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New Jersey Sparks Basketball Classic 
Wayne, NJ
It's spring again! One of the best times of the year as we get to see how the summer will shape out. There was no better way to kick off the spring season and with the success of the New Jersey Sparks Basketball Classic, I can easily see this becoming the premier event for teams to come and compete at a high level before the spring evaluation.  I would like to Thank Shane & Keith as well as the New Jersey Sparks staff for all of their hospitality.


Coming into the weekend you knew that the level of play would be high so it came down to who would shine amongst the stars. The event was well represented with players from MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD, and VA. With all of that talent there could only be one star and the star of the Basketball Classic was Mikayla Venson (5'7 2014 VA) of Team Takeover.  After a year layoff Miss Venson averaged 20 plus points in leading her team to the championship. If this is a preview for what's to come, a lot of questions will be answered this summer. Check out her interview below.  




Mikayla Venson 
Mikayla Venson


Here is a breakdown from the Basketball Classic. :



CT Da Fam

The team from Connecticut will feature two of the states top players in their perspective classes. Alyssa Alston (5'6 2015 CT) had a great game versus the New Jersey Sparks in the second round to show that she can compete with a top guard in 2014 like Imani Tilford. Since the last time I saw her she has gotten better command on running her team and doing a better job in knowing when to attack or shoot the jumper. Tanaya Atkinson (5'11 2014 CT) is always going to compete and this weekend was no different. She has to play multiple positions because that is what her team needs but if she played strictly on the wing, she would be talked about in a whole new light.



New Hampshire Rivals:

They have all of the pieces you need to have a successful summer.  It was nice to see Davida Dale (5'10 2015 RI) expanding her game and running the point. Having 
Jaylen Williams (6'4 2015 MA- Penn St Verbal) in the post and Infiniti Waheed (5'11 2014 MA) who is an active defender and capable of knocking down the long range jumper. Their ability to play different styles will make them a tough out.  

Albany City Rocks

The veteran squad from the state capital is led by Emily Durr (5'11 2014 NY), Breahanda Stratton (6' 2014 NY Providence verbal),and Diandra Darosa (5'7 2014 RI). The lefty point guard got a nice preview of what needs to be done for the team to be successful. The additions of Chyanna Canada (6' 2015 NY), a solid wing who is capable of running the offense as well, Cierra Dillard (5'9 2014 NY) and Shautesia Bryant (6'2 2014 NY), keeps the City Rocks program amongst the top programs in the country.



Maryland Pride:


What a difference a year makes. I wondered who would benefit from the break up of the BWSL MD program and the winner is? Getting a back court in Qierra Murray (5'8 2014 MD) and Cydni Cole (5'5 2014 MD) instantly puts the program in the talks of teams to watch out of the DMV this summer. That move helped land some kids that should have good summer seasons in Camden Musgrave (5'9 2014 MD), who had some made you look moments, Casey Davis (6'3 2014 MD) gives a consistent presence in the paint, and Maya Wynn (5'10 2014 MD) gives you a slasher who can knock down the three.    


New Heights:

When I see the New Heights squad "follow up" is what I think about. Last year they shocked a lot of people and with the returning players having good individual high school seasons they could make a climb to becoming a top program.  They possibly have one of the best combos in Maria Backman (6'2 2014 NY) and Kiah Gillepsie (6'2 2015 CT) who made me a fan after this weekend. Both players have the ability to play all five positions if needed and when they really learn each other that will be scary. Having shooters who can handle the rock like Aliyah Jones (5'9 2014 NY) and Sydney Zambrotaa (5'7 2016 NY) will definitely allow for some high scoring and entertaining games.  



Philly Freedom Stars:


 This team does not know the word quit. They played in one of the best games of the weekend and played with grit and determination. They are led by Aliyah Butts (5'4 2014 NJ) and Erin Garner (6'3 2014 NJ) which gives the team a great inside out combo. They are joined by a healthy Chelsea Woods (5'10 2014 PA) who is a duel threat herself. With no nonsense players like Chanelle Perry (5'9 2014 NJ) and Sajanna Bethea (6' 2014 PA) look for this team to continue to climb the club ranks.



New Jersey Sparks:


The host for the weekend will indeed be a force on the summer circuit this year. With one of the most versatile players in the 2014 class in Myisha Hines-Allen (6'2 2014 NJ)

and steady Imani Tilford (5'7 2014 NJ) the sky is the limit. With the additions Iyonna Crenshaw (6' 2014 NJ), Drew Winter (5'7 2014 NJ) and Johnnah Jonhson (6'2 2014 NJ)  they will be a better passing and shooting team that still hawk you on the defensive end. They will be a top ten team by the end of the summer.

Team Takeover:

With the Basketball Classic being the opening act for the program, this was a great atmosphere to see just how good they could be. The back court of Mikayla Venson (5'7 2014 VA), Ariana Freeman (5'10 2014 VA), and Adrianna Hahn (5'7 2015 DE) will put pressure on opposing teams because either one of those players can score the ball anytime they feel. They had some consistent play in the post from Renee Harrison (6'3 2014 VA) and Maia Lee (6'2 2014 VA). They should finish in the top fifteen but a top ten finish is not out of the question. 


Derek A. McKeiver, Sr.


Tri State Report