CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
MANHEIM, Pa. — The Girls’ Under Armour Association Championships took place this weekend at the massive Spooky Nook Sports complex, with some of the best programs from around the country coming to Lancaster County to compete for the GUAA title. The college coaches were out in force, with hundreds of D-I programs from coast to coast in the building, the sidelines packed with some of the biggest names in the business.
Here’s a notebook featuring some rising sophomore and junior players (2023s + 2024s) CoBL watched over the course of Saturday and Sunday:
Jillian Jekot (above) will be the fourth Jekot sister to play D-I basketball. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Jillian Jekot (2024 | Comets Basketball | Cumberland Valley, Pa.)
A family pickup basketball game is typically all about having fun and bonding. At the Jekot house, though, it’s three current Division I basketball players going up against two former Division II athletes and a high school superstar.
Jillian Jekot spent all quarantine teamed up with her parents, who both played at Lock Haven, challenging her sisters: Kelly, a graduate student at Penn State; Katie, a year younger and a graduate student at St. Joe’; and Julie, a freshman at La Salle. Those groupings are a theme in the Jekot family, to the youngest daughter’s chagrin.
“I’m never with my sisters — on airplanes, nothing,” she laughed, adding it’s “their [decision] — I don’t get to make any decisions.”
This tough sisterly love works.
Jekot is on the path to be the fourth Division I sibling, following in the footsteps of three immensely talented sisters. Kelly and Katie led Cumberland Valley to three PIAA state championships before heading off to their respective colleges — Kelly started at Villanova before transferring to PSU — and a squad featuring Julie and Jillian a year ago made it to the PIAA Class 6A state semis.
“Looking up to them and just seeing how far they’ve come, that’s when I realized that ‘oh wow, I have all these amazing people in my family,’ I’m so lucky,” she said.
Having three collegiate basketball players living in her house as built-in practice partners and role models has cultivated an environment where Jekot’s skills improve, as does her insight into the recruitment process.
“They give me so much advice,” she said. “What style of play they think I will fit into, what coaches they think will get my full potential, and I really have them to thank for everything. I’m my own person, but they kind of molded me a little bit.”
Already, Jekot has an offer to play at each of the schools her sisters are attending.
In addition to Penn State, St. Joe’s and La Salle, Jekot has received offers from Richmond, Manhattan and Pitt. So far, Jekot has visited Bucknell, La Salle, St. Joe’s, and Penn State. The fact that her family already has ties to quite a few regional schools doesn’t hurt, and one program in particular is going to have an extra recruiter on the team, but Jekot isn’t naming any favorites just yet.
“Julie [...] she’s like ‘I’d love to play with you’ all the time, but I’m going to see which school fits me best,” she said. “I don’t know where I’m ending up, I’m keeping all my options open, but I’ve been thinking about playing in college since I was a little kid.”
The youngest Jekot, a 5-11 guard, handles the ball like it's an extension of herself, with such ease that it looks like a natural instinct. This comfort translates well on the court, giving her the air of a strong player as well as a confident leader. She drives hard to the basket, mowing her way through the defense, and also knows how to move without the ball to get easy buckets time and time again.
Most of the time, Jekot is responsible for bringing the ball up, and she plays an open court game, which she loves. She also steps up on defense, often covering bigs.
By next year, it may be clear whether Jekot chooses a sister to follow or extends the family name to another school. Either way, she thanks her family for getting her to this point. Jekot plans to continue to follow her sisters’ leads and commit early in her junior year. That means playing out her sophomore year at Cumberland Valley and one more summer with the Comets to see where her recruitment lies before that decision comes.
“It’s worked for them,” she said, “so I think I’m going to have to go with that.” — Bridget Hyland
.Delaney Thomas (above) will compete with the USA U16 team squad at the 2021 FIBA Americas tournament. (Photo: Kayla Yoegel/CoBL)
Delaney Thomas (2023 | GTS Fusion | St. John’s College High School, D.C.)
Thomas is a top prospect in the class of 2023. A 6-2 small forward, she has the length, athleticism, and skill to compete for a top-level program in Division I basketball. She plays up a level in her AAU ball with the GTS Fusion 17U group that is coached by David Bell and Catherine and Timothy Fudd, the parents of University of Connecticut freshman and number one overall prospect in the class of 2021, Azzi Fudd.
She expressed her love for competing with her teammates on the GTS Fusion squad and how strong the energy has been throughout the entire summer.
“It’s (the summer’s) been great, coaches have been fun, the energy is just awesome and my team is amazing so it’s just been a really great time.”
In a dominating 77-49 victory over the Western PA Bruins’ 2022 group, the team’s camaraderie was on full display. Thomas had 21 points in the win and played shortened minutes as the team continually increased their lead. Even when Thomas was off the floor, her energy and support for her teammates were apparent, and there was no shortage of togetherness.
Like many recruits, Thomas expressed that her recruiting process slowed down a bit during COVID but has recently picked up again. She has been able to get on some visits and has enjoyed connecting with different coaches.
“I’ve gone on unofficals at Ohio State, Louisville, West Virginia. I haven’t really done a lot yet but just getting out there and seeing schools,” Thomas said. “Just getting to know coaches and build relationships has been good.”
As a rising junior, Thomas already has various offers but also mentioned some teams that have expressed interest. Included in the list of schools that are interested in following the rest of Thomas’ high school career are high-level programs such as Stanford, Oregon, Clemson, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Notre Dame, Villanova, and Vanderbilt.
Thomas has “no clue” on when she wants to commit but stressed that multiple schools have been in close contact with her, and as she’s forming many relationships, she knows that it will be a tough call come decision time.
With her AAU season coming to an end come August, Thomas will be competing with the U16 USA National Team at the 2021 FIBA Americas in Santiago, Chile, and then will head right into her junior year at St. John’s College High School in D.C. Thomas is looking forward to her junior year and is focused on a key area in her game: “Consistency definitely is a major goal, but I’m excited for it, it’s going to be a big year and I’m just excited.” — Kayla Yoegel
Mikayla Blakes (above, center) learned plenty about recruiting from her brother Jaylen, a freshman at Duke (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Mikayla Blakes (2024 | Team Rio | Rutgers Prep, N.J.)
One of the top prospects in the region in the rising sophomore class, Blakes expected to be pulling in Division I offers at some point in her years at Rutgers Prep. Just perhaps not before she’d even suited up in a high school game.
But a pre-season offer from Rutgers last year was just the first in what’s already an impressive list of scholarship opportunities for the 5-8 guard: Pitt, Maryland, Michigan, South Carolina, Florida State, NC State, Georgetown and more have all jumped on board at this point, an eye-opening group for a prospect of any age.
“It was a surprise to me, actually,” she said. “My mom says all your hard work, it’s being shown off, so that’s what I’ve just been saying.”
It’s perhaps not a total stunner that Blakes is such a highly-touted prospect; her brother, Jaylen Blakes, was a top-100 prospect in the 2021 class and is an incoming freshman at Duke this fall. Of course, having a sibling with a similar high-major recruitment has given Mikayla Blakes plenty of insight on the process, and the mindset she needs as she eventually sorts through and makes a pick.
“Be patient, some schools are there for the long run, some schools are not,” she said. “Also find what’s your home, find what you want in a school and it’ll just come naturally to you and you just call it home.”
Though her decision is still a ways off in the distance, Blakes said she’s already enjoying the recruiting process and getting to talk to all the different college coaches that are recruiting her. Even though she’s not yet old enough to receive direct contact from coaches, who have to wait until she’s entering her junior season to be able to text her out of the blue, she and her family are able to initiate those phone calls to start to cultivate different relationships.
“It’s nice seeing their different attitudes, different personalities,” she said. “Also learning what they’re looking for in a player, so I’d say that’s also awesome.”
A combo guard with a scorer’s touch, Blakes was all over the court during a 67-63 loss to The SC76ers on Saturday afternoon, finishing with 20 points to lead her team. Strong with the ball in her hands, she was able to get to the rim and finish with ease, and also knocked down several jump shots, including two 3-pointers.
“I take pride in defense, because defense starts my offense,” she said. “Learning from my brother, and playing with him I’ve got that killer mentality just in my body.
“[I’m] continuing to work on my pull-up when things aren’t a straight line drive, just being able to pull up and use my left hand more, and shoot consistently,” she added.
At Rutgers Prep, she’ll be one of the leaders on a squad that went 13-0 last season and captured the Skyline Conference tournament title, but graduated Villanova freshman Christina Dalce from the frontcourt, one of four seniors from the rotation.
“We had a lot of seniors graduating this year,” Blakes said, “so next year we’re going to be looking to redeem ourselves.” — Josh Verlin
— Though their boys’ program already played on the Under Armour Association, the Lady Martin Brothers were supposed to play on the secondary UA Rise circuit this spring, until a last-second promotion had them playing on the main circuit. So it’s a group with a big chip on their shoulder, but their 16U squad certainly proved they belong with a 6-3 UAA record and 11th-place finish overall in the 40-team field.
“I think people probably thought we weren’t that good,” West High (Iowa) 2023 Meena Tate said. “Coming here, we were a little intimidated at first, but we’re just as good as them if not better, and we can hang with them easily.”
The Lady Martin Brothers’ 2023 group looked strong on Saturday afternoon in a 47-30 win over the Western PA Bruins. With several dozen college coaches looking on — many of whom were there for the Bruins’ high-level prospects (see below) — it was the team from Iowa that was clearly superior from tip to buzzer, getting strong contributions from all seven girls who took the court.
Tate, a 5-9 wing, finished with eight points and six rebounds, using her length effectively on the defensive end. And the team’s youngest member, 5-10 guard Grace Knutson (2024 | Cedar Falls, Iowa), was 5-of-8 from downtown to finish with 15 points, with seven rebounds. Knutson and Tate, along with forward Madison Hillman (2023 | St. Angar, Iowa), are all waiting on their first D-I offers, but all said they’re starting to hear from several regional schools, with Northern Iowa and South Dakota State two schools commonly mentioned.
Though it was the Bruins’ 6-5 post Eve Fiala who was the main draw, Hillman held her own despite giving up four inches, holding Fiala to two points while scoring 11 of her own with nine rebounds and two blocks: “I’m in a 1A school, so that’s a super-small school and we don’t have a lot of good competition,” she said, “but that’s why I’m here, to play better competition like her.” — Josh Verlin
— In that loss to Lady Martin Brothers, 5-8 point guard Jasmine Timmerson (2023 | North Allegheny, Pa.) of the Western PA Bruins’ 2023 squad led the team with 13 points. Not only was Timmerson effective on the offensive end, but she was also a pest on the defensive end with quick and active hands and tough on-ball pressure.
Despite the loss, Timmerson said she enjoys playing against tough competition, and with college coaches watching, that’s an added bonus. “It’s always more fun to play against good teams, and the coaches just add onto it, so it makes for a great environment.”
Timmerson, who plays her high school ball at North Allegheny High School, has multiple Division I offers and listed a few, including Michigan, Michigan State, and Pitt. She took unofficial visits to all three schools as well as Penn State. Along with her offers, Timmerson has interest from other schools in the Big 10, Big East, a couple of ACC schools including North Carolina, and the SEC’s Mississippi State.
— Timmerson’s teammate, Eve Fiala (2022 | North Allegheny, Pa.), who stands at 6-5, was one of the tallest players in the Nook. During the matchup with Lady Martin Bros, she had a quiet outing with two points and six rebounds but remains a prospect that many college coaches came to see with her long frame and shot blocking ability.
Fiala described her recruiting process as “crazy” and noted that she “can’t even keep track” of some of her offers. Some that came to mind were Ohio State, Toledo, Mississippi State, Michigan, Michigan State, Pitt, Louisville, and Penn State. She also mentioned that Baylor has shown interest and that she, too, is interested in learning more about the Bears program.
Along with Timmerson, Fiala has taken visits to Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Pitt; however, as a rising junior, she still has no timeline for her commitment and is currently focused on getting stronger. — Kayla Yoegel
— Abygail Schubert (2023 | Minnesota Fury | Channnhassen, Minn.) is the type of player that quietly steps up to help her team out with timely shots and strong defense. This is the type of play that has earned her a few offers.
Schubert has six mid-major offers. These come from NDSU, Navy, Illinois State, La Salle, St. Thomas and Eastern Illinois. She has visited St. Thomas and Illinois State, and plans to check out the Naval Academy after her weekend at Spooky Nook. So far, her favorite is Illinois State, but she says that may change after she visits the other schools and continues to receive offers. She plans to narrow down her decision in November and hopes to commit before next year’s AAU season.
Despite losing 69-66 to West Virginia Thunder Sunday morning, Schubert was a stand-out player. The 5-9 shooting guard has a strong outside shot, and contributed in the moments her team needed her the most, ultimately putting up 13 points. Her collected demeanor on the court makes her a valuable asset to her team. While basketball is important to her, she plans to attend a school that can help her reach her career goals. She said she’ll pick the school “that’s going to suit my major (Sports Medicine) and give me the best opportunity, but obviously the program has to be good, and I want to play.”
— Spooky Nook was an opportunity for Julia Corsentino (2023 | Team Rio University | Colts Neck, N.J.) to show off her aggressive game to many Division I coaches. Corsentino is just starting to be recruited, but her willingness to do just about anything to get the basketball makes her stand out.
The 5-9 shooting guard isn’t afraid to dive for the ball, or drive through girls to the basket. This has earned her an offer from Manhattan College, as well as looks from schools in the Patriot League and the MAAC. Each offer and look excites Corsentino who is confident that she will decide on the right one when she hopes to commit in the middle of her junior year. In terms of what the right program looks like, Corsentino says, “One where offense is flowing, where I can get shots, where I can play. Especially one that’s team based, like a family, because that’s the type of AAU and high school team I’m on.”
Corsentino’s aggressive style is not performed foolishly, as she still limited herself to one foul in a 56-47 loss to the Bay State Jaguars. She plays smart, and therefore maintains ball control. In the same game, she contributed eight points, all while moving the ball around with a strong passing game. She hopes to bring this skill to the next level. “I would love to play in college because it’s been my dream ever since 7th grade when I started to actually work really hard,” she said. — Bridget Hyland