FBC United Hunt UA, winners of Kirk Pointer Division (PC: Bob Corwin)
By Bob Corwin
Held May 17-19, 2019, at the Finley Center in Hoover (just south of Birmingham), Alabama, 127 teams took to the 11 courts in this spacious complex. In its seventh year, this edition of the Capital Cool Classic may have been the best yet when it came to talent up and down the line-up of divisions. Presented by host clubs Essence Girls Basketball and FBC-Mo, the event saw teams placed in brackets roughly based on age and team strength. About 55 colleges (some schools had multiple coaches attending) mostly NCAA Division 1 from east of the Mississippi attended one or more of the three days.
Perhaps the deepest club in talent nationally, FBC (stands for Finest Basketball Club) had most of its big guns on display in Hoover. Its depth of talent extends from rising seniors into middle school with talent coming from its headquarters state of Georgia and extending into surrounding states.
So much to see!
There was outstanding talent all over the Finlay Center. Given time available, our reporting efforts as to team results were concentrated on the Kirk Pointer (top division of rising seniors or younger) and Emanuel Bell (top division of rising juniors and younger). As to individual talent, players from as young as the class of 2024 are featured in write-ups below. Particularly well arranged was that the Sunday semi-finals and finals of the Pointer, Bell and Tuskegee Airman (top division of rising freshmen or younger) divisions were in separate time slots featuring talent rich teams and quality match ups. All three of those divisions were won by FBC teams.
May Eval Period reviews
This was the first (and I fear the last) May NCAA evaluation weekend assuming the reactions of college coaches polled hold sway with NCAA policy makers.
From making the rounds of talking to individual college assistants and head coaches present, here were the positive comments. Just about all really liked the presentation of the 2019 Capital Cool Classic and the spacious Finley Center. Some found it particularly helpful to see the young talent (rising freshmen and younger). Finally, a few specifically mentioned the spreading out of the games on Sunday that gave them more time to see quality match-ups in semi-finals and finals.
However, the vast majority branded the May evaluation period itself as “unnecessary” from their perspective. Comments included additional expenses for their programs, travel to too many watered down (not including Capital Cool) events and seeing players evaluated recently in April. Unless the NCAA maintains its calendar for two years, I suspect Division 1 coaches will not be out next May. Whether any of us disagree with them, it is the NCAA’s call. Media, prospects and club coaches have no say in this matter. The good news is that I heard no interest in further cutting back the July evaluation period (shortened this year from 14 to 12 days).
A brief look at two finals...
Kirk Pointer Division
FBC United Hunt UA 61-32 AL Southern Starz 2020-Bush Nike
The division is dedicated to Coach Kirk Pointer who passed away a few years ago. He helped organize this event in its early days and ran the Nike-affiliated Team Elite club based out of the Atlanta area.
Starting a lineup of Power 5 prospect, FBC United Hunt was undefeated coming into this event and thus remains so. Currently they are considered by many the top club team in this age group for this spring club season.
Both teams had challenging semifinals with the Southern Starz beating Boo Williams of Hampton, Virginia, 78-69 while the FBC squad got by Essence Tiphayes Purple 48-41 with the game closer than the final score would indicate.
Besides the talent differential against them, the Southern Starz came out flat. With 8:11 left in the first half, FBC led 20-2 and by the break 33-8. There was not much to talk about in the second half. For one thing, FBC controlled the middle throughout the game with Destinee McGhee (see below) being held to just one point largely due to the defensive presence of often-discussed Kamilla Cardosa (6-7, center, 2020). FBC was led in scoring by Olivia Cochran (see below) with 15 points. AL Southern Starz was led by point guard Destinee Wells (5-7, 2020) with 11 points.
FBC United Youngunz UA, winners of Emanuel Bell Division (PC: Bob Corwin)
Emanuel Bell Division
FBC United Youngunz UA 56-48 AL Southern Starz 2021-Looney Nike
The division is dedicated to the recently deceased Emanuel Bell who coached for many years at nearby Wenonah High School in Birmingham, Alabama.
This game’s outcome was largely dependent on the long-range shooting of Sara Puckett (see below) of the Southern Starz. FBC started stronger building a double digit lead only to see it erased by Puckett’s 15-point outburst in the latter portion of the first half resulting in an Alabama 23-21 halftime lead. The second half started poorly for Puckett (and the Starz) missing her first six attempts from the field. Meanwhile the perimeter play of the Gunz started to take over in the form of fast breaks and half court drives by Taniya Latson (5-8, small forward, 2022, discussed in article on Western PA Bruins tip-off event) posting 15 points (team leading 17 points for game). Four Gunz threes (various players) in the half also contributed to the victory. FBC was thus able to maintain a single digit lead over the last six minutes of the final. Puckett led the Southern Starz with 18 points. Mia Moore (see below) chipped in 16 for FBC.
Players below are listed alphabetically within graduation year with listed height, position, and club team. Home town is in parenthesis. All players discussed below are likely to be recruited at some level of NCAA Division 1.
Kaci Chairs, 5-10, shooting guard, Louisiana Lady Pumas Black (Harvey, Louisiana)
As a good-sized wing player with mobility, Chairs showed she can hit the three. She also has above average court vision as shown by her passing.
Olivia Cochran, 6-1, power forward, FBC United Hunt UA (Columbus, Georgia)
A high major prospect, Cochran has been one of the great success stories of this spring. Her game has evolved from being a low post player last year to where she is now a threat from behind the arc as well as in the key. Another plus is that she is much more mobile this spring. If counting points, she often leads her club team in scoring in the big games.
Heaven Figueroa, 5-8, shooting guard, IEXCEL PLATINUM 17U WALTER (Brooklyn, New York)
A decent athlete, Figueroa plays hard and showed she can shoot the three, score via the drive plus play some point. Word in the gym was that she is strong academically.
Madison Hayes, 6-1, guard/forward, FBC United Hunt UA (Ooltewah, Tennessee)
Hayes, a Power 5 prospect, showed she can take what is given her in the way of shots in a big-time offense. She can hit the three as well as mid-range shot. On top of this, she plays with a good motor.
Destinee McGhee, 6-2, center, AL Southern Starz 2020 – Bush Nike (Madison, Alabama)
Orally committed to Arkansas, McGhee is a thickly built low post with good hands and footwork. Her body allows her to play even taller than her actual height. She posted 21 points in the semifinal win over BOO WILLIAMS but struggled (one point) versus the taller middle of FBC United Hunt in the Pointer final.
Mackayla Scarlett, 5-10, point guard, IEXCEL PLATINUM 17U WALTER (Bronx, New York)
A good athlete, Scarlett played hard in running her team’s offense. Although some in the gym feel she is more of a shooting guard, she was in distribution mode during our one viewing. Word in the gym was that she has Power 5 interest if not offers.
De’Mauri Flournoy, 5-6, guard, FBC United Youngunz UA (Villa Rica, Georgia)
Flournoy is decently quick and can get on a roll shooting the three (6 in one game). Although point guard size, she may be a shooting guard at heart.
Knisha Godfrey, 5-9, shooting guard Essence Tiphaynes Purple (Tampa, Florida)
It could be argued Godfrey could shoot the ball better. However, Power 5 schools may wish to monitor her as she has elite defensive ability and that can win games too!
Trinity Hardy, 5-8, shooting guard, Essence Tiphaynes Purple (Lakeland, Florida)
A lefty, Hardy is sometimes her team’s leading scorer even though you do not get wowed by any one move she makes. Her best trait may be that she plays hard with a strong desire to win.
Aziaha James, 5-11, shooting guard, BOO WILLIAMS (Virginia Beach, Virginia)
A lefty, James brings a lot to the table. A good athlete, she can attack finishing left or right. She also showed she can hit the three and plays with good energy on defense. Word in the gym was that she has Power 5 offers.
Jaylyn James, 5-9, shooting guard, Tri-Parrish Hurricanes (Madisonville, Louisiana)
James has a strong motor and likes to play fast (at times maybe a bit too fast). The more you watch her play, the more you saw in the use of off-hand (left) dribble and hitting the threes. Maybe she plays better a bit tired?! Power 5 programs should be monitoring her maturation.
Mia Moore, 5-6, point guard, FBC United Youngunz UA (Alpharetta, Georgia)
Moore plays hard, can run the offense and shoots the three. Her efforts in the Bell Division final were critical to her team’s winning the title. Word in the gym was that she has offers from the Power 5 level and down.
Sara Puckett, 6-2, small forward, AL Southern Starz 2021 – Looney Nike (Muscle Shoals, Alabama)
A high major prospect, Puckett has the combination of great height (adequate footspeed) and the ability to hit the three from deep that Power 5 schools love. An added bonus is that she can also post up some.
Karoline Striplin, 6-3, center/power forward, AL Southern Starz 2021– Looney Nike (Hartford, Alabama)
Decently mobile, Striplin has a nice variety of post moves around the basket plus a mid-range stroke. She has offers from the Power 5 level and down.
Lauren Walker, 6-2, forward, Team Nite Nite (Kennesaw, Georgia)
Not that well known coming into the event, Walker impressed with a combination of good energy on defense and able to hit perimeter shots (for one so tall) be she not yet that consistent. She had a knack for deflecting passes, something that does not always show up in the box score.
Sacha Washington, 6-1, power forward, FBC Hoopstars Brown (Lilburn, Georgia)
Washington plays hard and is comfortable with physical play. She is mobile for her strong build with scoring primarily mid-key and closer to the rim. Power 5 programs should be monitoring her maturation.
Mackayla Scarlett of IEXCEL PLATINUM 17U WALTER (PC: Bob Corwin)
De'Mauri Flournoy of FBC United Youngunz UA (PC: Bob Corwin)
Aziaha James of BOO WILLIAMS (PC: Bob Corwin)
Sara Puckett (#12) and Karoline Striplin of AL Southern Starz 2021 - Looney Nike (PC: Bob Corwin)
Janiah Barker, 6-3, forward, Essence Tiphayes Purple (Tampa, Florida)
Considered by many one of the very top 2022 prospects, Barker continues to show improvement in dominating in the paint. Still playing up two grades can be a challenge and some games she is not as dominant as in others. Highly athletic, she runs well, has nice handles for her size and rebounds effectively versus older players. She is getting better at finishing around the rim and hitting mid range shots.
Amiya Evans, 6-2, center, Essence Wheeler Kids – Silver (Tampa, Florida)
A good athlete and Power 5 prospect, Evans is getting better at handling physical play around the basket but still is inconsistent at times at finishing. There has been significant improvement over the last six months and that is all you can ask for.
Mya Kone, 6-1, forward, Team Knight 16U (Coconut Creek, Florida)
A lefty, Kone is long and athletic and already on Power 5 radar. She needs to add range and learn to use her right hand some to fulfill that potential.
Janiah Barker of Essence Tiphayes Purple (PC: Bob Corwin)
Aniya Palmer, 6-0, power forward, Auburn Raptor Elite 2022 (LaGrange, Georgia)
Palmer is a quality athlete who Power 5 programs should be aware of. Currently, she is a straight-line attacker of the basket going right handed with hang time. She needs to add shooting range as she has more of a small forward’s body, learn to go left and play harder at both ends. Palmer has a high ceiling but has a lot to work on to fulfill this potential.
Elizabeth Privett, 5-8, shooting guard, All Alabama Roadrunners 2022 (Huntsville, Alabama)
Privett finds a way to score. She can hit the three but also is creative in driving using the spin move amongst others. On coaches’ row, there was some disbelief that she played a fair amount of JV ball as a freshman but her high school team was good and sometimes you have to wait your turn.
Karly Weathers, 5-9, guard/forward, AL Southern Starz 2022 – Bush Nike (Loretto, Tennessee)
Power 5 schools are now lining up as Weathers runs well and can knock down threes plus is creative at going to the rim. She could get better at the mid-range pull-up. With good sports genes (father had long pro baseball career and brother a well-regarded baseball prospect in the minor leagues), Weathers appears on track toward major success at her sports as well!
Madison Booker, 6-0, forward, AL Southern Starz 2023-Looney Nike (Ridgeland, Mississippi)
Power 5 schools are lining up for this prospect. Her pluses are high IQ, good motor, court vision and willing to withstand physical play. Booker still needs to become more consistent shooting near or behind the arc as she seems to want to be a small forward long term.
Karly Weathers of AL Southern Starz 2022 - Bush Nike (PC: Bob Corwin)
Tyra Brown, 5-11, small forward, Team Knight 14U (Fort Myers, Florida)
A good athlete, Brown has a Power 5 upside but she needs to get stronger and tighten up her handles. Currently she scores most often by getting to the rim going right.
Essence Cody, 6-4, center, FBC United The Family 2023 UA (Valdosta, Georgia)
Cody is a high-level Power 5 prospect. As a post player, she has filled out with a fairly solid frame but still very mobile. She has good hands and finishes well around the rim with post moves starting to develop.
Monet Dance, 5-3, point guard, Essence Extreme 2023 – Purple (Canton, Georgia)
Dance has game but most of all needs to grow some. She has good handles, IQ and can get into the lane to score.
Reniya Kelly, 5-5, point guard, FBC United The Family 2023 UA (Hoover, Alabama)
Kelly was one of the reasons that her team won (45-38) the Tuskegee Airman Division. She ran her team’s (potent) offense showing good handles and IQ. She scored primarily via penetration. She needs to work to build her shooting range. Power 5 schools should be monitoring her maturation.
Erica Moon, 5-6, guard, Essence Extreme 2023 – Purple (Atlanta, Georgia)
Moon plays with good energy and court vision on the fast break. When getting into the key, she showed a nice up-fake. Moon can hit the three but may not be her best scoring option as yet. Playing more shooting guard when seen, her handles may be good enough to be a point guard on a regular basis.
Danielle Carnegie, 5-8, shooting guard, Essence Extreme 2024 (Conyers, Georgia)
Both strong and mobile, Carnegie can finish on the fast break and has a floater in the quarter court. Perhaps most important at this age may be that she has a good motor.
Gianna Corbitt, 6-0, power forward, Team Knight 14U (Oakland Park, Florida)
With good height and power to match, Corbitt already has a respectable face-up stroke. For her size and age, she has decent handles.
Shakirah Edwards, 5-8, shooting guard, FBC United The Family 2024 UA (Panama City, Florida)
With a lanky build, Edwards can drive and dish plus uses her off (left) hand well. She can hit the three be it not consistent. A nice bonus is her ability to get on the glass with “ups.”
Erica Moon (#3) and Monet Dance of Essence Extreme 2023 - Purple (PC: Bob Corwin)
Gianna Corbitt of Team Knight 14U (PC: Bob Corwin)