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2022 Blue Star High School Invitational Recruiting Notebook (Jan. 8)

01/09/2023, 3:00pm EST
By CoBL Staff

CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)

The CoBL staff spent all day at the Blue Star High School Invitational Showcase on Sunday at Jefferson University, watching many of the event’s 15 games featuring teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.

Here’s a recruiting notebook featuring several players who participated in the event:

Jezelle Banks (2027 | Ursuline Acad., Del.)

John Noonan has had plenty of stars come through the Ursuline Academy program during his tenure.

After coaching future WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne and other standout talents like Adrianna Hahn (Villanova’s all-time leader in 3-point makes), Maggie Connolly (Princeton) and Alisha Lewis (Georgia) — all starting as eighth graders — there isn’t much from a talent perspective he hasn’t seen.

That doesn’t mean he still can’t be taken away when a new talent comes through the door.

Urusline 2027 guard Jezelle Banks scored 26 points on Sunday, showing why college coaches are already lining up. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Current 2027 guards Jezelle Banks and Taylor Brown are the next in-line stars for the Raiders, already taking over at the varsity level for an Ursuline team that’s out to a 10-0 start. The high-academic students and terrific basketball talents are wowing their veteran coach everyday.

“There’s a history of eighth graders in our program … so we’ve seen it before but for Jezelle and Taylor it’s just the next one,” Noonan said. “They’re both so talented and gifted and wise beyond their years basketball wise. They’re intelligent, they’re skilled, their tough and they have fun doing it.”

Banks was the star of the show in a 66-59 comeback win over Neumann-Goretti on Sunday. She scored 26 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. A stretch of nine straight Banks points for the Raiders — three, three, and-one — helped her team go up for good late in the game.

“It felt good, I was excited,” Banks said. “Towards the end, I started to calm down because the game got closer. As I calmed down, I started finishing more and hitting my teammates more.”

Banks began touring college programs this fall, taking unofficial visits to Texas and Villanova. She listed the Longhorns, Delaware and Louisville among the college programs who have already extended scholarship offers. Noonan said he’s been on the phone with Alabama, Delaware, Louisville, Villanova and others.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity that everyone has given me,” Banks said.

Noonan is showing a lot of trust in Banks and Brown, who has an offer from Delaware herself, letting the young guards run the show for the most part. It’s paid off so far and will continue to do so as they grow.

“It’s super impressive. You can’t even put it into words. You just sit back and you just watch,” Noonan said. “From a coaching standpoint, you have these ideas and things you want to do and sometimes you just have to give the kid the keys to the car and say, ‘Don’t wreck it. Just play.’ That’s kind of what Jezelle does a really good job of.

"We want to give her her freedom, but what we’re preaching right now is through discipline comes freedom. We’re teaching what we know, we’re passing it down to her and then we’re also letting her do her thing.”

Banks said she boxed as a little kid in Wilmington before getting into hoops. One day she got in trouble and when her dad sent her downstairs, she picked up a basketball. She started playing at the Williamson “Hicks” Anderson Community Center at age 4.

The 5-6 guard  is already a terrific shooter and finisher, knocking down shots off the bounce and hanging in the air for finishes with both her left and right hands on Sunday. She also has fantastic touch and had the floater working Sunday as well.

While she is certainly skilled at putting the ball through the hoop, Banks and Noonan both agree there are two things that separate her from other players — the way she sees the court and that inner intangible that helps her take over games.

“I think what sticks out about my game is my vision for the court and that killer instinct,” Banks said. “In the game, I’m locked in and I don’t have no other mentality than, ‘Go kill. Go win.’”

“She sees things that other people don’t. … And she’s got, I hate to use ‘killer mentality,’ but when she’s out there, she’s out there to win and she plays that way,” Noonan said.

Noonan is aware he will have plenty of college coaches calling him up and taking visits to Wilmington over the next several seasons. He’s been through this a few times before.

Banks said her dream is to suit up for Dawn Staley at South Carolina at the Division I level someday. 

Until then, good look to whoever stands in her and Ursuline’s path.

“I knew last year that I was going to playing eighth grade varsity,” Banks said. “I’m grateful that I have this opportunity. It feels good and I just can’t wait for more.” — Owen McCue

Paul VI 2024 forward Laura Williams has 21 Division I scholarship offers. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Laura Williams (2024 | Paul VI, Va.)
Williams is no wide-eyed newcomer when it comes to Division I recruitment. The 6-foot-1 forward picked up her first offer, from James Madison, when she was a freshman at Paul VI; two years later, she’s got 21 D-I scholarships in her pocket, and isn’t anywhere near ready to make a decision.

“I honestly like it, I like hearing from every single school that I talk to, get to know,” she said after scoring 12 points in a win over Archbishop Carroll. “I don’t know specifically what I want for college yet, so I like listening to what everyone has to say, taking it in, seeing what every school has to offer. I want to pick the best school for me, personally. I’m having fun with it.”

Williams didn’t mention every school that had offered her, but three that she named were Maryland, Florida State and Pitt, a good indication of the level she’s being recruited at; she said she’d talked to “a lot” of schools that hadn’t offered scholarships, specifically mentioning Wisconsin as one that she’d had multiple positive conversations with. 

Even though she’d been to several Maryland games and had offers from quite a few schools in her region, she said geographic location doesn’t matter in the slightest: it’s all about relationships.

“If I don’t feel a connection with the coach then I don’t want to be there,” she said. “I want to be coached by a staff that I feel like I can have lifelong relationships with.”

But while some members of her class have already made their college commitments, Williams says she’s going to at least play through the 2023 offseason before honing in either before her senior season or even during it. 

She’ll be playing this upcoming summer on the EYBL with the Fairfax (Va.) Stars, with whom she’s spent her entire grassroots career. While there, she’ll be hoping to show off her continued transition from a post player to a big wing, handling the ball and hitting shots, something she did a bit of in scoring 12 points against Archbishop Carroll on Sunday; she said most of the schools that are recruiting her are doing so as a ‘4.’

“I do want to work on my ball-handling, outside shooting,” she said. “I have incorporated outside shooting a little bit, this is my first year hitting a 3 in a high school game.”

Williams certainly comes from an athletic family. Her father is Super Bowl-winning quarterback Doug Williams, who played football at Grambling State; both her and her mother, Raunda Williams, played high school basketball, but she’ll be the first in her family to keep it going in college.. Laura Williams gave her father credit for helping keep her motivated and reminding her that she’s always got to be working, but even more to her mother.

“Even though my mom might not have played at the highest level, she’s the one who’s pushing me the most, she’s taking me to all my tournaments, sacrificing her time to get what I want,” she said. “I definitely appreciate both of my parents.” — Josh Verlin

Kayleigh Heckel (2024 | Long Island Lutheran, N.Y.) 
Heckel fits right on Long Island Lutheran’s powerhouse squad, a big reason why they’re one of the best teams in the country this year.

The 5-foot-9 junior got her first Division I offer from LIU-Brooklyn as an eighth grader. That first offer felt good, but she knew her work was not finished. Playing for Exodus EYBL opened up many doors for Heckel and now the Nike Tournament of Champions MVP has gathered around 20 offers from mid-major and Power 5 programs.  

“It was nice to have that satisfaction of my first offer but I still wanted to get a lot better,” she said. “Once I joined Exodus, that’s when I really started picking up a lot.”

Heckel could only recall a few offers from memory, the likes of which included Ohio State, Rutgers, Princeton, and Columbia. She has also received interest from Stanford, Arizona, UConn, and South Carolina, but no offers have been made yet. 

The dual-sport athlete, who spends the offseason also playing softball, has visited Princeton and other schools local to her like Manhattan and Marist. The offers and interest have increased, but Heckel’s attitude has remained the same — grateful and hungry. 

“I think it's just being grateful for the ones that are really interested in me and have offered me,” she added. “But I'm still looking forward to continuing to get better and not being satisfied with all the offers that I have.” 

The point guard is academically driven and she wants a school that will challenge her in the classroom just as much as the hardwood. Heckel also values family and wants a team with a “family feeling.” 

“If I am going to be away from my home,” Heckel said. “I want to have my other family with me where I am.” 

Heckel’s tremendous vision makes her an elite passer, but she also loves getting downhill to the rim and clamping down opposing guards. She plans on incorporating a mid-range jumpshot and a more consistent 3-pointer as well. 

She attributes her growth as a player to her time competing against boys as a little kid in baseball and basketball until she was in seventh grade. Heckel began playing because a boys team in her town needed an extra player. 

“It was that extra level of competition,” Heckel said. “Since they are stronger and faster, I think it really helped me develop into the person that I am.

“It was always a bigger challenge.” — Jared Leveson 

St. John's College 2024 guard Kyndal Walker is establishing herself as one of the top PGs in the country. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)

Kyndal Walker (2024 | St. John’s College, D.C.)
Kyndal Walker said she hasn’t always been the center of attention. It took a little time for the rest of the country to take notice of one of D.C.’s top guards.

Now, they know her name.

Walker’s emerged as a national recruit — entering HoopGurlz’ 2024 rankings at No. 26 this fall — and is starring for a St. John’s College team that continues to challenge itself against national competition.

“It’s really cool for me. I’ve never been a person who’s always in the spotlight or a big name who’s known, but I kind of surprise people,” Walker said. “I feel like I’m kind of an underdog, so I like to keep that with me and just play with a chip on my shoulder. Not many people know about me, but now they do. I just want to keep enforcing that and keep playing my game and having fun most importantly.”

Walker and St. John’s didn’t have a full season during a COVID-impacted freshman campaign in 2020-21, so last season was her true first year of high school hoops. She said she garnered some college attention heading into last year with St. John’s but that grew throughout the 2021-22 season, when she was a third team All-Metro selection, and with Team Takeover this summer.

“It was really fun for me and I really grew a lot as a player,” Walker said of last season. “I was immediately thrown into the fire as one of the top players on the team and a leader. I’ve kind of grown into that role and I’m just trying to take it to another level right now.”

Her list of college offers is piling up. Arizona, Michigan State, Arizona State, Maryland, DePaul and Wake Forest are among the list of Power 5 programs she listed who have offered her. She’s visited Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Maryland and most of the North Carolina schools and will plan her other visits after the high school season.

“Every school’s nice, every team has something to offer, so I it’s going to be a tough choice whenever I do make the choice, but it’s exciting,” Walker said. 

Walker, a 5-10 point guard from Fulton, Md., was Game MVP of her team’s win over Penn Charter on Sunday, pouring in a team-high 21 points. College coaches love the poise she brings to the floor at the point, never getting too high or low, and the fast pace she can play at, which will translate to the next level.

She said her defense, including some of the overlooked things like taking charges, is also one of the major assets she brings to the court.

This season, Walker is working on her leadership. She also said reading the floor is starting to become one of her strengths. She created for herself and her teammates often in Sunday’s win, showing off a good feel for when to make the pass or not.

The next evolution in her game is adding the 3-point shot, which she showed off against Penn Charter with three back breaking long balls in the second half.

“I’m known for being a driver, pick & roll, making plays out of it,” Walker said. “But now with people knowing that and knowing who I am and them sagging on the screens, I’m able to shoot, so you kind of have to pick your poison.”

Despite earning her spot in the conversation amongst the top players in the country, Walker doesn’t plan on letting up any time soon.

“I’m going to go work for it,” Walker said. “Nothing’s given to you, so I’m going to try and go take it.” — Owen McCue

Madisen McDaniel (2024 | Bishop McNamara, Md.)
Madisen McDaniel
got her first offer from Maryland as a seventh grader playing with Team Takeover’s eighth grade team. 

She couldn’t stop smiling with all of the excitement, but disaster struck during her freshman year when McDaniel tore the ACL in her right knee in February of 2021. McDaniel had surgery the following March and played limited minutes in December after rehab, but did not return to full on-court play until January 2022. 

The 5-foot-7 point guard missed her first summer with Team Takeover’s EYBL squad. But with a strong support system and new perspective, McDaniel came back strong and the Division I interest has not faded. 

“I can't take anything for granted knowing that I had an injury,” McDaniels said after scoring 14 points and earning MVP honors in their win over South Shore (N.Y.). “When I’m on the floor, I play like it's my last game.” 

Plenty of coaches have noticed McDaniels’ resurgence. She has collected offers from Duke, Miami, NC State, Tennessee, and Georgia. Heckel even took her first visit to Duke last weekend for their game against Louisville. The Cardinals have also contacted McDaniel, but have not made her an offer. 

McDaniels is dangerous out of the high pick-and-roll and when she gets downhill toward the rim. She’s fine-tuning her shot off the dribble and is focused on becoming the floor general that the coaches at the next level thinks that she can become. 

McDaniels’ uncle, Ronnie Lester, who won seven NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers (one as a player and six as an executive), has played a large part in developing the junior guard and offers recruiting advice.

“I talk to him a lot,” McDaniels said about her uncle, whose number 12 is retired by Iowa. “He watches all my games and he gives me a lot of pointers.I try to listen to him as much as I can.” 

She added that her uncle told her to “‘go to a school that appreciates you as much as you need them,’” adding “‘when you’re going to a school you definitely want them to have you as their top priority’.” 

McDaniels appreciates everything her uncle has done for her, basketball-wise. But the support from her mother and grandmother gave McDaniels the strength to come back from tearing her knee and recovering from surgery. 

“I doubted myself mentally, '' McDaniels recalled. “We prayed a lot when I got down on myself.” 

“They told me to keep God in my corner, that's something that helped me a lot.” — Jared Leveson 

Joanie Quinn (2024 | Cardinal O’Hara) 
The 5-foot-8 guard has become the primary ball handler and nice scoring option for the Lions this season. Joanie Quinn played the ‘1’ and the ‘2’ spot last season, but with senior departures and an injury to senior point guard Bridget Dawson, Quinn has found her role.

“I’ve always said I am like a 1.5 and that I can do both,” she said. “I think this year being more confident in taking up the ball and the confidence that the coaches have in me to take up the ball has actually helped my game.” 

The junior has not received any offers yet, but has garnered interest from Division I schools: Bucknell, Northeastern, Penn, Columbia, and La Salle. 

Quinn is seeing the floor well from the point position and distributes the ball well, but still finds opportune times to attack. She scored nine points in a 46-28 win over George School. Quinn aims on improving her defense and ball handling to make her a more well-rounded guard. — Jared Leveson 

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