-The TeamXpress Challenge last month was an eye opener for me. In a game between two of the top clubs in the area, TeamXpress Black and Lady Rohawks Black, three San Antonio players played prominent roles for their teams. Erica Donovan and Arielle Roberson for Xpress and Ebony Watkins for the Rohawks were occupying the court at the same time and I had a revelation; Ebony Watkins is as good as Roberson and Donovan!
That is a bold statement is San Antonio. Donovan and Roberson are the anointed ones of the 2011 class by many, including myself. I have always admired Watkins from afar. Her rocky road a couple of years ago in high school has left many still trying to figure her out. I felt Wagner would have beaten Pflugerville two seasons ago with the long Watkins at the wing. She was the X-Factor. She did not play well in the big showdown against Jay this past March. Jay's bully ball strategy slowed her down. The TeamXpress Challenge showed that she finally has taken her place among the elite in the city.
Let's talk skill set comparison:.
Size- Watkins is as tall as Roberson and longer than Donovan. Her slender frame is similar to Roberson, but she is not as strong Roberson . She is far from being as physical the punishing Donovan.
Handle- Watkins has ALWAYS played on the perimeter and has a much sharper handle than both. She lived in the paint during the first half of the Xpress game. I have witnessed her break smaller/quicker guards down off of the bounce all summer. She now finishes with both hands. Both Donovan and Roberson are transitioning to the perimeter and their handle, while getting better, is not as polished as Watkins.
Shooting- Watkins shot a knuckle ball jumper in the past. Now she is consistently knocking down the three ball. What is impressive is that she is hitting it off of the dribble at times this summer. Watkins has a solid mid-range game with various runners and floaters that make her a hard guard for defenders. However, Roberson has shown she still has a better 15-17 foot jumper. Donovan can hit the three in numbers when she is feeling good.
Defensively- This may be an area where Watkins have improved the most. Her Lady Rohawk team plays one defense only, MAN! They play it full court, all the time. Up 20 or down 20 makes no difference, they will play 5-second close, man to man defense. Watkins has had some tough match ups this summer and has held her own. Her length enables her to bother smaller guards and her lateral quickness is much improved. When compared to Donovan, Watkins is quicker and longer but not nearly as physical and tough as Donovan . Donovan takes defense personal and never takes a play off. Roberson is the best post defender of the three. She blocks shots and can guard MOST 3's, 4's and 5's. Roberson's kind off court demeanor(nickname is Smiley:) belies a fierce competitive nature. She is nasty when she has to be.
Basketball IQ- This is a tough call. All three play for successful high school programs with great coaches, Tina Camacho(Watkins and Roberson) and Mike Floyd(Donovan). Watkins has improved in this area this summer as well. She no longer has CeCe Harper to lead her. She must now shoulder the brunt of the leadership responsibilities for the Rohawks. The Rohawks are running an open post offense that is built on reading and reacting this summer. This mandates that Watkins makes the correct reads and counters on the fly. This has helped her immensely. Both, Donovan and Roberson are playing in a much more structured system, surrounded by a couple of national superstars.The smart play quite often is passing it to Top 5 player in the country, Krystal Forthan, on many occasions. Donovan and Roberson have learned dozens of set plays and counters, many from the college and pro level. This preparation has undoutedbly helped them with knowing the rigors of college basketball. So which of the three is the smartest basketball player? This is a lot more subjective than the other areas. Shooting is easily determined by who is making shots. The better Basketball IQ argument will have to be settled during the high school season.
All three have intangibles that allow for "who is the best" argument. That was not the case going into the summer. Watkins was not in the argument at all . That is not the case any more. She is Top 5 in the city, EASY! However, according to Hoopgurlz ratings, the kid from Smithson Valley is as good as this city has to offer in 2011. But I will talk about Daneille Blagg in another blog about FIT!!!!
- Shanesha Clayton- The Highlands guard is the quickest guard in the city. She has been having a great summer with Sophia Young Elite by making opposing defenders look sloppy. Her change of direction and low dribble is extremely tough to defend. Pressuring her too close is probably not the best defensive strategy. Her diminutive size and reluctance to shoot the long ball says that the smart bet would be backing off of her. The problem is that she negates space by attacking defenders full speed and positioning them on their heels. As she gets them retreating and leaning in one direction, she does it! She yanks defenders mercilessly! She finishes surprising well for her size as well.
-Brandeis High School- The summer has brightened the future of Brandeis basketball. The Broncos return rebounding machine Christina "Mena" Harris and Rose Maldonado. Maldonado has spent the summer playing besides Stephen F. Austin soon to be freshman Cheyenne Berry, learning the tricks of the trade. The Broncos have a great freshman class that includes Hannah Thompson, Kelsey Glassburn and Mykel Costly. However the biggest reason for Coach John Ince to smile is the addition of 6'0 lefty, Kia Baez. This 2012 wing will be a star. She is very long and athletic with a basketball body to match. When she adds some polish, I expect Brandeis to challenge for city supremacy in the 2011-2012 season.