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Texas High School Stars Moriah Jefferson, Alexis Jones Embody Bright Future For Women's Basketball

Video recap of Texas Girls Class 5A Regional Final between Duncanville & MacArthur (via Pass The Ball).

Last night was a great night for Baylor Lady Bears guard Odyssey Sims, who used her impressive combination of agility, speed, and strength to earn 11 free throw attempts on her way to tying a season-high with 25 points in a 69-62 win over the Texas A&M Aggies.

As a testament to her improved ball handling and decision-making, Sims has also been named as one of eight finalists for the 2012 Nancy Lieberman Award honoring the nation’s top collegiate point guard in women’s NCAA Division I basketball. In other words, there are few guards in the nation as talented as Sims.

One of those guards might just be waiting in the wings at Sims' old high school: Duke Blue Devils signee Alexis Jones of MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas.

Simmie Colson of Girlz Prep Report, who has certainly seen his share of talented point guards, suggests Jones is the best high school guard he's ever seen. Others familiar with the Texas basketball scene suggest that the 5'9" guard is indeed better than Sims. Ranked as the #3 senior in the nation overall by ESPN U Hoop Gurlz, there might be reason to believe the hype based upon her recent performances in the Texas girls' basketball playoffs.

After dropping 44 on Lubbock Coronado in the Class 5A Regional Semifinals, Jones dropped another 31 on Duncanville in the regional title game. And that was supposedly "containing" her, according to Randy Jennings of ESPN Dallas.

If ever a team’s defense can be commended for allowing a player 31 points, this was the game.

"Of course she got her points," said Empress Davenport, who had much of the responsibility of guarding Jones, "but we didn’t want her to get 44 like she did on Friday. Our plan was to play her to her left [Jones is left-handed] and stay between her and the basket.‘’

If Jones got past one defender, another in a blue Duncanville jersey was usually waiting to pounce.

Defending champ MacArthur ended up losing the game 62-55 in overtime, but there's no shame in losing before heading to the state championships in Austin, Texas: Duncanville coach Cathy Self-Morgan claimed that regional final game this weekend was the real state title game, according to Matt Wixon of MaxPreps.

However, the talent in Texas doesn't end there - Jones is just one of three All-Americans from the Dallas area alone.

  • 5'7" point guard Moriah Jefferson of The Home Educators Sports Association (THESA) is also the real deal by all accounts, having averaged 18.3 points - 60% 2-point percentage and 46% 3-point shooting - 4.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 5.5 steals. Jefferson is expected to only improve that 4th-ranked UConn team that battled with #3 Notre Dame last night.
  • 5'6" point guard Jordan Jones of DeSoto lost to Spring Dekaney - a surprise team to Colson - in Friday's Class 5A Region 2 semifinals, but is also expected to be a contributor on the next level - Jones is headed to Texas A&M after averaging 14.4 points, 6 steals, 6.4 assists, and 3 rebounds.

Setting aside the gaudy stats and flashy highlight videos, the question, of course, is how much any of these players will actually contribute - saying a player is a great high school guard is obviously different than actually having the impact Sims has had.

Yet if you look back at the national recruiting rankings for the last few years closely, some of them are so far off that it makes ranking high schoolers look like a pointless endeavor - clearly, high school statistics mean next to nothing at the college level and we're better at responding to YouTube highlights than actually transferable skills.

Unfortunately, I cannot attest to the talent of these three girls personally - it was actually a reader that brought them to my attention this weekend as the regional finals were coming up. And I suspect that many women's basketball fans are well aware of the talents these recruits possess. So forgive me if you've already heard the good news.

Nevertheless, regardless of whether Jones really ends up being better than Sims or Jefferson continues to make defenders fall over at the next level that the game is growing. We can debate if the notion of "growth" includes "more skilled" - Ray Floriani (and others) have suggested that skills are in fact eroding among girls players. The other side of Ray's point is that there's also an improved approach and attention to the game; with increased attention to the game - and the professional career path that a pro league brings - more girls are playing more basketball.

As the talent pool continues to expand, we can expect to see more teams like Texas A&M breaking through to win their first-ever national title or Notre Dame winning Muffet McGraw her first outright Big East title by dethroning UConn, both of which are signs of something that people lamented the absence of about this time two years ago: parity.

Those that are skeptical about the quality of women's basketball will probably not be persuaded to just start watching on the promise of increased entertainment value and parity in the future. But even for those of us who just love basketball but are relatively new to the women's game, the signs of growth - even at Irving MacArthur alone - make following it all the more exciting.

Click here for more on Jefferson and Jones from Colson at Girlz Prep Report.