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This is our second edition of our early season stock risers and breakout players series, spotlighting some players who have come on strong compared to seasons past. In our first edition, we covered players from Carthage, Hollister, Neosho, Joplin, Cabool, Clever, and Fair Grove. In this one, we pick up a few more players in the southwest Missouri area, which covers roughly 120 school districts.
Zoe Reel, 5’9 Crane 2023 – Reel is one of the top sophomores in southwest Missouri and we feel flies a bit under the radar. That is soon to change, because she is putting up some of the best numbers in the area in the early going. How good is she so far? Try 25.2 points and 8 rebounds a game, shooting 56% from the floor and 71% from the line, getting to the charity stripe nearly 10 times per game. Those figures are up from last season when she averaged 19.4 points per outing and shot 42% overall from the field. She is an excellent athlete with a natural feel for the game to go along with aggressiveness and a high level of confidence. She scored 41 points against Greenwood, one of the highest individual scoring figures we have heard of in the early going, and quite possibly the highest, period. Reel’s stock is rising rapidly and the scary thing is that she has much more room for growth as a player. She gets nearly all of her points inside the 3 point line right now, and how her perimeter and floor game develops will determine just how far she can go as a player.
Reagan McCowan, 5’11 Lebanon 2023 – McCowan is another top 2023 player who has been on a tear in the early going. She has grown a couple of inches since last year and seized a larger role in the Lebanon offense and as we predicted in the first edition of our preseason potential breakout players article, she has emerged as a double double machine. Last year’s numbers of 14 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game were very good for a freshman, and so far this season those figures have risen to 22.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. She is shooting 56% from the field and 79% from the line thus far, and has a 33 point game and a 17 rebound game. Against the tough West Plains squad, she managed to score 18 of her team’s 27 points, making 9 of 15 shots. She is getting attention from numerous colleges of all levels and we expect that to continue as she builds her resume on the court.
Graceson Cromer, 5’7 Conway 2022 – There are a handful of very good sets of twin basketball players on the girls side in southwest Missouri, and Cromer is in that group. With Missouri Sports Hall of Famer Lynn Long taking over the reigns in Conway, the Lady Bears are off to a good start to the season (5-2) after going 7-18 last time around. The improvement of Cromer has contributed to that as she has improved her scoring from 14 per game last season to 20.4 this time around. She has made over 3 three pointers per game and is knocking them down at a 36% clip. She is a good athlete, strong and quick, and works hard on her game.
Jameson Cromer, 5’7 Conway 2022 – Jameson is the other Cromer twin and her numbers are up even more over last season. She has just about doubled the 9.5 points per game she averaged last season and is at 18.1 points per contest so far this year, with over 4 rebounds and nearly 3 steals per game thrown in. She is shooting 40% from 3, one of the best marks in the area, especially for players who shoots them as often as she does. Like her sister, she is nailing over 3 three’s per game in the early going. She has all the same attributes as Graceson as an athlete and work ethic as the pair has scored around two-thirds of the Conway points so far.
Norah Clark, 6’0 Nixa 2023 – Clark has grown in stature in more than one way, adding some height since last season and as a stock riser in the area basketball landscape. She has impressed in the early going with her offensive versatility and with her defense. She can guard man to man out on the floor and she can defend the rim with her added size and well above average leaping ability. On offense, she can knock down the 3, score off the dribble with a quick first step, and score down low, making her a difficult matchup for opposing teams. She got varsity time last season during her freshman year, but largely took a back seat on the offensive end to other players and was more of a perimeter defender. This season, with the added size and expanded offensive repertoire, her numbers jump out more. On a balanced Nixa squad that rotates 10 players fairly equally, Clark is averaging 11 points per game while playing around 18 minutes on average. She is also the leading defensive rebounder for the Lady Eagles and is averaging two blocks per game. One can imagine what her numbers might look like per game with more playing time. She is tough and not afraid to get physical around the basket.
Natalie Wilks, 5’11 Sparta 2023 – Sparta is emerging as one of the best girls teams in the area, with 5 sophomore starters who have all played together most of their lives, similar to the dynamic on the Miller girls team. They are led by Laney Humble, who scored 20 points per game last season and is averaging around 26 points per contest so far this season. But we highlight Wilks here because she had a relatively quiet freshman season but has really stepped it up this go around. Her scoring has gone from 5.4 per game to 14.1 and her rebounding from 4.3 per game to 10 this season, making her one of the few players on the girls side to be averaging a double double. On a relatively small team, the size of Wilks is very important to their success. She can score inside or out and is the primary rim protector and post defender for the Lady Spartans, who really should be receiving the same amount of attention that some of the other smaller standout teams in the area are.