PHOTOS & DESIGN BY GLENN NELSON
The 2007 recruiting classes are basically complete with only three kids from the HoopGurlz.com National Hot 100 waiting until the spring to sign. The best way to describe this year’s signings would be after one of George Lucas’s Star Wars films, "The Empire Strikes Back."
Indeed, after a so-so class in 2006, the legendary Pat Summitt and Tennessee were the talk of this year, recruiting four players in the Top 38 and signing them at numerous positions.
Tennessee received verbal commitments from its two guards during the spring. Sydney Smallbone, the No. 38 overall prospect, was first. Then Angie Bjorklund, the No. 1 guard in the class and the No. 2 overall player, followed. Getting those two early gave Summitt the momentum to land one of the country’s top centers in Kelley Cain. Tennessee then finished with perhaps the best combination of size and athleticism in Vicki Baugh. Baugh, the No. 5 prospect, has a world of potential and versatility that really makes this class well-rounded as well as talented.
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In spite of Summitt’s success, the SEC yielded its tradition status as conference power to the surging ACC and a rejuvenated Pac-10.
The ACC signed the most Top 10 prospects (four), the most Top 25 (nine), the most Top 50 (14) and most HoopGurlz National Hot 100 (20). The Pac-10, which landed five teams in the Top 25 classes, finished second with 17 Hot 100 signees. The Big Ten had more Hot 100 signees, 14-13, but the SEC finished third in the conference power rankings by virtue of signing more prospects ranked in the Top 25 (3-1) and Top 50 (7-5).
After Tennessee, two ACC teams made huge hauls in recruiting. Maryland, on the heels of its 2005 NCAA National Championship, signed the No. 2 class with five players, all in the top 60, and headlined by an in-state scoring machine in Marah Strickland (No. 9). The Terps also went down South and signed Andrea Mingo (No. 16) from Georgia, a big strong kid who can play the wing or the forward spot. Joining them will be New York’s Anjale Barrett (No. 46), a combo guard with perhaps the nicest handle on the East Coast, Kim Rodgers (No. 48) a three-point sharpshooter and a strong point guard from North Carolina in Katheryn Lyons (No. 58). It’s a perimeter heavy class, so look for head coach Brenda Frese to look for front court help in 2008.
At No. 3, Duke signed two Top 10 players in Krystal Thomas (No. 7) and Jasmine Thomas (No. 8) and added another ranked player in Karima Christmas (No. 31). All three players are versatile and athletic enough to play multiple positions and this level of recruiting was needed just to keep up with the team that knocked them off in the title game in ’05 and deal with the resurgence of the usual powerhouse programs.
Stanford produced a phenomenal encore to its top notch 2006 class by signing four players ranked in the top 75 players, including Kayla Pedersen (No. 4) who along with Baugh is leading the way for the combination of size and versatility. Pedersen is a 6-4 wing/forward with perhaps the highest skill level of any of the big players in the class. She handles the ball, shoots it, and goes to work in the paint. Also heading to The Farm is Jeanette Pohlen (No. 22), the 5-11 combo guard with phenomenal passing skills; Hannah Donaghe (No. 45), a high rising shooting guard and Ashley Cimino (No. 74) a 6-5 forward who can step out and stroke the three-ball.
Rounding out the top five is North Carolina, giving the ACC three of the top five classes. The Tar Heels signed an impressive trio of guards in Italee Lucas (No. 6), Cetera DeGraffenreid (No. 14) and Rebecca Gray (No. 47). All three bring different strengths to the floor, all are very good scorers and passers and it should give head coach Sylvia Hatchell plenty of options in her guard rotation for life after Ivory Latta.
The Connecticut Huskies landed the No. 1 player in the country for the second consecutive year. The signing of Maya Moore of Suwanee, Ga., further contributes to the Star Wars theme, perhaps the Return of the (recruiting) Jedi, as coach Geno Auriemma not only signed the top prospect but also one of the fastest players in the country in Lorin Dixon. Dixon has a connection with current freshman and the 2006 class’s top prospect, Tina Charles, as the two led Christ the King Regional High School to the National Championship last year.
Ohio State landed the top ranked post in the country, Jantel Lavender, as well as one of the quickest perimeter scorers in the Midwest with the signing of Brittany Thomas. Georgia Tech nabbed two Top 20 players in Alex Montgomery (No. 15) and Iasia Hemmingway (No. 20) who should give the ACC fits from the wings. UCLA had a huge class, raiding the state of Washington’s cupboards for two of their top players. The Bruins also kept some local talent and went coast to coast by getting Doreena Campbell from Virginia. This class was a huge step for coach Kathy Olivier as she will graduate the last of the WNBA caliber trio when Noelle Quinn graduates this year.
Oklahoma may have had the surprise of the class when they went into Northern California and signed the area’s top point guard in Danielle Robinson (No. 21) and added the scoring sensation Jenny Vinning (No. 33) to their backcourt. Texas added two highly touted in-state players in Rachel Rentschler (No. 26) and Kathleen Nash (No. 40). Washington signed an impressive class headlined by Kali Bennett (No. 36), Georgia signed two Top 50 players as did LSU, which capped its class with an eleventh hour signing of Tyra White (No. 17), one of the best scorers in the country, along with LaTear Eason (No. 52). Vanderbilt rounds out the top 15 after signing five-star point guard Jence Rhoads and guard Chanel Chisholm, the No. 80 overall prospect.
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The HoopGurlz.com Rankings Panel:
Chris Hansen is the National Director of Scouting for Women's Basketball at HoopGurlz.com and Scout.com. He leads the panel that evaluates and ranks girl's basketball prospects nationally for HoopGurlz and Scout.com. Chris has been involved in the women’s basketball community since 1998 as a coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 girl's 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 email@example.com.
Nancy Pfaff is Eastern Analyst for Women's Basketball at HoopGurlz.com and Scout.com. More commonly known as Husky Nan on the Internet, where she is considered one of the nation's authorities on women's basketball and has been evaluating and ranking girl's basketball players for years (www.HuskyNan.com). Nancy also is a senior writer for UConnFan.com and moderator for one of the largest sports communities on the Web, the Boneyard. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.