The city of Brantford was treated to quite the show this past Saturday, as The Rise Center played host to some of the most talented female high school basketball players in North America, in the Across the Border Global Games (ABGG).
The event contained three showcase matchups that featured some of the best Canada and the United States had to offer in the Futures class, Underclassmen, and Upperclassmen categories.
“Just to get this much talent across all three age groups in this building is incredible,” says Canada Underclassmen Head Coach Lee Anna Osei, who has just finished her final season with the TRC Academy Wolfpack in the OSBA, where her Wolfpack came runner up in the championship game.
The Future’s game was first on the docket, as both teams showed off some impressive moves and transition buckets that had the US hold the lead for most of the game, while Canada was never too far off of the pace.
But it is certain that no player in the Future’s game shone brighter on either team, then Class of 2021 and Crestwood Prep’s own Sheyeann Day-Wilson. Day-Wilson hit a number of step back three’s and killer crossovers in transition that left spectators in disbelief that she was only one year into high school.
Day-Wilson finished with 26 in the 98-86 loss to team USA, but the MVP performance has surely put her on notice for a number of D-1 scouts that were in the crowd over the weekend.
Next up was the Underclassmen game that featured the best players from grade ten and eleven on the floor representing their countries.
This game was a battle from start to finish, with the most entertaining matchup between Canada’s Merissah Russell and USA’s Jordan Horston.
The two guards had the crowd on edge as they went back and forth at each other, trading jump shots, and ones, and stare-downs that had everyone in at the Rise Center thoroughly entertained, regardless of who they were cheering for.
— Micaella_nph (@micaella_nph) May 12, 2018
The scrappiness of the game was called from before tip off by Coach Osie, “This team (USA) has a lot of firepower that we have to be ready for, and the roster they brought has some of the top 15-20 players in their country, they have a lot of guards so I believe turnovers are going to be the name of the game and also who’s going to hit shots.”
This prediction turned out to be quite an accurate one, as the Canadian’s managed to force those turnovers, and hit those clutch shots in the fourth that gave Canada their first win over the USA in the ABGG’s recent history with the 109-96 win over the American’s.
🇨🇦 6’1 G 2020 Merissah Russell out the the Nation’s Capital 🍁 @CapCourtsInc 🔥 #SheCanBall @NorthPoleHoops @therisecentre @TRCwolfpack @aerialpromotion @BallNPrepGirls @ABGGshowcase pic.twitter.com/ZB1OqIrPYq
— Micaella_nph (@micaella_nph) May 12, 2018
Russell was as amazing as she had to be, as the Canadian national team member out of Capital Courts Academy (Ottawa) dropped 36 points, while her rival out of Africentric Ohio, Horston, finished with an impressive 27 of her own.
With the series knotted at 1-1 going into the final match, everyone was excited to see just what the Upperclassmen from both countries could bring to the table for the finale of the night.
One such player was Baylor commit Aquira DeCosta, and you could tell she was ready to put on a show after the 6’2 guard was seen dunking after the team USA practice earlier in the day.
— Ryan Greco (@RyanGrecoNPH) May 12, 2018
“I’ve been grabbing rim since freshman year, and just worked my way up from a tennis ball, a volleyball, and then finally I was able to dunk with a basketball just this year.”
But DeCosta isn’t all flash, when asked what the Sacramento, California native’s impressions have been of Canada on her first trip up north, she had some very encouraging words for what she saw.
“Everyone up here has been very nice and cordial, the organization has been great to see so far, and most of all you can see the competitiveness of these Canadian players, so it really just has me excited to just get out on the floor and compete.”
Competitiveness, unfortunately, just wouldn’t be in the cards for the Canadians in this specific matchup.
From Start to finish, the USA dominated this game with impressive transition, offensive rebounds, and some out of this world shooting, and cruised to a 111-61 victory.
The Canadians weren’t without their bright spots however, as Drexel commit Keishana Washington out of Durham Prep, showed off her court vision with a number of cross court passes that resulted in easy buckets. While Wake Forest commit Christina Morra was the definition of heart and hustle, boxing out for rebounds, aggressively driving to the basket, and constantly chatting on defense regardless of the score.
Niyah Becker also showed off her iso game knocking down a number of jumpers over defenders and took home the MVP honours for Canada to show for it.
Despite the disappointing finish to the day, the American visitors were all the same impressed with the level of talent Canada had put on the floor.
One such parent was RJ Avery, the mother of Kentucky commit Rhyne Howard, who finished with 15 points on the night for the USA Upperclassmen and MVP honours. This was their second visit to the ABGG showcase here in Brantford.
“One of my co-worker’s daughters was supposed to come up this weekend but couldn’t due to injury, and they asked me if it was worth the trip and exposure, and I said absolutely. The level of competition, the experience for our girls to come and face a different style of basketball, it’s an experience I would recommend to any parent for their daughter.”
Avery would know a thing or two about level of competition, as she herself had played high level NCAA basketball back in the early 90’s for the Florida Gators.
When asked what advice she would give to Canadian players and parents about the preparation for NCAA basketball, Avery didn’t mince words.
“Spend that time in the weight room, get stronger, eat properly, working on their skill set is also key. Overall it is all about getting prepared both mentally and physically for a more physical style of basketball. That’s one of the things I’ve seen over the years, is that the female game in the States is a little more aggressive than the men, and that’s just my opinion, but regardless the ladies from here in Canada will need to bring that will to win with them south if they want to be successful.”
Also, in attendance was NPH’s own head of Women’s scouting, Micaella Riche’, who played four years herself with the University of Minnesota in the Big Ten Conference. Riche’ was quick to point out the level of play from the participants that were on the floor this weekend.
“The caliber of players on the floor was excellent, players across the board were explosive, competitive, and were hungry. If I were a coach in this gym, I would watch out for those younger Canadian classes more than anything. Their skill set handling the ball was impressive, mid-range game looked good; floaters and pull up, a lot of swag and a lot of character combined with good fundamentals made for fun and competitive basketball early on.”
It is a lesson none of these Canadian teams will soon forget anytime soon, and with that level of competition beginning to even itself out over the border, it will certainly make for a ton of more possible showcases in the future for the women’s game.
“I feel proud as a Canadian, proud as an OSBA coach, and proud to see the level of effort that has been put into this event,” says coach Osei, “I think that the Rise Center and the TRC Academy are really trying to change the women’s basketball landscape by putting together events like this.”
With the way these ladies balled out this weekend, there should and will be many more events like these.