1. Meighan Simmons 2010
If I had to draft one player in the city to start a professional team with, it would have to be Simmons. When thinking about why she was #1, I keep returning to the opinion that she is the kid most likely to make a living playing basketball. Why? UPSIDE!!
When you think about upside, you usually think about undeveloped bigs. The philosophy goes that you can not teach size and skills can be added. While bigs like Sune Agbuke (another player that will make money if she desires) are classified as upside kids, you rarely see a 5’8 skinny kid like Simmons put into that category. Simmons has the most upside in this city and that is SCARY!!!
The Hoopgurlz #9 ranked player in the nation is a scoring machine. She will surpass the city scoring record, set by TeamXpress coach, Clarissa Davis Wrightsil, this season (she needs 343 points). No girl has ever scored 3,000 points in this city’s history and Simmons will do so this year (she needs 583 points). The Lady Knight from Steele scored 945 last season to earn her second E-N Player of the Year award.
Simmons is one of the fastest players in the nation. Her athletic ability is almost freakish. You do not often see girls who can contort their bodies and elevate in traffic the way that she does. She makes improbable moves look routine. When she gets hot, she can knock down bombs from the volley ball line. Her first step makes a joke out of most defenders and she is fearless. She plays with a chip on her shoulder. This intense court presence can be misinterpreted as bad attitude but she is such a competitor that she can not help but play emotionally.
So what is the upside to such an accomplished player? Here is my observation.
Simmons never played middle school ball. She plays in a high school back court with a good point guard (Olivia Patterson) who directs the offense most possessions. She plays club ball with a great point guard (LenNique Brown) who directs EVERY possession. She plays off of the ball in a high school system that does not include a lot of movement nor options to think the game. She plays in a club system that runs a ton of sets and does not encourage a lot of freedom to read and react to the game. Simmons is used as a designated hitter and the rest of her game can grow by leaps and bounds. In short, Simmons is still a baby in terms to actual ball handling/decisions experiences. Examples:
Let’s look at the rest of the Hoopgurlz Top 10 guards.
Odyssey Sims (#4) is the same size as Simmons. Sims plays in a High School system allows her to score a lot of points but she is also the point guard had handles the ball constantly. She plays in a club system that has little structure and she is expected to create for herself and others within the game. She makes mistakes in both her high school and club roles but all great guards have had to make mistakes to learn what NOT to do.
Bria Hartley (#5) is an inch smaller than Simmons and plays alongside the very skilled and feisty point guard, Jennifer O’Neill. Even though Hartley(youtube #14 in white) plays off of the ball with Exodus, she is constantly having the ball in her hands to make decisions based upon game reads. Hartley plays the point spot for her very successful North Babylon high school team and most offensive possessions go through her. Again, she is learning to lead a team.
Shonni Schimmel(#10) is the most exciting player in the nation. She is also one of the most turnover prone players too. Her passing ability is unmatched. When teamed with 2011 Big, Krystal Forthan(#4), Schimmel led her squad to a defeat of TeamXpress Black in Vegas. Two top 10 kids and some role players defeated a team with 6-7 Division 1 kids. The Oregon Reign goes as Shonni goes, and that responsibility and intimate ball handling time has propelled her. Wait and see how good she will be with college talent around her. Again, she has had tens of thousands of game time possessions to create.
Now, my point is this. Of all the Top 10 guards in the Hoopgurlz rankings, Simmons is the same size but the only one who plays the majority of the time off of the ball. She has yet to get the much needed reps of an elite DECISION MAKER.
Furthermore, Simmons can be the best on ball defender in the nation. Defense is not only about effort and desire but also athletic ability. Odyssey Sims is widely considered the best defender in the country but Simmons is just as physically gifted as she is. Sims plays in a club environment that practices full court pressure at all times. Her club encourages defensive aggression and fosters great lock down guards. The flip side to all the defensive wars at practice is elite ball handlers are groomed. Having Alexis Jones, Empress Davenport and Odyssey Sims full court pressuring you for 2-3 hours, twice a week will ensure that your handle is tight. Simmons club team plays a lot of zone in practice and in games so logically, her ball handling/decision making does not get sharpened in game like settings.
When Simmons gets into a college program that gives her the individual skill set attention that she needs, it will be unfair to the competition. With constant reps on a shooting machine, her jumper will be unstoppable since she already elevates unlike most girls and shoots with an “L” (like a man). When those small groups of college skill sessions emphasizing footwork and ball handling grab hold of her, who will be able to stay in front of her on the defensive end? When a college coach puts her in an environment that demands that she learns to play full court man defense with proper angles and help side positioning, how many steals will she create or have? Her upside is incredible! My decision on the #1 player came down to this, what happens when the already accomplished Simmons gets the polish and decision reps of Brown and Harper? You get a couple of P’s. Close to offensive Perfection and destined to be Professional!