The annual GymRat CHALLENGE AAU basketball tournament for girls' took place this Father's Day weekend and brought in a high level of basketball talent.
The top age level featured "rising seniors," or players who are currently finishing their junior years in high school, and the recruiting interest in them is strong. A good many are being recruited by MAAC teams.
Your scribe serves as the event's coordinator of talent evaluators, the individuals who watch GymRat games and subsequently select the tournament's all stars.
Here's a look at some players who listed MAAC interest, along with some tidbits from the evaluators:
- Madeline Smith, a 5-foot-8 point guard who played for the United NJ AAU team and attends High Point Regtional High School. She indicated interest from Quinnipiac and other MAAC schools.
The Report: A standout in every aspect of the game. Has great ball fakes to create her own shots. Skilled with both hands and a great defender.
- Amanda Schiefen, a 6-0 forward from the Crystal City Stars program who attends Horseheads H.S. Canisius and Niagara are both interested.
The Report: A slightly undersized post face-up player who has a goodo mid-range jumper and is a good passer. A left-hander. She runs the floor very well.
- Santita Ebangwese, a 6-2 center from the WNY Lady Lakers' program who attends Pittsford Sutherland H.S.: She indicated that several MAAC schools have expressed interest.
The Report: An athlete with strength and size. Long arms and catches everything. Good on pick and rolls. Likes the reverse pivot turn to face up and get away from the defense. She indicated A-10's and Ivy League schools are also interested.
- Taylor Ccballos, a 6-0 post player who attends Foran H.S. She indicated interest from Fairfield.
The Report: Good size and uses it well in the paint. Can be a real force inside. Gets good position and makes the defense work. Will use the hook shot.
- Maddie Springfield, a 5-10 guard from the New England Crusaders program who attends Marionapolis H.S. She indicated interest from Marist.
The Report: A smooth stroke on her outside shot and can knock down three pointers. Aggressive driver to the rim with strong finishes.
- Hannah Friend, a 6-0 forward who plays for the City Rocks' program and attends Taft Prep School. She indicated interest from Siena and Quinnipiac, along with some higher-level programs.
The Report: Clutch player who wants the ball when it counts. Long-range shooter who can also drive to the basket. Crafty on defense and uses wing span to snatch passes out of the passing lanes. High court IQ. She was the event's top-award winner, its MVG, Most Valuable GymRat.
- Jariah Johnson, a 5-9 combo guard on the CAS Panthers program who attends Frederick Douglas II H.S. She has already made a verbal commitment to attend Saint Peter's.
The Report: A long, athletic lefty guard who is an absolute terror on defense. Quick first step into the lane on offense to penetrate and kick or finish at the rim. Good 3-point shooter with her feet set.
- Morgan Graziano, a 6-1 forward who plays for the Central Jersey Hawks program and attends Holmdel H.S. She has indicated strong interest from Manhattan.
The Report: Great fundamentals; boxes out on every rebound. Outstanding scorer. Matches up vs. opponents' best player. Leads her team in the clutch.
- Leah Dollard, a 6-0 forward from the Albany Capitals program who attends Albany H.S. She indicated interest from Niagara.
The Report: Strong inside reverse layup move. Blue-collar worker. Scores with creativity. High percentage scorer who won't be outworked at either end.
- Andi Lydon, a 6-2 center from the PA Pride program who attends Shaler H.S. She indicated interest from Siena and Niagara.
The Report: Very strong and uses her body well on the boards on both ends. Alters shots. Great hands and can finish in traffic. Has nice post moves. Effective back-to-the-basket player. Tough and plays even bigger than she looks.
- Jessica Kovatch, a 5-8 guard from the United NJ-Navy program who attends Phillipsburg H.S. She indicated interest from Manhattan and Saint Peter's.
The Report: Makes great passes in transition. A big-time scorer who makes deep three's. Attacks the rim to score.
The above reports are just on girls who indicated MAAC interest. There are likely numerous others who did not reveal their college possibilities.
The event has been a great source for future MAAC players, and some of the tournament's alums include two-time MAAC Player of the Year Damika Martinez (Iona), Tehresa Coles (Siena), Madeline Blais and Tori Jarosz (Marist), Lizzie Ball (Fairfield) and numerous others.
You can find stories about each age division's championship game, as well as reports on all the all star selections at each age level at the GymRat website.
That site is: www.gymratchallenge.com