A-to-Z guide to signing week starts and ends with X factors
IMHO, it's shaping up as one of the most exciting weeks of the year. Catching a T-H-E-M-E? It's all about the letters this week.
So before the national letters of intent start flying, we've got 26 letters, A to Z, to set up the NCAA early signing period for women's basketball.
P.S. You're going to want to buckle up.
A: Aliyah Boston. We begin with a player who can shake up the entire week. Boston, the No. 3 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100, has a collection of gold medals from USA Basketball, including one from the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 championships, where she was named MVP. She followed that up this year with golds in the FIBA U17 World Cup and at the Youth Olympics, where she won in three-on-three. "What's really exciting for any coach who works with her is that she's not a finished product," Worcester (Massachusetts ) coach Sherry Levin said. "Her ceiling is really high." Boston's finalists are Connecticut, Notre Dame, Ohio State and South Carolina.
B: The Big Ten is the big enchilada this week. Maryland and Ohio State go into the early signing period 1-2 in the recruiting class rankings. Michigan State sits at No. 4, and Indiana and Penn State make the top-20 cut. Rutgers sits just outside.
C: Canada. From Ruth Hamblin to Kia Nurse, our neighbors to the north have injected the NCAA game with some gems. Ready for the next? Say hello to Laeticia Amihere, a 6-foot-3 high-flying forward from Ontario and the No. 10 prospect in the class. She made global waves when she was 15 for dunking on a fast break. She's returning to competition after tearing her ACL last October. Early reviews say she's stronger than ever. That's saying something, considering she was ranked the No. 2 prospect prior to her injury. "She can be one of the best players in the world, guaranteed," King's Christian coach Zelimir Stevanovic said. "I will sign my name to that anytime." Did we mention she's undeclared? Her three finalists are Kentucky, Louisville and South Carolina. Which leads us to ...
D: Dawn Staley and South Carolina are in position to turn the week upside-down. Last week alone, No. 7 Zia Cooke and No. 13 Breanna Beal gave verbals to the Gamecocks. South Carolina also remains in the running for No. 1 Haley Jones, No. 3 Aliyah Boston, No. 9 Rickea Jackson and No. 10 Laeticia Amihere.
E: Eboni Walker. Winner? Winner, anyone? Sorry. Charli Turner Thorne at Arizona State already has a verbal from this one. Walker, a 6-foot wing and the No. 43 prospect, is a key part of a Centennial (Las Vegas) team that has won four straight Nevada state titles. Her versatility will be a welcome sight in Tempe and a nightmare for opponents.
F: Frese, as in Brenda. As in the coach who has the No. 1 class heading into the early signing period. The four-player bonanza is headlined by Ashley Owusu, the No. 1 point guard and the No. 5 prospect overall. Owusu, who stars at national powerhouse Paul VI (Fairfax, Virginia), is strong, athletic and creative. Frese also has commitments from a pair of New Jersey standouts. Diamond Miller, a 6-foot-1 guard, is the No. 18 prospect in the class. Faith Masonius is a 6-foot wing ranked 49th. Finally, Frese has a verbal commitment from Zoe Young, a 5-foot-10 point guard out of Iowa ranked 30th .
G: Griffin, Aubrey Griffin. The daughter of former NBA star Adrian Griffin is the lone commitment thus far for UConn. Griffin is the next in a pipeline from Ossining (New York) to Storrs, Connecticut. She follows Saniya Chong and Andra Espinoza-Hunter, who has transferred to Mississippi State. Griffin missed her sophomore season with an ACL injury but made a strong comeback as a junior, when she averaged 28.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.2 steals, 2.9 assists and 1.6 blocks. Her older brother, Alan, is a freshman guard at Illinois.
H: Haley Jones. The No. 1 prospect in the country has folks at Connecticut, South Carolina, Stanford, Notre Dame and Oregon holding their breath, crossing their fingers and pacing their campuses this week. She's a gold-certified shooter, leader and winner. She's the reigning California Gatorade player of the year after averaging 21.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a junior at powerhouse Archbishop Mitty (San Jose). Her complete game -- she's excellent off the dribble and deadly from 3-point range -- is the most coveted one in the class.
I: Irish. We need to plead for some patience. This one is going to take a while. ... The reigning champs are expecting signatures from two players who already have a whole lot of winning on their resumes. Samantha Brunelle, a 6-foot-2 forward and the No. 4 senior prospect, won a pair of international gold medals this year alone, winning the three-on-three title at the Youth Olympic Games and the five-on-five title at the FIBA U17 World Cup. Prior to that, she won gold at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and bronze at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Cup. Brunelle is the reigning Gatorade player of the year in Virginia after averaging 30.0 points, 15.6 points and 13.5 assists per game at William Monroe (Stanardsville, Virginia). Anaya Peoples, a 5-foot-10 point guard ranked 21st in the class, also struck international gold this summer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. As a junior at Schlarman (Danville, Illinois), she averaged 16.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 steals, and led her team to a state title.
J: Jordan Horston. If you're wondering what kind of player Tennessee is getting during signing week, we'll start by saying that Horston was the MVP of the FIBA U17 World Cup over the summer after averaging 10.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.4 steals for Team USA in its gold-medal run. The 6-foot-1 ultra-athletic guard is the No. 2 prospect in the country. She led Columbus Africentric (Columbus, Ohio) to a state title as a junior, averaging 18.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 5.1 steals and 1.7 blocks
K: Kevin McGuff is expected to land a monster class this week at Ohio State. Kierstan Bell, the reigning Gatorade player of the year in Ohio, who averaged 33.4 points, 10 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 5.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per game last season as a junior at McKinley (Canton, Ohio), is the headliner. The Buckeye-to-be and No. 7 prospect in the country has already been dubbed She-Bron by some basketball fans in Ohio. Point guard Rikki Harris, the No. 24 prospect, will cross the state line from Indiana to join McGuff's class. Kaelynn Satterfield, a wing ranked 39th, brings star power from New York's Christ the King. Guard Jacy Sheldon, the No. 41 prospect, has already set the school records at Dublin Coffman (Dublin, Ohio) for points, steals and field goals. Rounding out the class is forward Aixa Wone from Spain.
L: Lobos. Big what? Pac who? Let's hear it for the Lobos! For now, at least, New Mexico is the proud owner of the top recruiting class outside the Power-5 conferences. Mike Bradbury has three verbal commitments, including two in the Top 100. Azaria Robinson, a 6-foot-2 post player ranked 90th; Corina Carter, a 5-foot-6 point guard ranked 100th; and Autumn Watts, a 6-foot-1 forward, are all headed to the Mountain West.
M: Maori Davenport spent her summer leading the United States to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Mexico City. Now the 6-foot-4 forward and No. 14 prospect is the gem in Rutgers' recruiting class, Davenport averaged 18.2 points, 12.0 rebounds, 5.1 blocks and 1.7 assists as a junior last season and led Charles Henderson (Troy, Alabama) to the first girls' basketball state title in school history.
N: Niece. North Carolina commit Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo has an Uncle Dikembe. Are visions of finger-wagging dancing in your head? Malu is an agile 6-foot-3 post player and the No. 56 prospect in the 2019 class. She's a rebounder supreme at St. John's College High School (Washington, D.C.), one of the top programs in the country.
O: Oliver, Jordyn. The 5-foot-10 guard at Prosper (Texas) salvages what has been an otherwise quiet year on the recruiting trail by Baylor standards. That said, Oliver, the No. 11 prospect, is a huge prize for Kim Mulkey's program. She's an athletic, confident, poised playmaker. The dictionary may not have enough adjectives to do her offensive arsenal justice.
P: Pingeton. Missouri coach Robin Pingeton is going to be doing a whole lot of smiling this week. The Tigers will welcome three in-state stars to their program. Aijha Blackwell, fresh off a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship with Team USA, is the No. 8 prospect in the class. Blackwell is following in the footsteps of her late father, Ernest Blackwell, who played football at Mizzou. Pingeton also is expecting a signature from reigning Missouri Gatorade player of the year Hayley Frank, a 6-foot-1 wing ranked 29th, and 6-foot-3 post player Micah Linthacum.
Q: Quiet. We're referring to the Big 12, which starts the signing period without a single team in the top-20 class rankings. West Virginia boasts the conference's top class with Top 100 prospects Kirsten Deans and Leilani Correa committed to the Mountaineers. Baylor (Jordyn Oliver) and Texas (Celeste Taylor) each are expecting a signature from a top-20 prospect. A year ago, Kim Mulkey landed the No. 1 class in the country, and Karen Aston compiled the No. 3 class. Oklahoma and West Virginia made the top 20 as well.
R: Rickea Jackson is Michigan's reigning Gatorade player of the year after averaging 21.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.6 blocks to lead Detroit Edison to its second straight state title. As the No. 9 prospect, Jackson stands out for her athleticism, versatility and love for the game. Her signature will send folks from either Mississippi State, Rutgers or South Carolina dancing in the streets.
S: Spartans. We told you that the Big Ten had a big year on the recruiting trail. Michigan State did its part. And then some. Suzy Merchant is expecting signatures from five players ranked in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100. Three members of her class are from Michigan: point guards Moira Joiner, ranked 57th, and Alyza Winston, ranked 70th, as well as wing Julia Ayrault, ranked 75th. Merchant also is welcoming post player Cyndi Dodd, ranked 84th, out of Indiana and forward Taiyier Parks, ranked 93rd, out of Ohio.
T: Tennessee. The Lady Vols have a long history of landing premier prospects. Jordan Horston, ranked second in the 2019 class, is next in line. Holly Warlick also is anticipating signatures from post players Tamari Key, ranked 46th, and Emily Saunders.
U: USC. Depth? Check. Talent? Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Mark Trakh's five-player class stands up to the best of them. Californians Angel Jackson, a 6-foot-5 center from Salesian (Richmond, California) ranked 36th, and Madison Campbell, a 5-foot-11 guard from Clovis West (Fresno, California), are proven winners. Endyia Rogers, a 5-6 point guard ranked 35th; and Kyra White, a smooth 5-foot-10 guard ranked 63rd, are coming to L.A. via Texas. Heading south from Alaska is 6-foot forward Alissa Pili, who is ranked 40th.
V: VanDerveer. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer has outdone even herself with a terrific trio heading the Cardinal way. Ashten Prechtel, a 6-foot-5 post player ranked 16th, has been dubbed "Little Keith" because her game has similarities to that of Keith Van Horn, the former NBA player and her club coach. Fran Belibi, a 6-foot-1 forward and the No. 23 prospect, is best known for her viral dunks. Rounding out the class is one of our favorite names headed for an NLI this season: Hannah Jump. She's a 5-foot-11 point guard ranked 50th who has a knack for seizing the big moments.
W: Wolfpack and/or Wes Moore. Take your pick. Either way, NC State is set to welcome four stars who make up one of the best classes around. No. 17 prospect Jakia Brown-Turner, a 6-foot wing at powerhouse Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Maryland), brings instant cred to any campus. No. 32 Jada Boyd, a 6-foot-2 forward at Virginia's Appomattox County High School, is quick, athletic and relentless. Add in mobile post player Camille Hobby and high-motor point guard Kendal Moore, and this class could contribute a whole lot of Ws to Raleigh.
X: X-factors: See letters A, C, H and R above.
Y: Yonder. There are players from Canada, Japan, China and Australia signing this week. But how about the two Top 100 prospects from "yonder" in America? We're talking Alaska. Alissa Pili, a 6-foot forward ranked 30th in the class, is signing with USC. Her brother, Brandon Pili, is a defensive lineman on the Trojans' football team. Also out of Alaska, Azaria Robinson, a 6-foot-2 post player ranked 90th, is signing with New Mexico.
Z: Zia Cooke. The 5-foot-9 point guard, two-time USA Basketball gold medalist and Ohio state champion is headed to South Carolina and coach Dawn Staley. As a junior at Rogers (Toledo), Cooke averaged 24.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. She's the No. 7 prospect in the class. What remains to be seen is if any other top-10 prospects join her in the Gamecocks' class.