STORY & PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
Not to give away too much about HoopGurlz.com's rankings for the 2007 class, which will be released early next week, but the Duke Blue Devils just became the first college women's basketball program to land commitments from two players who will be ranked among nation's top 10. Not only that, but coach Gail Goestenkors nailed her commits right in basketball's two sweet spots. Those would be an inside force and someone to get that force the ball.
That's one of the meanings to be derived from Jasmine Thomas' verbal to Duke this week. She joined another Thomas, Krystal, who made the leap last spring.
The most recent Thomas, Jasmine, out of Oakton High School in Vienna, Va., is a point guard, one of the nation's very best who probably should have been on Team USA at the Americas qualifier this summer. The first Thomas, Krystal, is the nation's premier power forward, who wasn't even invited to USA Basketball's tryouts (notice any trends here?). They will be a dynamic duo, who may share a chip on their shoulders, which ain't a bad thing.
Duke's 2007 take also includes Karima Christmas, an undersized power player at 5-feet-11, but another outstanding athlete. Those three will have two seasons with Abby Waner, one of the nation's best freshmen last season. And they'll have three with two of last year's signees, Bridgette Mitchell and Joy Cheek, who'll have the wings ably manned. The only piece missing - though Krystal Thomas and sophomore Careem Gay could man the lane as a duo - is a true post. But guess what? There aren't many of them out there, so the Blue Devils won't exactly be alone if they cannot unearth one.
This isn't necessarily to tout Duke as a looming powerhouse, though you have to like the Blue Devils' chances in 2008 and 2009. No, the shot across the bow of every second- and third-tier major Division I program is the return of the superpowers.
Last year's No. 1, Tina Charles of Queens, N.Y., did go to perenially powerful Connecticut, but everyone else and her sister got into the act with top-flight prospects. Heck, Amber Harris, a 6-6 forward from Indianapolis who not only can dunk, but runs like a gazelle and dribbles and shoots like a guard, ended up at Xavier, for goshsakes.
It's a different story in 2007. UConn snatched its second straight No. 1, Maya Moore of Lawrenceville, Ga., to pair with Charles. Tennessee, which had a so-so '06 class, snared a commitment from the nation's top shooter, Angie Bjorklund of Spokane, Wash. Moreover, Pat Summit's crew is in on just about every other elite prospect left on the board, including the highly coveted post, Kelley Cain. Not to be outdone, Stanford, the Left Coast perennial, already has a verbal from Kayla Pedersen of Mesa, Ariz., who is 6-4 and probably can play every position on the floor except point guard.
Any of these college programs sounding familiar?
It's the return of the money programs. We'd call them the old-money programs, but Duke, in women's basketball, is more new money. For now, the Blue Devils are leading the run on top 10 prospects. The way things are going, it will not be a shock if they have some company in 2007.
Alyssia Brewer, a 6-foot-3 forward out of Sapulpa, Okla., is destined to be one of the most highly recruited inside players in the 2008 class. She is one of the more athletic bigs in the country, regardless of class, and already does a number of things well, in spite of not playing basketball that long. She also already is on top of her recruiting, too, lopping a long list down to Baylor, California, Duke, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Stanford, Texas, USC, and Vanderbilt, according to her high-school coach, Darlean Culp. Arkansas, Mississippi, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Tulsa also are in the mix. As for the upcoming high-school season, Culp says of Brewer, "I believe the next step for 'Lyssi is to become more of a dominant factor, both offensively and defensively. It's nice to be a team player, but sometimes she's too much of a team player because in our league she can put up numbers very quickly and very easily. However, she's not one to get caught up in numbers and accolades, but when you have the ability to dominate, I expect her to do it. So my challenge for her is to dictate and dominate the tempo of the game, to play hard every possession, be more consistent scoring, and leave to doubts to anyone. It's the mental preparation and the mental challenge that I'm really going to try to reach." ... Colleges, of course, could begin corresponding by letter to Class of 2008 prospects this month. One of 2008's absolute best, April Sykes of Crawford, Miss., reports that the process already is getting crazy. She came home one day to find 35 letters in her mail box. "I guess that's the life," Sykes said, "and I have to choose." ... Speaking of choosing, Jalana Childs of Orlando, Fla., has made a commitment to Kansas State. ... Another of the most highly recruited 2007 prospects, guard Tyra White of Kansas City, Mo., has narrowed her leaders to Lousiana Tech, LSU, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina. Kansas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech also still are angling for home visits.
Glenn Nelson is the publisher of HoopGurlz.com and the editor-in-chief of Scout Media (www.Scout.com), an online sports network and magazine-publishing company and subsidiary of Fox Interactive Media. Glenn also founded and coached
the Dragons and Northwest HoopGurlz select girls basketball teams. He previously was a longtime, national-award-winning basketball columnist and writer for The Seattle
Times. His work also has appeared in several national magazines and books. He is co-author of "Rising Stars: The Ten Best Players in the NBA" (Rosen Publishing, 2002). He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.