- Glenn Nelson, ESPNHS HoopGurlz
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The production of elite-level women's college-basketball prospects being geographically cyclical, it only was a matter of time before the pendulum swung away from Southern California, where girl hoopers have rivaled traffic jams, Mickey and Minnie, and Schwarzenegger news flashes as local phenomena the past few years.
And to introduce where the momentum has been funneled, we need only cue up the late, great Ray Charles:
No. 1 in the 2013 class ... Georgia.
No. 2, Georrr-gia.
Six times in the top 20 of ESPN HoopGurlz's Terrific 25 did we have Georgia on our minds, starting with No. 1 Kaela Davis and No. 2 Diamond DeShields, who are so closely tied, they aren't just in the same alphabet, they're both from Norcross, both offspring of successful professional-athlete fathers, and both on a separate level from the rest of the 2013 class.
The state of Oregon, which has been relatively quiet in recent years, also came up big with No. 4 Mercedes Russell of Springfield and No. 5 Kailee Johnson of Portland. Jordan Reynolds, also from Portland, and Jaimie Nared, a 2014 from Tigard, joined Russell as invitees to the recent USA Basketball U16 trials. Johnson did not participate because she didn't make the age cutoff.
But the pair that has been on many radar screens for some time has been Davis and DeShields. They were teammates on a Georgia Ice club team, coached by Antonio Davis, Kaela's father and former NBA player, that earned national attention as a haven for daughters of former professional-athlete fathers (see Like Father, Like Daughter). They also were freshman sensations for Norcross (Norcross, Ga.), which they led to a surprise state championship.
But they've since split -- and in ways that may serve their games well in the long run.
Davis, who transferred to Buford (Buford, Ga.), had been somewhat overshadowed by DeShields at Norcross and with the Ice, mostly because of her marvelous ability to facilitate on the floor. When DeShields also left the ice, Davis took on more of a centerpiece role that also has transferred to the USA Basketball U16 team that will compete in the America's tournament this summer in Mexico. The Tennessee commit has grown to at least 6 feet 2 and plays an aggressive, creative and explosive style that only is beginning to evolve in the girls' and women's game.
DeShields, whose father, Delino, played Major League Baseball, meanwhile, took her lumps last year with the USA Basketball U18 teams (see A Diamond Life) and learned to fit into a supporting role during the America's qualifying tournament. She parlayed that, plus her otherworldly athleticism, into another USA berth, this time with the U19 team that will compete at the World Championships this summer in Chile.
Together or apart, Davis and DeShields are helping take the female game to a next-level mix of size, athleticism and creativity on the perimeter. With their class due to be re-ranked three more times during the next year and change, it should be an electric transformation to monitor.
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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 email@example.com.
Also on the ESPN HoopGurlz Rankings Panel
Lisa Bodine is a national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. A native of Queens, N.Y., she began her coaching career in 1993 with the NY Gazelles, has coached with D.C.-based Team Unique, and in 2009 she was named DAC Co-Coach of the Year after leading Wakefield Country Day School in Flint Hill, Va., to its first-ever conference title. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Lewis is the national recruiting coordinator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Keil Moore is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report - a division of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Moore has been involved in the community since 2007 as a recruiting analyst and trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ESPN HoopGurlz releases its initial prospect rankings for the class of 2013 with the ESPNU HoopGurlz Terrific 25.