Syracuse will depart the Big East, and make its way to the Atlantic Coast Conference, sometime in the next two years. And while annual smack-downs with Connecticut and Rutgers may be gone, matchups with the powerhouses from their new conference await both the Orange and fellow Big East emigrant, Pitt.
What better way for the Orange to make an entrance than with one of the top guards in the country? The verbal pledge of No. 13 Brianna Butler of Brooklyn, N.Y., gives fourth-year head coach Quentin Hillsman that go-to player that every opponent will need to account for night in and night out.
Butler, the 5-foot-11 combo guard, joins a class that got a huge boost on Monday with the commitment of No. 30 Brittney Sykes of Newark, N.J., and was already garnering some buzz with No. 73 Cornelia Fondren of Memphis, Tenn., a four-star shooting guard; Taylor Ford of New York, a four-star wing who was ranked No. 87 in the 2011 ESPNU HoopGurlz 100 before reclassifying into the 2012 class, and Pachiyanna Roberts of Powder Springs, Ga., a 6-1 forward with a three-star rating.
This group complements the one-player class Syracuse signed in the 2011 class -- Tiffany Jones a 6-3 interior player who was ranked as the No. 65 prospect a year ago.
With Erica Morrow gone, Iasia Hemingway a senior this season, and a pair of impact juniors in Kayla Alexander and Elashier Hall, the 2012 class gives the program a nucleus to lean on for years to come and facilitate the move to the ACC with the caliber of guards to compete with the best in the league.
This class gives the roster balance and depth as well as Butler, who can be a star at the next level. Her ability to stay cool under pressure and willingness to defer to the hot hand when needed or create offense for herself will make Syracuse a scary team to face, especially alongside an explosive slashing guard like Sykes. Bulter has the size to play any of the perimeter positions and the combination of skills and instincts to run the point, which should only make it easier for Hillsman to create mismatches with the wealth of talent and athleticism in his backcourt.
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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.