down four three pointers in the second half of a matchup VS. the Philly Freedom Stars. This coming after she hit two late in the first half. Orrvar's size and build should allow her to defend at the four or on the perimeter at the next level. Add that versatility to her ability to consistently knock down the open jump shot from seemingly anywhere on the floor and she's definitely worth watching this summer.
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Brandon Clay is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the publisher of the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report and the owner of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Clay has been involved in the community since 2001 as a recruiting analyst, event operator and trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Midwest Showdown in Ohio is a staple of the Memorial Day weekend and we look at some of the top performers from the 2011 edition.