Hampton, VA: The scene was set: an outstanding venue with beautiful courts, elite programs with elite talent and yes-hundreds of college coaches chomping at the bit to find ‘the next big thing.’ What better place to do so than at the infamous 2019 Boo Williams tournament in Hampton, Virginia. This was not only a business trip for these coaches working hard to gobble up as much talent as they could, but the athletes came to put in the work this weekend as well. Talent comes in all shapes and sizes, but here are a few young players that “stood atop” the rest.
The Six Foot Club
2023 Maggie Mendelson 6’4” Post Utah Premier
The sun was trying with all its might to push its way through the small, dusty windows at the top of the cramped gymnasium. It was quiet and empty. As I approached the entrance to this quaint gym, I heard the all too familiar sound of a bouncing leather ball and loud sprinkles of whistles blowing. This lovely little gym housed quite the prospect. A towering 6’4” Maggie Mendelson glided up and down the floor showing off her skill from every standpoint. She would rebound the ball high, and keep it high. She held her follow through on every shot she took. Stood straight up and held her ground when contesting shots. Her footwork was impeccable in the paint. This budding star is so young, but without question has such a bright future.
Madison Booker 6’1” Post Alabama Southern Starz
There is nothing like seeing a player in the past and seemingly having a solid understanding of what she can bring to the table. Then sometime later, seeing her again and realizing that this already astonishing athlete has somehow become even better. Madison Booker caught my attention quickly, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Just when I thought I saw all she had to offer with foot speed to rival smaller guards, an absolute beauty of a three-point shot, and next level leaping abilities; Booker throws in a legit turn around-one foot Dirk style jumper in the mix! You could describe her game as a “three-headed monster” because of her ability to consistently score at all three levels. Take her elite scorers mentality and combine that with her perfectly timed shot-blocking talent and you have yourself a high-level athlete ripe for the picking.
2024 Kennedy Umeh 6’3" Post Maryland Belles
Everyone knows that feeling......when your team sees the other team walk up when they start warming up, and then the girl who’s jumping for the tip steps up, and she is HUGE. Despair, anxiety, and irritation are usually what’s floating around everyone’s head. Kennedy Umeh is imparting those feelings in teams and fans alike all over the basketball world. At a staggering 6’3” tall and only in the seventh grade, she all but dominated the boards this weekend, and where there’s rebounds-there is put-backs to go along. Umeh set the tone early in her games and kept her foot on the gas throughout the Boo Williams event. She was a total threat to be reckoned with on the offensive end but make no mistake about it; this young buck was horrible to deal with on the defensive end as well. She altered and blocked shots at a ridiculous rate, making it a grueling decision on whether or not to challenge her. I’m sure Kennedy Umeh will continue to bring her ‘A’ game and continue to intimidate opponents for years to come.
2023 Jadyn Donovan 6’0” SF Maryland Belles Watson
When you overhear young players giggling and laughing about a fellow teammate getting “dunked on”—your ears perk up a bit, right? After all, I was watching young rising freshman and sophomore girls playing, but no no no, there were no posterizing moments like that. But some tremendous athletes were smacking some backboards on layups! Jadyn Donovan possesses some of the most explosive athleticism on any level. With the ball in her hands, she swiftly made her way through the congestion on the court. Time after time, all I could see were her arms and head rising above the others. Subsequently, I also could see hopelessness in the defender's faces as Donovan finished at the rim. To have raw athleticism is one thing, but to have the ability to take what has been given to you and somehow insert that into your game is another. Donovan used her skill, speed, and athleticism to repeatedly shake her man and score at the rim. She could get to her jump shot by raising above defenders with a clear line of sight. This east coast stud has all the right tools to make a lot of noise this summer.