Exposure means everything to student-athletes. Earning a chance to play on the big stage under bright lights can help players catch the eye of college coaches and help increase interest or even gain a scholarship offer.
The District of Columbia State Athletic Association basketball championships provides just that platform.
“This tournament takes talented student-athletes from all across the District and places them on the same court,” DCSAA executive director Clark Ray said. “We hope to continue to provide an environment that is conducive to them garnering positive exposure experiences.”
There are plenty of examples in recent years. In 2017, Luka Garza led Maret to the finals and came close to upsetting Gonzaga had it not been for a prime performance by Chris Lykes. The two of them now star at Iowa and the University of Miami, respectfully.
In 2018, Ayinde Hikim helped Wilson upset St. John’s and that performance paved additional recruiting avenues for himself. In 2019, Jason Gibson opened eyes and earned offers with his performance leading Sidwell to a championship. Meanwhile, Azzi Fudd used the DCSAAs as a final springboard for her national player of the year campaign.
Here’s a look at 10 underclassmen who could do the same this year.
5. Delaney Thomas, 23’ (St. John’s)
Delaney Thomas provides an inside presence for the Cadets that can’t be matched by many opponents. With size, length and athleticism, she serves as a prime secondary defender and rim protector. On offense, she adequately finishes around the rim and is a willing passer. Her game translates well to the college level.
In the Cadets’ semifinal contest with Maret, Thomas filled the box score with six rebounds, points and assists and four blocked shots.
4. Drew Jordan, 23’ (Maret)
Drew Jordon impressed with her poise and scoring prowess, in Maret’s semifinal loss to St. John’s.
The freshman scored 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting while grabbing four rebounds against one of the top teams in the country.
Jordon is a silky-smooth wing with athletic burst and enough handle to create her own shot. She will surely be a force to be reckoned with in the DCSAA for years to come and is a sure-fire D1 prospect.
3. Cameron Wilkes, 21’ (Dunbar)
Cameron Wilkes played fearlessly in the Tide’s semifinal loss to Sidwell. The junior guard attacked the rim relentlessly. She set the tone with her defensive pressure and she almost single-handedly kept Dunbar in the game with her offense.
Wilkes finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Paired with sophomore Zyaire Hariston, Dunbar has a backcourt that will lead myriad college coaches to check out their games.
2. Jadyn Donovan, 23’ (Sidwell)
Friday night, a star was born and her name is Jadyn Donovan.
The 6-0 freshmen has the versatility to guard all five positions. Sidwell can run their offense through her as she is as effective operating from the post as she is on the wing. Donovan has a nice handle, is a willing passer and can finish with either hand at the rim. She’s a game changer on both ends off the floor.
In 30 minutes, she had 18 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
1. Kiki Rice, 22’ (Sidwell)
As a freshman, Kiki Rice was a better athlete than a majority of her opponents. As a sophomore, she’s a better basketball player.
In her second season, the game has slowed down for Rice. Her dominance comes from the head down, as opposed to the opposite direction. The 5-10 point guard uses her size and quickness to get into the lane, creating shots for her teammates and herself.
Although she can score at will, her playmaking ability may be the best part of her game. Rice is a pin-point passer, routinely delivering the ball into the hands of her teammates on-time and on-target. In Friday’s semifinal she finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists.
5. Judah Mintz, 22’ (Gonzaga)
The 6-4 sophomore guard is already drawing national attention. Mintz presently holds five offers and is regionally the No. 1-ranked player in his class.
His combination of length and skill place him in a position to have an instant impact as a combo guard at the next level.
Mintz struggled to find his rhythm in Gonzaga’s semifinal win over Coolidge, but an offensive explosion is always one shot away for a student-athlete of his caliber.
4. Stephaun Walker, 22’ (Coolidge)
Walker is a 6-7 forward who is just beginning to realize how good he can be. At 225 pounds, he is in the process of filling out his frame, which allows him to be equally effective when attacking from the wing or the interior.
Walker held his own when playing against Michigan commit Terrance Williams, finishing with six points and six rebounds.
3. Devin Dinkins, 22’ (Gonzaga)
Dinkins is a sharp-shooting point guard with infinite range. He plays with confidence and a level of poise rare for a sophomore.
In Friday’s semifinal, he nailed 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions that helped spark an Eagles’ run that ultimately put the game away. In addition to his scoring, Dinkins added four rebounds and four assists as Gonzaga made Sunday’s final
2. Eric Morgan Jr., 21’ (Wilson)
Morgan was Wilson’s leading scorer during the regular season and has been critical to the Tiger’s title run.
A clutch performer, Morgan is unafraid of the moment. He routinely takes and makes big shots.
In Friday’s semifinal victory over Carroll, Morgan scored 15 points and was perfect from the free-throw line.
1. Darren Buchanan Jr., 22’ (Wilson)
Darren Buchanan Jr. may very well be the most versatile players in the DMV. The DCIAA player of the year can guard all five positions, is an adequate rebounder and scores when his team needs him to.
The Tigers run their offense through Buchanan . He can attack from the post or either elbow. Perhaps what’s most impressive is his willingness to sacrifice his own numbers to keep his teammates involved.
In Friday’s semifinal, he had 13 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. The Tigers will need a similar performance to knock off Gonzaga in the championship game.
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