Rewind back to the end of July. I was watching Fencor play the Indiana Family during the quarterfinals of Nike Nationals. Pat Summitt and Pokey Chapman also were watching from the track above court, a few feet from me. At that point, Summitt had her commitment from Angie Bjorklund and Sydney Smallbone and Chapman was closing in on her big recruit, in Tyra White. Still, sitting on Fencor’s Elena DelleDonne and Caroline Doty as well as the Family’s Skylar Diggins and Ta’Shia Phillips, the two had a look as if they were pondering something very intriguing. Rebecca Gray came down the right sideline and, with a defender on her, knocked down a pull-up 16-footer nice enough to raise an eyebrow on both coaches. Then the question:
"Where is that kid going again?"
I let them know it was Carolina Blue that Gray would be wearing. I also reminded them both that Italee Lucas of Las Vegas and Cetera DeGraffenreid of Sylva, N.C., also were heading to Chapel Hill. The looks on their faces were priceless. "Are you kidding me?” they said with a glance.
It would be fun to see the looks on their faces now that the Tar Heels have added a commitment from She'la White, the standout guard from Norfolk Collegiate School in Norfolk, Va., and the floor general for the Boo Williams Summer League squad which was among the best club teams in the country this past summer. Add ex-NBA player and UNC stand out Al Wood’s daughter, Candace, to the fray and you have five outstanding backcourt performers all headed to Chapel Hill.
UNC 07, 08 Recruits
(with HoopGurlz star rating)
The first three - Lucas, DeGraffenreid and Gray - are the Nos. 6, 14 and 47 overall prospects, per HoopGurlz.com, in 2007. White is No. 22 in the 2008 class, according to HoopGurlz, and Wood is destined to be included in expanded rankings.
So is there room for all this talent? Well, for the 2007 trio, there are some big shoes to fill in all-world Ivory Latta and Camille Little ,who are tops in both scoring and minutes played for the Heels. Next year, North Carolina also loses Alex Miller, who gets significant run at the guard spot (23.3 per game through 30 games). After that, the Heels will have just two guards on their roster in Heather Clayton, a sophomore, and Meghan Austin, a junior.
So perhaps the gut reaction of over-recruiting the guard spot is all hog-wash.
It's difficult to ask incoming freshmen to fill the shoes of one of the best players to ever wear your school colors. So it makes sense to recruit depth at the position and build the team around your upperclassmen. Next year, Carolina will have a nucleus of Erlana Larkins, LaToya Pringle and Rashanda McCants in the front court to help intergrate the young pups in the backcourt.
Then in 2008 coach Sylvia Hatchell loses Pringle and Larkins, but has McCants as a veteran and a developing Jessica Breland, along with the amazing 2007 class being a year more seasoned, and then you bring in two more very good guards in White and Wood, as well as one of the top post players in the 2008 class in Chay Shegog. In which case, life, post-Latta and post-Larkins, doesn’t seem so bad; in fact it is something to get extremely excited about. The Tar Heels also are in the mix on some highly ranked undecided 2008 players such as April Sykes and Jasmine Dixon.
We’ve seen highly touted players come in droves to various programs and beg for transfers because there aren’t enough minutes or shots to go around. Lucas was the first to sign and also is the highest rated of the commits so far. With all the other guards coming in, the right attitude of earning one’s minutes will have to be a selling point to these kids by the coaches, as will the fact that they may get better in practice going at each other.
In this group you’re looking at DeGraffenreid and White as the only true point guards, with Lucas and Gray as combo guards who are accomplished scorers. On the other hand, Lucas is used to having the ball in her hands and often is compared to Latta. Wood is a two-guard as well so they will have some interchangeable parts to work with.
So while the 27-3 TarHeels and the rest of the schools in the NCAA tournament race prepare themselves for some madness, let us not forget that these coaches are working hard behind the scenes to keep the fridge stocked and their programs marching. Their assistants' thumbs are ready to fall off from text messaging and emailing after practice. The Heels just seem to be clicking on all cylinders in recruiting right now, and time will tell if that means they can pay Duke back for their two losses this year or f the cynics are right about their having many good players and too few minutes.
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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.