The good times continue to roll for the Connecticut Huskies. Even if UConn fans already are tiring of celebrating what seemed like an inevitable perfect season, they have more to toast today with the fourth verbal commitment from the 2010 class, Lauren Engeln.
Engeln, a 5-foot-11 guard from Laguna Hills, Calif., had been pursued heavily by most programs out West but joins an already impressive recruiting class for coach Geno Auriemma, which includes the nation's No. 2 prospect, Samarie Walker; No. 13 Stefanie Dolson, and No. 19 Michala Johnson.
Recruitment was busy for Engeln the past year or so, as she made visits to several schools including California, Stanford and Vanderbilt as well as a trip to Storrs, some with Cal Swish club teammate Lindsay Sherbert who also is being heavily recruited by programs both East and West.
"The thing I think Geno likes about her is," Russ Davis, the head coach of the Cal Swish, said, "in my conversations with him is she's a basketball player. She doesn't have a true position. You know he likes those kinds of kids."
Engeln does have the ability to play all three perimeter positions at 5-11. She has good scoring skills that start with her jump shot. She has a nice 3-point stroke and is very comfortable shooting off the dribble with the ability to create her own shot from her signature spin move.
"I think Lauren's strengths are her length and her size and strength to play a big guard," Davis said.
According to Davis, Engeln is a certifiable gym rat who is in the gym every day for countless hours regardless of fatigue. His focus on her development this year is to get her more consistent at taking the ball all the way to the basket and scoring. She has such a fluid pull-up jumper that she sometimes settles for it where he'd like her to get the tough and-one.
"She's also been going to a strength coach," Davis added, "and (is) really working on her strength, on her vertical, on her explosiveness and it's been showing in practice with her rebounding ability and her ability to get up a little higher."
As all players learn sooner or later, playing at the elite level in high school and duplicating that success in college is no simple feat. The attention to detail is multiplied and focus is as important as ever and it extends beyond the court itself.
"She's been working on her diet, eating right, so she can really get herself in top notch shape," Davis said.
For the Huskies they have now received commitments from a shooting guard who can play some point or some wing in Engeln, an ultra athletic wing in Walker, an agile forward in Johnson and big-time post in Dolson.
Connecticut is also looking to add a point guard from the 2010 class and Bria Hartley, ranked as the top point guard in the class and No. 4 overall by ESPN HoopGurlz, is considered to be the program's top target at the position.
The foursome eventually will join the sole 2009 signee, Kelly Faris, a combo guard from Heritage Christian in Indiana, and Jessica McCormack, a New Zealand native who transferred from the University of Washington.
The Huskies will graduate eight players over the next two classes, before the 2010 class arrival. With those graduations the Huskies, coupled with the one available scholarship the program had this year (they had 14 scholarship players including transfer McCormack), could feasibly add eight players in the 2010 class and are halfway there before the spring evaluation period, April 17-19.
ENGELN: RECENT ESPN HOOPGURLZ EVALUATIONS
River City Classic, July, 2008: Lauren Engeln, a 5-11 combo guard with Cal Swish Black, played smart, aggressive basketball and was critical in Swish's championship run. She has the ball handling skills to play any of the three perimeter spots. Her strength makes her size and skills all the more difficult for opponents to handle. She showed good instincts making the extra pass when needed to set up the better scoring opportunities. While her shot release is somewhat low, she can knock it down and has some range in doing so as well. If you gauge a player by effort you've got to hold Engeln in high regard as she leaves it all on the floor.
-- Mark Lewis
Nike Regional Skills Academy, April, 2008: Lauren Engeln (Laguna Hills, Calif.) struggled a little bit Friday night but was fantastic the rest of the weekend. She has nice handle and was able to build on it with the drill work. She may have had the best spin move of the kids here; she used it to get around a defender or to set up her killer jumper. The quickness and aggression are there offensively to play the 2-guard, she just needs to get stronger and continue to challenge herself against top competition.
-- Chris Hansen
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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. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.