The WBCA All-American Game in New Orleans featured several things often absent from all-star games: post play, help defense, ball movement, and shot fakes.
Despite the athleticism and skill of posts like Erica McCall (Stanford), Kendall Cooper (Duke), Stephanie Mavunga (University of North Carolina), and Oderah Chidom (Duke), they tended to outlet and sprint the court, as typified by McCall's sprint to the rim and lay-up to end the first half. Players like Kelsey Plum (University of Washington) and Kaela Davis (Georgia Tech) effectively used shot fakes to create open shots off of one dribble. There was none of the "take her" offense that tends to dominate all-star games, and instead, posts had opportunities to show off their back to the basket games. There was even a 30-second violation!
This was my first time to watch many of these players, so my thoughts are based solely on this one game, and not rankings or prior viewings. The WBCA awarded the MVP awards to Nia Coffey (Northwestern) and Tyler Scaife (Rutgers), as Scaife's Black team defeated Coffey's Purple team 74-70. My choices, had they asked, were Oderah Chidom (Duke) from the Black team and Jessica Jackson (Arkansas) from the Purple team. If the MVP had been decided by loudest cheering section, Kelsey Plum (University of Washington) would have won hands down, as her family, high school coach, and Candice Wiggins (both La Jolla Country Day stars) cheered loudly for her every move, including her appearance on the video scoreboard. After a rough first couple possessions, Plum gave her fans plenty to cheer about, as she scored 14 on 6-8 shooting and added 2 assists.
Jackson, however, was the most impressive player in the game, partially because I had never heard her mentioned among the elite players. At 6'3", she scored a team-high 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including 2-for-4 from the three-point line and grabbed a team-high 7 rebounds with a team-high 2 blocks. She showed touch around the basket, footwork in the post, great technique on her shooting stroke, and capable handling in the open court. She played like a prototype power forward. Chidom, another 6'3" forward, managed to block 3 shots, swipe 7 steals, and grab 8 rebounds to go with her 6 points. In her 21 minutes, she was everywhere.
Also impressive for the victors was Linnae Harper (Duke) who was clearly the best PG in a game featuring several highly-rated PGs. She controlled the game with the ball in her hands and drew the first oohs-and-aahs with a step-back jumper early in the game. She finished with a clean 8 points and 4 assists while appearing to be in complete control and forcing nothing. Kentucky is stacked in the backcourt for a while with Harper joining Jennifer O'Neill.
Beyond Jackson, another pleasant surprise was UConn-bound Saniya Chong, another player who I had not heard mentioned with the elite. She started for the Purple team and had 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Chong started the game with an assortment of baskets, cutting backdoor to the basket, and knocking down a three-pointer, which will help her fit nicely within the Huskies system. She was quick and demonstrated a good handle against pressure.
In terms of projecting players who did not have the best performances, Davis was especially impressive. She scored 17 points on 6-13 shooting, but committed a game-high 4 turnovers. She is a true 6'2 guard, not just a taller player who dribbles well. She played like a smoother, better shooting Markel Walker who showed deep range with her shooting. Based on the single game, she would project as the best player from this class. WBCA Player of the Year Diamond DeShields (North Carolina) is a similar 6'2 guard with a lot of potential. However, on this day, Davis was the more aggressive, more impressive player.
In terms of immediate impact and fit, Erica McCall (Stanford) should fill the four-year gap between Chiney Ogwumike and the next Ogwumike sister, Chisom (assuming she is another talented PF like her older sisters). McCall is a similarly athletic, aggressive post. As an example of the post play in this game, McCall caught on wing and rather than trying to go 1v1, she gave a dribble hand-off, rolled into the post, sealed her defender into the paint, and showed a target for the pass. Very few college post players are as skilled in their pre-catch post footwork.
The 2013 class was supposed to be a post heavy class, and the 2013 WBCA All-American showcased that strength. Highly-ranked players like Scout's #1 ranked player Mercedes Russell (Tennessee) and Stephanie Mavunga (North Carolina) failed to stand out with other players like Chidom, Cooper, Jackson, and McCall playing well. Whereas the game was atypical compared to the average all-star game, it was a more well-played, balanced, competitive game than most. With the heavy post dominance, there was more ball movement and passing rather than dribble penetration and 1v1 play, which made for a quality game. While there may not be a Brittany Griner or Skyler Diggins in the 2013 class, there is a great depth of post players, a couple very athletic, long skilled guards, and one exceptional point guard.
Brian McCormick is an experienced coach and player development expert whose basketball insights about everything from youth development to point guard play are valuable for any thoughtful basketball fan. He has previously contributed to Swish Appeal during the 2012 Final Four and with his thoughts on why developing coaching expertise at mid-majors is good for women's college basketball.