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Saturday, July 20, 2019

True Confessions - Rating High School Basketball Talent is Far from a Science

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By Clay Kallam

Unless there’s a team doing interventions for women’s basketball writers, then I’m just going to have to do this on my own. Yes, I’m going to have to face up to the truth, and as my sixth-grade teacher suggested on my report card, I need to look at myself under a cold, harsh light.

OK. I’ve taken the deep breath. I straightened up in the chair. Here it goes: I’m not nearly as good as I think I am when it comes to evaluating high school talent.

There. I feel much better. I don’t know if that does much for any of the players I’ve doubted, but then again, most of them probably haven’t read a word I’ve written and are as likely to know their mailman’s name as mine. Still, it’s time to ‘fess up, though I don’t know if others will be willing to join me in taking the plunge.

For example, I thought Jasmine Dixon was too much of a tweener to succeed at the BCS level. After transferring from Rutgers, and becoming eligible after the first semester, Dixon is averaging 12.7 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, is shooting 47.8 percent from the field and has more assists than turnovers.

I was convinced Abi Olajuwon would never be effective at the BCS level. Right now, she’s averaging 12.4 points per game and 6.4 boards per game for Oklahoma – which is more points than Amanda Thompson averages for the Sooners, and I thought Thompson was going to be awesome.

I thought Brittainey Raven would be an All-American at Texas, a flat-out superstar, who would lead the Longhorns to glory. Sure, Raven is averaging 15.5 points per game, but she’s only started seven of 17 games, and isn’t exactly on track to make the Olympic team.

I thought Lindsey Moore would rip it up at Nebraska, and though she’s started all 16 games as a freshman, she’s shooting just 26.9 percent.

And I had my doubts about Sammy Prahalis, who’s merely the successor to Sue Bird as America’s point guard.

Of course, I do get some right. The tall girl at Baylor – what’s her name again? – I figured that one out, but that was about as difficult as determining that the sun rises in the east. I thought Nneka Ogwumike and Tiffany Hayes would be tremendous college players, and I loved Skylar Diggins’ game.

I could go back over the years, and find the hits and misses, but I guarantee I’ve erased a lot of the misses from my fading memory, and held on tight to the ones I’ve gotten right.

And that’s part of the point of this column: We all think we’re better than we are, but unless we write down our predictions, and then go back and check, we’ll convince ourselves we make many fewer mistakes than we actually do. (I kept going after one New York message board poster to tell me one player he hadn’t evaluated correctly, and all he could come up with was Nicole Kaczmarski, who had come out of high school a decade before our “frank exchange of views.” So I guess he had been perfect for 10 years, but was still selling insurance rather than scouting for a BCS team or the pros….  Go figure.)

The other important aspect of this whole rating game is that no one should take the predictions too seriously. In the end, all the players get to prove it on the court, whether at the college or pro level, and that’s where the real decisions are made. I would suspect that my percentage is probably a little better than someone who hasn’t been around as long, but there will be times that a 22-year-old newbie will nail an evaluation, and I’ll be wandering around in the ozone, thinking the athlete in question can’t play at all.

This is exacerbated, of course, by the fact that even the most diligent follower of the sport—even the pros, whether here or at Hoopgurlz or any of the high school rating services such a Blue Star and others—often don’t see the girls more than a couple of times. And we all know players who can only be appreciated after many viewings, and others whose flaws are not immediately apparent.

In the end, everyone’s wrong some of the time, and everyone’s right some of the time. And the only way it ever gets sorted out is out on the floor, where the cold harsh light of reality casts distinct shadows, and dispels opinions like the flimsy fog they really are.

Originally published Sat, January 23, 2010

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
Rank remains unchanged since last week
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.