Nobody would walk into Kezar Pavilion and expect top flight basketball at the San Francisco Bay Area women's Pro-Am, a summer basketball league formed in 1995 and sponsored by the SF Recreation and Parks Department.
Nevertheless, I went at the behest of a Stanford Cardinal fan who insisted I'd be impressed by the performance of incoming freshmen Jasmine Camp and Amber Orrange. And neither they nor incoming Cal freshman point guard Brittany Boyd disappointed.
Of course, you never want to read too much into this type of event that doesn't particularly include a lot of organized offensive sets.
But for point guards, who will have the ball in their hands to make decisions and improvise more often than others, this type of informal setting can provide an interesting glimpse into a player's instincts or "game awareness".
Although there's not much point in engaging in any kind of deep critique of their games, each one of these point guards does have unique strengths and could be exciting to watch as they expand their strengths and work on their weaknesses in the Pac-12.
Hometown: Houston, TX | HoopGurlz position rank: 3
Orrange is the highest rank point guard of this trio and it's immediately evident why that is.
At 5'7", Orrange isn't exactly huge, but she's an impressive athlete with a lot of potential to become an impact point guard at the D1 level. While she probably has more of a scorer's mentality than the other two, she is at her best as a distributor in the open floor in transition when her athleticism becomes a bit more of a factor for defenders. She took some risks and made some mistakes as a result - throwing away a few balls on the break - but they weren't exactly bad risks either; they were the type of aggressive decisions that can end up turning into spectacular plays.
With her ability to score and her propensity to make plays in transition, Orrange is an intriguing talent with lots of "upside".
Hometown: Chamblee, GA | HoopGurlz position rank: #17
If you want an example of what most people imagine when they talk about a "pure" or "pass-first" point guard, Camp is probably it.
Camp's poise stood out more than anything else in this informal environment - she's the type of player who will rarely make a bad play, whether trapped in the backcourt or in a half court "set" or driving to the basket. But in generally making the best, yet simplest, decision, she also isn't exactly the type of player that would "wow" most people either. She's the type of player that would make the right pass that sets up an assist simply by identifying the open player and swinging the ball instead of wasting dribbles trying to make something great happen.
And yet the thing that stood out most about Camp is her fearlessness in not only attacking the basket with the ball but going in amongst the trees to get offensive rebounds. The kind of effort it takes a point guard to get in the paint, get position, and get an offensive rebound is something good to see regardless of competition in a sense - it shows a level of strength and toughness that will bode well for her development even if the Ogwumike sisters clean up all the offensive boards for the Cardinal.
None of that is to dismiss Camp's ability to score as she knocked down a few threes and knows how to get herself to the free throw line. Needless to say, she was impressive.
Hometown: Berkeley, CA | HoopGurlz position ranking: #9
So all of that about Stanford's dynamic duo of incoming point guards was to set up this, through the eyes of a Berkeley native with a deeply ingrained preference for Cal: Boyd is somewhere in between Camp and Orrange, a nice balance of distributor and scorer - though maybe not the consistent shooter that either of the above players - who had a command of the court that almost seemed out of place in this setting.
SB Nation's California Golden Blogs has already taken an extended look at Boyd (with highlight films) and I'd only add this: Boyd is playmaker in the true sense of the word. She's a step ahead of everyone else and can create plays for teammates in ways that one might not necessarily expect from a high school point guard. She's confident, decisive, and beyond making the right play has a level of game awareness that could force a defense into giving her the play she wants to make.
All of that begins with a ball handling ability that will allow her to continue making plays against D1 competition. And she's definitely not lacking for confidence.
Cal's glaring weakness last season was point guard play and Boyd will have an opportunity to play immediately in a way that a freshman point guard might not for Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer - nobody on Cal's team was particularly efficient as a ball handler last season and Layshia Clarendon (last year's point guard) was at her best when she was focused on scoring. Having both Boyd and redshirt freshman Avigiel Cohen gives Cal talented, if inexperienced, options at point guard.
If it's difficult to determine from this set of games who might have the most potential of this trio, it might be far easier to say that Boyd might be the most complete point guard from the moment she steps on to campus.
Ki Ki Moore, Mission Rec/Fresno State: When last I saw Ki Ki Moore as a freshman for Washington State at Oregon in 2009 the ease with which she created scoring opportunities stood out. After transferring to Fresno State and sitting out a year, the ease with which she created scoring opportunities at the Pro Am was absurd - she was able to get pretty much any shot she wanted from wherever she wanted whenever she wanted. In fact, late in the game against Boyd's San Francisco team, Moore had a wide open shot from about 7 feet out, dribbled out, and chose to do something else with the ball. I could only figure that it was a mercy play.
Lindsay Sherbert, San Francisco/Cal: Sherbert shoots threes really well. Boyd was clearly aware of that. Boyd passed her the ball. Sherbert made a lot of threes.
Amanda Lassiter, Mission Rec/WNBA/Spain: We got to the point where we started talking about Lassiter as though she was "The Most Interesting Woman In the World". That's an exaggeration, but the San Francisco native and former Houston Comets draft pick pretty much coasted and let the younger players do their thing, while making the game look easy.
Joslyn Tinkle, South Bay/Stanford: Tinkle showed off pretty much what Stanford fans have come to expect from her, with nice touch on her shot and finesse footwork in the paint.
For more on the tournament - including the full rosters and schedule - visit the SF Pro Am webpage.