92 players made the voyage to Riverfront Sports in Scranton on October 2 for the 8th edition of EST Fall Showcase. All different levels of future collegiate basketball were represented, and participants came in at various levels of the recruiting process or their basketball journey as a whole.
As has consistently been the case in recent years, some of those players came in with reputations that precede them. Name recognition, undeniable talent, accolades, scholarship offers and/or commitments – once again, a healthy percentage of upstate New York and northern/central Pennsylvania’s premier players came through.
Something that was truly refreshing was how hard many of them competed. This is not always the case – I’ve seen the ‘big name’ players show up & go through the motions in the past at many events, mine included. There was none of that here, as even players that are already committed to scholarship programs came in playing like there was a point to prove. These players are so often the tone setters at these events and at any gym they enter, so to see them lead by example and compete at a high level was a great feeling.
A quick list of some of those players, particularly from the 2023 & 2024 classes, that came in as ‘headliner’ types and brought the heat (alphabetical order, by class):
Sophie Auer (Lewiston-Porter/XGen Elite 2023, Daemen commit): A couple years ago, I received a message from a young and hungry Sophie, an intriguing & athletic WNY up & comer looking for some enhanced basketball opportunities. All she’s done since then is put in great time & effort, embrace every opportunity to get pushed out of her comfort zone, and progress at a level beyond the vast majority in her class. On this occasion, it presented itself in the form of taking a day off the soccer field – the multi-sport standout, already a 1,000 point scorer in basketball, joined the 200 point club in soccer 48 hours before this event – to make the trip to Scranton to compete. And when I say compete, I say it with my chest. She may already have her next four years planned at rising Division II power Daemen, but she played with the same energy & motor that she had when she was starting to try & get on the radar. Sophie was a consistent contributor throughout, created positive team results in both 3v3 & 5v5 by doing ‘the little things’, used her explosive athleticism & toughness to be a force on the glass coming from the wing, and showed ability to get paint touches & create for teammates off the dribble. Sophie has all the potential to be a legitimate four-year impact player at the collegiate level.
Kaety L’Amoreaux (Maine-Endwell/Hoopers NY 2023, Fairfield commit): I noticed Kaety making conversation & laughing with teammates on the bench during 5v5 play, but when she stepped inside the lines of competition, it was straight to business. And that’s business as usual for the once-Fordham (pre-coaching change) & now Fairfield pledge, who has proven time & time again to be among the fiercest competitors I’ve gotten the chance to know in *checks the calendar* approaching a decade of this. She set the tone from the first minute of 3v3 play, putting her stamp on that portion of play at both ends. Offensively, she showed the range when given room, but much of her time was spent getting downhill & putting pressure on the defense with paint touches and rim attacks. Defensively, she was nothing short of a terror for much of the morning. In a session that was heavy on the quality backcourt play, she frustrated opposing guards the entire time with quickness, toughness, and a burning competitive fire that didn’t let her take a possession off. The more things change, the more they stay the same – she’s been one of the most advanced players in the gym since middle school, and she’s been one of the most dogged competitors that plays like there’s a point to prove the whole way. Another day at the office for Kaety, who imposed her will throughout the day.
Leah Middleton (Auburn/I-90 Elite 2023, Le Moyne commit): All gas, no brakes for Leah. She’s exploded on the scene over the last couple years and rapidly emerged as one of Central New York’s premier talents, and she’s now playing with the presence & confidence to match her seemingly constant growth on the floor. An athletic 5’11” wing, Leah’s continued to add to the tool box & now has the ability to consistently create her own scoring opportunities in 1v1/isolation situations, a valuable tool as offense can successfully run through her in the half-court. She went bonkers offensively in 3v3 play – hot by the end of their first game & turned the heat up a few more notches in the second matchup. She scored at all three levels – a couple particularly impressive finishes at the rim, rose up off the bounce & connected on a few midrange Js, and added a few threes when the defense gave her airspace. She cooled off a bit as 5v5 progressed, but then her impact was felt on the defensive end, swarming on/off the ball, picking up full court at times, and serving as one of the leaders of an energetic push at that end. Complete day for Leah, who has the potential to be a major player pretty early on in one of the country’s premier Division II conferences with continued progression.
Brianna Barr-Buday (Nichols School/XGen Elite 2024): Bri, a 6’2″ forward whose current Division I offer sheet includes the likes of Buffalo, Saint Joseph’s, La Salle, and a handful of MAAC programs, was undoubtedly one of the most actively recruited players at the D1 ranks at the event. It was easy to see from the opening minutes that, typical to her nature, she was going to empty the tank & compete throughout. A strong & physically imposing frontcourt presence that embraces physicality & often wins the battles, she was dominant for long stretches from the first rotations of 3v3. What caught my eye early was how she ‘knew where the money was’, picking her spots to attack & wasting no time in exploiting any mismatch. In 5v5 play, it may have actually been her flashing of the court vision that was most eye-opening for me, as she showed a new dimension with ability to find teammates & connect passes in tight windows after attacking out of a face-up. What remained a constant throughout the day was Bri’s prowess on the glass at both ends & finishing ability around the rim, including through contact. Not only was she one of the most decorated prospects in the building, she was one of the hardest playing competitors as well. Many people had good showings, but no one had a better day than Bri IMO.
Alexis Ferguson (Central Dauphin (PA)/Team Pennsylvania 2024): Lex’s infectious energy & supreme athleticism took last year’s Fall Showcase by storm, and she came back to Scranton this time around & picked up where she left off. She came in this year with offers at both the Division I and II levels, and in an afternoon session with no shortage of size & frontcourt prowess, she made her presence felt from the jump. Lex is a superior athlete at 5’11” with unmatched bounce, which allowed her to block shots it didn’t look like she could get, alter others that appeared to be open looks at first, and rise up over the top of defenders in close range. She also showed some extension of the range, knocking down a three & a couple 18 footers over the course of the event. Her upside continues to be clearly evident & I anticipate Lex continue to develop through her college years. Next up is a likely breakout junior campaign at Central Dauphin (Harrisburg), one of Pennsylvania’s more respected high school programs.
Audrey Shields (Emma Willard/NY Havoc 2024): Along with her Division I offers & growing attention at that level, Audrey checks another box that no one else at the event could as a German U17 national team member. Injury in Europe cut short her FIBA playing experience and July viewing opportunities this summer, but she’s back at full strength & noticeably building, which should be scary for everyone else. The 6’1″ do-it-all guard plays the game with smooth fluidity, a grown-up composure & moxie, and had court presence unlike pretty much anyone else. She showed the toughness here as well as she competed at a high level while battling through an event day migraine. This wasn’t her biggest scoring day, but she opened up the full bag of tricks in the midst of her scoring production including deep range & an effortless shooting stroke. She also consistently made positive non-scoring impact – on the glass, defensively with ability to guard multiple positions, and time in the weight room is showing as she’s better able to impose her will physically. On top of that, the mental/intellectual side is just as valuable as the physical with Audrey. I’ve more heavily used the term ‘compound thinker’ of late – a player that has the feel to play a step ahead & string numerous actions together on the court – and she embodies that with ability to always think forward and act quickly on the next read or movement. Not only should Audrey have a wide array of choices at the D1 level when it’s decision time, she’ll potentially have the opportunity to play this game competitively for a long time.
Faith Walker (West York (PA)/Sideline Cancer 2024): The 2021 Fall Showcase’s most powerful lasting impression may have been the showing Faith put together. At that point, she had one Division I offer (Fordham). This year, with a few more offers in hand & plenty of attention at the D1 ranks, the multi-sport standout took a day off from volleyball season to come through for the 2022 edition. She showed all ranges of the exceptional versatility she brings over the course of the event. As a 6’1″ wing and great basketball athlete with undying motor, it often felt like she was swarming around the court and always in position to make a play. Her defensive effort & prowess was notable as she guarded multiple positions & made it difficult at that end for numerous high-level players. She got to the rim and finished on several occasions, and I was impressed with how even in an individual showcase-style setting, Faith ‘played the right way’ and looked to create action to get others involved. Like many others on this list, Faith’s growth potential in years to come is fantastic, and smart money is on her to blossom & flourish at the collegiate level.