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Duke commit Jadyn Donovan takes on new role at Sidwell Friends

Jadyn Donovan averaged 15.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game last season for the Quakers. (Jonathan Castro/USA Basketball)

Editor’s note: This is the third in a five-part series previewing the top five girls basketball players in the Class of 2023. The series counts down to No. 1 and aligns with the start of the 2022-23 high school season. Click here to see the latest rankings from the Class of 2023. Counting down: No. 5 Hannah Hidalgo | No. 4 Aalyah Del Rosario | No. 3 Jadyn Donovan | No. 2 Juju Watkins | No. 1 Mikaylah Williams.

The prospect of leadership can be daunting.

At a girls’ basketball program like Sidwell Friends School (Washington, D.C.), the reigning SCI national champion, the standard is high. The Quakers earned the title of the nation’s best team during last year’s undefeated campaign led by Kiki Rice, the reigning JWS high school basketball Player of the Year and Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year.

Some athletes might rely solely on their court performances to guide their teams to victory, when stepping into the shoes of star players before you requires so much more.

But that isn’t the type of player Sidwell Friends produces. That isn’t Jadyn Donovan.

The two-time gold medalist uses her length, athleticism and red-hot shot to keep any matchup competitive. As a junior at Sidwell Friends, Donovan averaged 15.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game. She’s a vocal leader with an understanding of what her team needs from her on and off the court.

Donovan, a 6-foot guard, has already made her mark at Sidwell Friends, and she has one final season at the high school level to build upon her legacy.

Coach’s analysis

Tamika Dudley, the reigning Naismith High School Coach of the Year, leads the charge for the Quakers as they look to reach similar heights this season with Donovan as the centerpiece.

“Her athletic ability is unmatched,” Dudley said. “There’s not a girl in the country right now — I don’t care what class — that’s as athletic as she is. Her ability to finish around the rim and her mid-range shot, it’s remarkable.”

Sidwell Friends returns four starters, all of whom are ranked in the top-100 in their respective classes, but a repeat of last year’s historic success isn’t promised.

“It’s about how the team comes together and how we can get them to buy into the rules,” Dudley said. “Hopefully, [Donovan] will pick up where Kiki left off, in terms of leading by example, helping our young kids assimilate to our culture and our way of doing things.

“I think Jadyn leads in her own way. We’re not looking for the same thing; we’re just looking for leadership to affirm or reassure who we are.”

When she arrived at Sidwell Friends, Donovan was used to playing in the post. Dudley and her coaching staff worked to shift Donovan’s position to where she felt most natural, which was on the perimeter.

“In our program, she was a unicorn,” Dudley said. “We were able to get her to focus on playing the game the right way and get her out of her comfort zone. We evolved her to the perimeter. We focused on putting her in those uncomfortable positions on offense.

“Just getting her to be more disciplined and refined was one of the focuses of her development.”

Catching up

Donovan spent her second consecutive gold-medal summer with Team USA, this year starting five of seven games for the U17 national team in Debrecen, Hungary. While averaging just over 19 minutes per game, she contributed 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.

Nobody on the team shot better than Donovan, who was 32 of 53 from the field throughout the tournament.

In August, Donovan announced her commitment to play for coach Kara Lawson at Duke, where she will remain close to home and pursue a degree from one of the nation’s top universities. The first recruit in Duke’s 2023 class, she chose the Blue Devils over Notre Dame. She is also the highest-ranked Duke recruit since the hiring of Lawson, who spent her freshman year of high school playing for the Quakers.

Donovan will continue to build her brand after signing with agency SIG Sports in early October.

Caroline Makauskas is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also covers a variety of sports on her TikTok @cmakauskas. Follow her on Twitter @cmakauskas.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

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