Saturday, May 14, 2011

A different Parade of stars, including two headed to Virginia, ODU

We've kind of had the sense that the abilities of Virginia-bound Sarah Imovbioh were something of a secret nationally. Well, as of Sunday, the secret is out - Imovbioh isn't just a Parade All-American, she's also one of three finalists for national player of the year in the 35th - and most unique - edition of the magazine's annual girls basketball honors.

The St. Anne's-Belfield standout was joined by Princess Anne High star Elizabeth Williams and Michigan's Jasmine Hines as "Top Players of 2011." National player-of-the-year honors went to consensus No. 1 recruit Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

"Originally from Nigeria, the 6-foot-2 Imovbioh might be the surprise of the finalists, but her numbers don’t lie," Parade wrote about Imovbioh. "She is a rebounding machine and hovered around 30 points per game this season."

Imovbioh, and Old Dominion-bound Kaneisha Atwater, are far from the only surprises Parade produced with this year's 40-player, seniors-only team, which is notable not only for who is included but also who is not. For example, former Virginia signee Bria Smith, who will now attend Louisville, is ESPN's No. 8 recruit, a second-team All-USA selection by USA Today and one of the stars of last summer's world championship USA Basketball U-17 team. Yet she didn't make Parade's cut.

Smith is one of three recruits ranked in the top 10 by ESPN (along with No. 7 Justine Hartman and No. 9 Morgan Jones) that weren't chosen by Parade. Six McDonald's All-Americans (Smith, Jones, Hartman, Ariya Crook-Williams, Brianna Banks and Bonnie Samuelson) were also left off.

Instead, the magazine appeared to place an emphasis on honoring under-the-radar talents. Last year, for example, Parade's fourth team featured three players who had either signed with or have committed to UConn, two with Tennessee and others ticketed to Oklahoma, Boston College, Penn State and Stanford. This years list includes players headed for Maine, UTEP, San Francisco, Ohio University and Canisius.

Parade doesn't explain its selection process, so the criteria it used is unclear. But while some All-America teams value skill set and college upside, Parade seems to have placed a premium on actual high school production. Imovbioh averaged 29 points and 22 rebounds as a senior. Hines, who is bound for Michigan State, is the all-time leading scorer, boys or girls, in the state of Michigan.

As for Atwater, all she did was average 29.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.9 steals at Westwood (Fla.) and post six triple-doubles. These stats may not have swayed McDonald's or USA Today, but they were plenty good enough for Parade.

This approach is clearly a departure from previous Parade All-American teams, and since the magazine didn't bother to explain itself, they've left themselves open to charges that some of their selections don't make sense. But it's not as though everyone doesn't already know elite prospects like Smith can flat-out ball. If Parade wants to spread some of its glory to wildly productive but less-heralded performers, that's OK with us.

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