With regionals a mere day away (less than that, for those in Eastern time zones), it seems a no more appropriate time than now to give an overall breakdown of this year's top (in stats, at least) players, their (supposed) skills and shortfalls, and perhaps my own (bracket-and-clause-filled) perspective on those players I had the distinct pleasure, and oftentimes difficult task, of playing against.
The individual PER rankings can be found here, and the league statistics from the CIS site are accessible here.
This year's top 10 players, in reverse order, are:
Jill Humbert (G, Saskatchewan)
PER: 27.5; PPG: 15.4; Outstanding stat: assists (113, 4.7 per game, 1st in CIS)
Saskatchewan senior (and Canada West All-star) Humbert has long been a team leader, manning the Huskie helm at PG for the last few seasons and leading her team to their best-ever finish (3rd at nationals) this past year. Humbert's three-point shooting, fast break abilities, dribbling strength, and ability to draw fouls are all assets. From personal experience, extra post help to cut off her driving (and dishing) lane was always needed (and never 100% effective at stopping her). Potential weaknesses? While her acrobatic inside finishing belies her size, she can occasionally get into trouble inside against bigger players (as can anyone of point guard stature); cutting down this sole facet of her game, however, will do opposing teams little good in rendering her inefficient.
Lisa Furchner (F, Laurentian)
PER: 29.5; PPG: 16.6; Outstanding stat: rebounds (223, 10.1 per game, 3rd in CIS)
Furchner, a senior with the Laurentian Voyageurs, has long since put every inch of her 6-plus-foot frame (not to mention her strength in the low post) to use, averaging 16.6 ppg with a more-than-respectable 47.1% field goal shooting. She makes excellent space for herself on the defensive glass, and leads her team in rebounds, points and blocks on the season; in fact, she's only one of two players to finish top-10 nationwide in points- and rebounds-per-game. Her detriment, perhaps, is merely that of the typical post: exceptional inside the key, less effective outside of it. While she is better than most posts from downtown (a noteworthy 11-38 shooting), closing down into a zone and letting Laurentian's big gun try to make it from beyond the arc is a gamble most times will (and probably should) take.
Marisa Haylett (G, Alberta)
PER: 30.3; PPG: 15.8; Outstanding stat: free throws (127, 4th in CIS)
Haylett's strength is, quite clearly, her ability to draw fouls: she is excellent at splitting defenses and going up through the arms of out-of-place defenders. She is both a momentum-carrier and a opponent-bench-shortener, often drawing significant fouls on key players, especially in big games. Yes, she leads her team in points but in steals as well -- she is the kind of well-rounded player that can get things done at both ends of the court. Her fault is, perhaps, on the same plane as her strongest asset, however: she is second on her team in personal fouls against (51), suggesting that while she is exceptionally talented at ripping the ball out of opponents' hands, she also occasionally gets a little too tangled-up.
Amanda Sharpe (F, UNB)
PER: 33.4; PPG: 19.7; Outstanding stat: PPG (2nd in CIS)
Sharpe was recently named AUS MVP, and for good reason: she scored 30-plus points on three separate occasions, and led her team in points, field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks (a remarkable 30, compared to second-best 9). The 6-ft forward, despite being small for a post of her true-5-style position, has played well above her size for years and has led her team to their 10th place ranking through her hard work and tenacity under the glass. Under the glass, though, is pretty much where she thrives: she doesn't have any downtown game, but lucky for her, she doesn't need to -- she's fought through enough double (and a few triple) teams to prove her worth in the paint.
Kim Tulloch (G, Saskatchewan)
PER: 29.0: PPG: 16.9; Outstanding stat: 3 pt percentage (46.4%, 3rd in CIS)
CW MVP Tulloch, despite being listed as a guard, plays like a combination of multiple positions: she will post smaller guards up and physically dominate them on the low block; she will draw slower wings to the outside and knock them on their heels; and she will utilize poor closeouts by either draining three point shots or blowing by flat-footed defenders for mid-range jumpers and layups. To say that her field goal and three point percentages are comparable (49.7 and 46.4 per cent, respectively) is remarkable, considering a FG % of just under 50% is good for a layup-laden post (and she's nearly matching that from outside). Perhaps her sole weakness is a defender of similar calibre (or very strong defensive skills) -- she struggled when matched up against now-teammate Miyazaki, whose equally hybrid-ized skill set made it difficult for her to take advantage of the obvious skill gaps of other players.
Katie Miyazaki (G, Saskatchewan)
PER: 30.4; PPG: 13; Outstanding stat: steals per game (3.63, 1st in CIS)
Miyazaki claimed CW Defensive Player of the Year honours for the second time running (albeit with a completely new squad of teammates), and for good reason: she lead the league in steals per game, not to mention leading her team in rebounds, despite her (arguably) guard status. Miyazaki's athleticism, from both statistical evidence and personal experience, is exemplary: her ability to read offensive players and make steals on front-court passes is exceptional, not to mention her smothering one-on-one D is a challenge many opponents are loathe to meet up with. Her pitfalls? (Is hypertenacious a word? No? Well, it is now.) Katie's enthusiasm can sometimes be her downfall, her defensive fire occasionally getting her in early foul trouble instead of notching her up more stats. With a sweet jumper like hers, though -- and the three point shot she has developed in recent years -- the odd foul isn't going to stop her (especially with this year's supporting cast).
Matteke Hutzler (F, Western)
PER: 36.3; PPG: 13.6; Outstanding stat: FG percentage (55.8, 3rd in CIS)
While announcers have yet to discover the proper pronunciation of her name, Matteke (Muh-teh-kuh Huts-ler, for anyone who happens to be reading this) has taken little offense -- or at least expended little time and energy on the indignity -- and spent the entirety of this past season proving more than her worth to pessimistic pundits who wondered if she, or the program she was heading to, could make a mark on the CIS after her exceptional career on the opposite side of the country. She leads her team in points, blocks, rebounds, and field goal percentage; is tied for free throws attempted; and, perhaps most remarkably, is second on her squad in both steals and assists (did we mention she's a post?). She has led her team to big wins (for example, taking down previously-first-ranked Windsor in an enormous post-Christmas upset), and her nearly inhuman athleticism (if you ever want to see a post out-sprint a point guard, she'll do it (and has already)) is a huge asset, both in full-court road races and under the glass (did you know she can touch the rim?). She can occasionally get into foul trouble, and her free throw shooting -- while it has grown in leaps and bounds through her career -- is still only above-average. She can, however, carry a team -- and she has proven it multiple times -- and as long as she's not in foul trouble, she's usually playing well over 30 minutes (and for good reason).
Hannah Sunley-Paisley (F, Ottawa)
PER: 33.8; PPG: 15.9; Outstanding stat: rebounds per game (11.5, 1st in CIS)
In each year she's played (and each scouting report I've received), analysts have highlighted Sunley-Paisley's rebounding prowess: she cleans up on both the O and D glass (the former of which significantly aids her PPG total, as she grabs -- and then buckets -- the majority of her teammates' missed points). She is a tall body with a significant vertical, and she uses her physicality to her advantage: she'll manhandle anyone who isn't trying hard enough (or, for that matter, just has a momentary lapse in concentration). While she is experienced in beating double (and sometimes triple) teams, however, she occasionally has a tough time with bigger and stronger players: big-bodied posts (like, say, Saskatchewan's Jana Spindler) can sometimes make her struggle more than she wants to and frustrate her underneath. If she can keep her head in it, though, she's deadly (and it's been proven in the past).
Jessica Clémençon (F, Windsor)
PER: 37.0; PPG: 19; Outstanding stat: blocks (44, 2nd in CIS)
Clémençon helped lead her team to a second-place national finish last year, after a near-perfect season; she was CIS rookie of the year last season, and OUA player of the year this year. Her length, strong mid-range jumper, hard finish, and tenacity all work in her favour. She feeds well off of her strong Lancer supporting cast, often slashing through the post for dish passes and offensive rebounds, and is difficult to out-race in the full court. While she is no stranger to physicality, however (her experience in her native France prepared her well for the physical style of CIS play), an excessively pushy post -- especially one equal to her length and athleticism -- can frustrate her and throw her off her game. Ultimately, though, it takes a full team to stop her -- and a full-team defensive mentality -- which is why she has done so well in both stats and wins this year (and, ultimately, earned her 2nd-place PER ranking).
Justine Colley (G, St. Mary's)
PER: 40.0; Outstanding stat: PPG, points, free throws, and field goals (all first in the CIS)
The stats say it all in this case: Justine Colley is a scoring juggernaut. She has scored 30-plus points on six separate occasions (with an incredible personal-best 43 point performance against Acadia in November) with a 46.4% field goal percentage and 35.7% 3pt percentage on the season. She is only 5'9", but can post smaller guards (and medium-sized wings) as easily as she takes long distance shots, and her versatility is what serves her such great favour in this league. As for shortcomings? Well, anyone can be stopped... in theory. She's been held to twelve points once (her season low), seventeen twice, and 19 once... and in a 20-game season, that's saying something. Let's just say "double team" and "deny" are, and will continue to be, two key terms in scouting reports for now and years to come.