Photo top: Zhane Thompson of Burnsville is rated 16th in the class of 2020
In AAU basketball, the rich generally keep getting richer, and the lesser-known brands are often left to fight over table scraps. But every so often a team will rise up from the masses and make some eloquent noise. Although they might not belong to the 1-percent club just yet, the 9th grade ladies of E1T1 Premiere might want to stop by the Bentley dealership for a test drive just in case. After finishing third in the recent AAU State Championships behind mighty North Tartan 9 and Minnesota Fury 2020 Blue, the girls in black and pink were in fine form again Saturday at the Minnesota Suns Summer Xplosion (their typo, not mine!) at Wayzata High School.
It’s easy to see how these girls are racking up Ws. E1T1 is very athletic, with a garage full of great ball handlers who can overwhelm you with their speed and quickness. Everything happens so fast when E1T1 has the ball that by the time defenders figure out what’s happening, it has already happened. Led by top 20 guards Zhane Thompson(Burnsville) and Jasmine Smiley (Wayzata), this is a high-octane outfit featuring the multi-talented Grace Elander (Holy Family), the incredible athleticism of Patience Williams(Fridley) and the defensive prowess of Kalena Myers (Apple Valley). (Please see below for details on their many attributes.) What’s really impressive about this team, however, is the supporting cast.
Let’s start with 5-9 forward Jaliya Davis of Eden Prairie and her Eagles’ teammate, 5-10 wing Valerie Higgins. Davis is the kind of player coaches love to love. She’s strong and aggressive and has an uncanny knack for beating everyone else to the boards. She is a great defender and plays a lot bigger than her height might suggest. Higgins is a work in progress, but it’s pretty clear where she’s headed. She has size and strength and quickness. Higgins is a good shooter, a solid defender, and a relatively unknown commodity at this point. She was hurt to start the high school season but on her first night back Higgins had 8 points, 6 blocks and 3 steals.
Then there are the twins from Holy Angels – Emma and Isabelle Henry. If you are looking for a skilled guard with good quickness and high defensive intensity, the Henry twins give you a two-for-one discount. Emma is probably the quicker of the two and the better passer. Isabelle is more likely to take the ball to the rim and finish. When analyzing a roster, by the time you get nine or 10 spots deep you are usually into the afterthoughts. In this case, that’s not the case, because 5-5 guard Ali Karels of Rogers is anything but an afterthought. In fact, Karels would probably start for most other 2020 teams. A true pass-first point guard, Karels makes great decisions and doesn’t have to score to put her stamp on the game.
Credit the scrappy, disruptive defending of the North Iowa Fire on Saturday. The girls from Mason City put up a strong fight, hanging with E1T1 until the late stages before ultimately falling 58-47. Apparently that outcome was much too close for E1T1, because they took to the court later in the day and surrendered just one basket in the first half before coasting to a 58-9 win over Minnesota Nice.
The Best of E1T1 Premier
#17. Zhane Thompson – 5-5 point guard from Burnsville. A hyper-quick, super-athletic 1 who pushes the pace and penetrates at will. Gets to the free throw line often and makes opponents pay.
#19. Jasmine Smiley – 5-8 combo guard from Wayzata. An athletic 2/3 who does a little bit of everything and rarely makes mistakes. She’s mobile, moves the ball well, and moves well without the ball. A nice mid-range, catch-and-shoot scorer.
#31. Patience Williams – 6-1 forward from Fridley. Williams is a little raw yet and isn’t always sure what to do next, but her athleticism and superb leaping ability make her an exciting prospect. She averaged 12 & 11 for the Tigers and is only going to get better.
#50. Kalena Myers – 5-5 guard from Apple Valley. Really quick defender who gets into the passing lanes for steals. A true ball hawk, who finishes when she gets the opportunity. Myers is the sleeper on this squad.
#78. Grace Elander – 5-8 guard from Holy Family. Terrific ball handler and an exceptional shooter with a knack for getting to the rim. She’s smooth and confident and is equally good at both ends of the floor. Poised for a breakout season in high school.
It’s a pretty impressive lineup, right? So impressive that we almost missed one more luxury item on hand Saturday: Alani Pettis of Minneapolis North. Currently ranked 18th in the class of 2020, Pettis is a stocky, physical guard who plays like a power forward. She has been playing for Lady Hawks AAU this summer. We’re not sure if this is a permanent arrangement or just a trial run. Either way, E1T1 is going to keep pushing the bigger brands in search of the keys to that Bentley.