AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Longhorns ranked third in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches poll and second in the Associated Press preseason top 25.
But they're No. 1 in recruiting.
Six high school All-Americans signed national letters of intent on to play for Texas as the early signing period opened Wednesday and runs through Nov. 17. The All-Star Girls Report (ASGR) already has ranked the Longhorns' class No. 1 in the nation. The Blue Star Report ranked Jody Conradt's 2005-06 rookies as the second-best group of recruits.
"We knew all of them were coming our way, but I never spent so much time watching a fax machine as I did today," Conradt said. "It's a class we've worked very very hard to sign. It's important, because we have six seniors who have had a tremendous impact on our program, and this new group comes in with an opportunity to continue that."
Erika Arriaran (Norco, Calif.) headlines Texas' list. The 5-10 point guard/shooting guard is the ASGR's No. 1 recruit.
Conradt said the Longhorns had their eye on Arriaran for a long time. And apparently, the feeling was mutual.
"After receiving her letter, we asked her, 'Did you wear orange and white today and dress in Longhorn colors?' " Conradt said. "(Arriaran) said, 'Coach, I've been a Longhorn for seven years!'
"It's been almost that long that we've been watching her play. Erika was invited to an All-Star camp entering the fifth grade to play against high-school players. That shows you what kind of skills she has. Erika has the same kind of court mentality as Jamie Carey has. She is an excellent shooter, but her first thought is to distribute the ball."
The class also includes scholastic All-American Crystal Boyd (Little Rock, Ark.), a 6-foot guard ranked No. 16 nationally by ASGR; 6-3 post Aubry Cook (Houston), the No. 22-ranked player nationally and a top-10 rated post; 5-7 point guard Carla Cortijo-Sanchez (Bellaire, Texas), rated the nation's top point guard by ASGR and the No. 10 player overall; 6-3 post Mariana Mergerson (Duncanville, Texas), a top-25 recruit in all national rankings who stands No. 8 by ASGR ratings; and 6-0 forward Earnesia Williams (Sapulpa, Okla., rated No. 36 nationally by ASGR.
Conradt expects the recruits to have an immediate impact next season.
"They will have to step in and play early. I don't remember another time at Texas when we had more playing time available to a freshman class than the time which will available to this one," she said. "That was our thought in recruiting these six -- what happens if we have to depend on this group next year? And, right now, I feel confident that they'll come ready to play at this level."
Next Volunteer: Georgia's Moss
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee expected only one signee in 2004, and she's already signed her papers.
Lindsey Moss, a 6-1 guard from Alpharetta, Ga. (Chattahoochee HS), signed her letter of intent after orally commiting to the Lady Vols in the summer of 2003.
"We are excited to have Lindsey in Orange and White," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. "She is an offensive-minded guard with all-around solid skills -- shooting, passing and handling the ball. She's tall, long and lanky, really a fluid player."
This season, Moss has been nationally ranked in both the All-Star Girls Report (22nd) and on the Blue Star Index top 100 (35th). She earned All-America honorable mention in both 2003 and 2004 and has been tabbed as an All-State selection since the ninth grade.
She has led the CHS Cougars in almost every statistical category for three seasons while registering single-game career highs in points (32), rebounds (22) and assists (13).
UConn finalizes four-member signing class
STORRS, Conn. -- Four players, including two recruits ranked among ASGR's top 13 recruits, signed letters of intent to play at Connecticut, coach Geno Auriemma announced Friday.
Kalana Greene, a 5-11 guard from St. Stephen, S.C., averaged 25.4 points, 17 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 9.0 steals as a junior while leading Timberlake HS to its second straight South Carolina Class AAA Lower State championship game. She ranked No. 18 among the nation's top-100 seniors according to Blue Star and No. 13 according to All-Star Girls Report.
Cassie Kerns, a 6-3 forward from Valparaiso, Ind., averaged 13.9 points and 8.4 rebounds while leading Valparaiso HS to a 23-3 record during her junior season.
Renee Montgomery, a 5-7 guard from St. Albans, W.Va., averaged 20.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 5.0 steals as a junior in guiding South Charleston HS to its second consecutive West Virginia Class AAA State Championship. She ranked No. 21 according to Blue Star and No. 10 by the All-Star Girls Report.
Tahirah Williams, a 5-11 forward from Montclair, N.J. averaged 17.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals as a junior while leading Immaculate Heart Academy (N.J.) to a 25-3 record, the Parochial A North Championship and a trip to the Parochial Class A State Championship Game.
LSU lands Michigan standout
BATON ROUGE -- Kristen Morris, a 6-2 forward from Michigan, signed a letter of intent to play basketball for the LSU Lady Tigers beginning as a freshman in 2005, coach Pokey Chatman said Thursday.
Morris, a native of Lathrup Village, Mich., has started all four years at Detroit Country Day School and is in the middle of her senior season. She is averaging 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game this season and has led the team to a 16-1 and a current No. 1 ranking in the state.
During her career, Morris is averaging 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game and has led Country Day to back-to-back state championships.
"Kristen is an excellent complement to next year's team and our style of play. Not only does she add size and depth to our frontcourt but she is a capable scorer that attacks the boards and defends well," Chatman said. "I'm excited about what she brings to the table as well as her enormous potential."
In addition to the team's success, Morris, who is ranked as the 17th best power forward in the nation among high school seniors by the All-Star Girls Report, has pulled some of her own accolades. She was a Nike All-American following her junior year and participated in the Nike All-American camp this past summer. She is also a finalist for Miss Basketball in Michigan.
Lady Dogs ink three recruits
Athens, Ga. -- The Georgia Lady Bulldogs signed two premier in-state prep
players rated among the nation's top-10 prospects at their positions, and a Florida standout, to
letters of intent.
Angel Robinson of Marietta, Ga., Danielle Taylor of Savannah, Ga., and Erica Brown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., inked their papers Wednesday, coach Andy Landers announced.
Robinson, a 6-5, center from Marietta High School, is ranked as the nation's No. 7 and No. 11 prospect by Blue Star Recruiting and the All-Star Girls Report, respectively. Last season, she averaged 21.7 points, 16 rebounds, 2.5 assists and six blocks per game for the Blue Devils.
"Angel is someone we've watched grow and mature into one of the top post players in the nation," Landers said. "She is a perfect fit for the style of game we play. She runs the court. She's excellent in the paint and facing the basket. Angel fits a need that we have on our basketball team."
Taylor, a 6-1, wing from Beach High School, averaged 18.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game while helping the Bulldogs to a 25-5 record. She is ranked as the No. 41 overall prospect and the No. 8 wing player in
the nation by the All-Star Girls Basketball Report.
"Danielle is a terrific athlete," Landers said. "She's very versatile. She's tall and she's long. She has the abilities to do things that tall wings ought to be able to do, which are valuable assets to a basketball team."
Brown, a 5-9, guard from Dillard High School, is the reigning Florida 5A State Player of the Year and was named MVP
of the 2004 5A State Tournament after leading the Panthers to a state title. She is ranked as the nation's No. 7 prospect by the All-Star Girls Basketball Report and No. 16 by Blue Star Recruiting Service.
"Erica Brown brings a lot of energy to the basketball court," Landers said. "She an extremely dynamic player who defends exceptionally well and is multi-talented on the offensive end of the floor. Erica is regarded by some recruiting analysts to be the top point guard in the country."
Brown averaged 11.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists for Dillard, which finished 28-3. In the state championship game, Brown scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Stanford signs three
STANFORD, Calif. -- Morgan Clyburn, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and Jillian Harmon each signed with Stanford.
"We're very excited about the intangibles, especially how competitive they are," coach Tara VanDerveer said. "They are three very different players at three different positions, all positions that our team really needs. We're counting on all of them to contribute as freshmen."
Clyburn, a Conroe, Texas native, is ranked as the No. 21 prospect by ASGR. A three-time Street & Smith All-America honorable mention, Clyburn averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks per game last season. Gold-Onwude, a native of Briarwood, N.Y., attends Archbishop Molloy High School. Ranked No. 53 in the country by ASGR, Gold-Onwude averaged 19 points, eight rebounds, five rebounds and four assists per game as a junior. Harmon, a Lake Oswego, Ore., native, averaged 23 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and four assists per game as a junior.
"Morgan is 6-4 and a excellent post player who can play with her back to the basket or face up," VanDerveer said. "Ros is an extraordinary passer and a very intelligent basketball player. She is a point guard with excellent size. She sees the floor very well and is a physical and strong player. She plays a position that we really need and we expect her to contribute to our team immediately.
"Jillian is very versatile," VanDerveer continued. "She has good size at 6-1 and really understands the game well. She's a great scorer and rebounder."
Tar Heels get four letters of intent
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell announced Wednesday that Heather Claytor, Christina DeWitt, Rashanda McCants and Iman McFarland will join UNC in the fall of 2005.
"I'm so excited to welcome these four players into our program," Hatchell said. "They'll be outstanding additions to our team, on an off the court. They're all very talented, they're strong students and they fit in really well with our players. We can't wait to have them join our team."
Claytor, a 5-9 guard from Verona, Va., holds school single game-records for scoring (38 points) and 3-pointers (seven) and helped her team to a district title and state runner-up spot last season, averaging 18.8 points per game. She is also an all-district performer in softball and volleyball.
DeWitt, a 6-3 forward from Little River, S.C., averaged 26.5 points, 18.9 rebounds and 8.5 blocks last season, and also is an all-state volleyball player.
McCants, a 6-3 forward from Asheville, N.C., averaged 23 points and 11.2 rebounds. Also a track and field competitor, her older brother, Rashad, is a junior on the UNC men's team.
McFarland, a 6-2 forward from Temple Hills, Md., plays for Bishop McNamara High School, which was ranked No. 1 nationally for much of the 2003-04 season. McFarland averaged 12.8 points per game last season, and also competes in track and field.
Lady Raiders sign four
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Texas Tech signed four players Wednesday: Krystal Cole (Brock, Texas), Darchelle "Teddy" Griffin (Seagraves, Texas), LaVonda Henderson (Lubbock, Texas) and Dominic Seals (Dallas, Texas).
"We are excited to have this class as they all come out of strong high school programs in the state of Texas," coach Marsha Sharp said. "They've all had success at the high school level, won a lot of games and there is no substitute for knowing how to win and I think they all bring that."
Cole, a 5-9 guard, averaged 18.4 points and 7.7 rebounds as a junior. Said Sharp: "Krystal is a hard-working, hard-nosed player who strikes me as a person who does all the hard things. She is a blue-collar worker who will take a charge when we need a charge, gets the big rebound, makes the shot, shoots it well from the 3-point line as well as off the move."
Griffin joins her older sister, Darrice, on the Lady Raiders, and is the daughter of former Tech player Tami Wilson (1990-92). The 5-11 guard averaged 16.2 points and 4.0 rebounds last season and is the 35th-ranked wing player in the nation by ASGR.
"Teddy has been a part of Lady Raider basketball since she was born," Sharp said. "I've watched her grow up from when her mom was in our program to now. She is a terrific athlete. I think she is one of the best athletes who play the perimeter position in this class."
Henderson, a 5-7 guard, averaged 20.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists during her junior year. She is ranked in the top 100 by the Women's Basketball News Service. Sharp said Henderson is one of the most athletic points guards in the country, and "might be the best leaper of any point guard that I saw all summer."
Seals, a 6-3 center, averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks as a junior. Seals is ranked in the top 25 by Texas Round Ball and is the No. 22 post player in the country by ASGR, which also ranked her as the 65th-best player in the country.
"Dominic is one of those post players who runs the floor well, can get up in the rim, can guard you and certainly has an arsenal on the offensive end," Sharp said.
Irish ink one
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Coach Muffet McGraw announced Wednesday that Lindsay Schrader, a 6-foot guard from Bartlett, Ill., has chosen to continue her career with the Irish, signing a letter of intent to attend Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2005.
Schrader is the first player to commit to the Irish during the early signing period.
"We're really excited to have Lindsay joining us next year," McGraw said. "She brings tremendous versatility as both a great 3-point shooter and someone who posts up and rebounds well. She's also got a lot of confidence, a great work ethic and a scorer's mentality. Lindsey is exactly the player we were looking for this year."
Schrader has been widely regarded as one of the top all-around players in the state of Illinois who has averaged 20.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game in her prep career. Schrader was an Underclass All-Star at the 2002 adidas Top Ten Camp, before attending the Nike All-America Camp in both 2003 and 2004. She is ranked among the top 30 high school seniors in the nation by three separate recruiting services -- Blue Star Index (14th), All-Game Sports (21st) and All-Star Girls Report (26th overall, eighth among shooting guards).
Schrader competed in the 2004 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival, helping the North squad win silver while ranking third in the Festival in scoring (14.8 ppg.) and rebounding (8.6 rpg.), as well as second in field goal percentage (.542).
Golden Gophers get three
MINNEAPOLIS -- Three women, including two Minnesotans, signed letters of intent Wednesday to play basketball with the Gophers next season.
Coach Pam Borton said Ashley Ellis-Milan, Katie Ohm and Emily Fox will play in 2005-2006.
"This group ranks as one of the top recruiting classes in the country,'' Borton said. "There is no doubt that they will be major contributors in continuing Minnesota's tradition of excellence."
Ellis-Milan is a 6-foot-2-inch power forward from St. Paul Central High School. She is a three-time all-conference selection and was the St. Paul City Conference's most valuable player as a sophomore and junior. Ohm, of Rochester, is a 5-11 forward who averaged 28 points and nine rebounds per game last season. Fox, a native of Highlands Ranch, Colo., is a 5-9 guard who led the state in assists last season, averaging eight per game.
Two commit to Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Coach Joan Bonvicini on Wednesday received letters of intent from Kelsey Burns, a 5-11 guard from Kennedy High School in Seattle, and Whitney Fields, a 6-1 post player from Monsignor Pace High School in Miami.
"I'm very excited about the kids in this class because of their athleticism, their potential to help us immediately and the fact that they are both excellent students," Bonvicini said. "They both are competitors who are used to winning in high school and want to carry that same success to the next level."
Burns averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season as a junior. She is all-state honoree in three sports, swimming, basketball, and track and field.
"Kelsey is a tremendous athlete who can play the 1, 2 and 3 spots, and should help us immediately with her defense and scoring, especially with her 3-point shooting."
Fields will play at Monsignor Pace this season after transferring from Miami Northwestern High School, where she was named honorable mention All-Dade County Class 6A last year after averaging 14.0 points and 14.0 rebounds per game.
"Whitney Fields gives us a presence in the post with her aggressiveness and the workhorse attitude she brings to the court every day," Bonvicini said. "Whitney will be a great addition to our frontline with her physical post play and athleticism. She is a great rebounder and a dominant low-post scorer who can also step away from the basket and shoot the jumper."
Stringer: Rutgers adds 'most versatile' class
Sammeika Thrash (Birmingham, Ala.), Kia Vaughn (New York) and Heather Zurich (Hillsdale, N.J.) signed national letters of intent to join the nationally ranked Rutgers women's basketball team, 10th-year head coach C. Vivian Stringer has announced.
"Versatility is the key word with this group. This is probably the most versatile class we have brought in the last several years, and that will be an important component of our future success," Stringer said.
Thrash, a 6-1 forward, averaged 13 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game as a junior at Ramsay High School. Rated the No. 9 forward and a top-40 player overall by the All Star Girls Report, Thrash was named an honorable-mention All-American by Street & Smith's last season.
"Sam is a great competitor who challenges herself at the highest levels," Stringer said. "She is a very versatile forward who can play the four and the three, and she is a team player and a leader. She has legitimate post moves, she runs the floor, shoots and rebounds extremely well, but she also can step out and play on the perimeter."
Vaughn, a 6-4 center, averaged 17 points, 20 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots per game as a junior at Saint Michael's Academy. Rated the second-best post and sixth-best player overall by the All Star Girls Report and the No. 4 prospect by the Blue Star Report, Vaughn was invited to the 2004 USA Basketball Junior National Team Trials.
"The significance of signing a center, much less one we consider to be one of the best centers in the country, cannot be downplayed," Stringer stated. "Kia runs the floor like a guard and shoots the ball from 3-point range, yet she is also one of the most physical centers to come out of high school in some time, as she has a strong and solid body."
Zurich, a 6-1guard, averaged 18 points per game as a junior at Pascack Valley High School. Her 1,198 points at Pascack Valley currently rank third all time at the school as she begins her senior season, where she plays for Jeff Jasper, who coached current Scarlet Knight Cappie Pondexter (Chicago) in the 2001 WBCA All-America Game.
"Heather is a pro-size guard, who at 6-1 shoots the 3-point shot with great accuracy," Stringer said. "She runs the floor, she will be very effective on our press, she handles the ball well."
Wildcats wrap up four signees
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Four top recruits, including three Kansans and one Oklahoman, have signed their letters of intent to play for the nationally ranked Kansas State women's basketball team for the 2005-06 season as announced by head coach Deb Patterson on Thursday.
Marlies Gipson, a 6-0 forward from McPherson, Kan., is one of three recruits from the Sunflower State. A two-time Street & Smith's High School All-American honorable mention, Gipson is currently rated No. 31 in the Blue Star Top 100 Seniors Index. A four-year standout at McPherson High School, she holds the school's single game rebounds record (19) and led the team to runner-up finishes at the state 5A championships as a junior and sophomore.
"Gipson is as intense of a defender as we will have had in our program and brings a warrior's mentality to both the offensive and defensive boards," Patterson said. "I don't know that I've ever seen a finer shot blocker at this young stage in her career. She is a incredibly dynamic in her presence on the floor and impacts the game physically and emotionally with very big plays at critical situations in games."
JoAnn Hamlin, a 6-3 center from Douglass, Kan., is the second member of her family to sign with the Wildcats. Hamlin's sister, Joy, is currently a sophomore middle blocker for the No. 20-ranked Kansas State volleyball team. The younger Hamlin is a two-time first team all-conference and all-state selection out of Winfield High School, where she led the Vikings to their first 5A sub-state basketball championship in 13 years in 2003. As a junior, Hamlin averaged 21.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game. She holds 10 of the school's single-game records and 11 of the school's career records, including career points (1,144) and career blocks (138). A standout thrower on the track and field team, Hamlin was crowned the state 5A champion in the shot put in 2004. An honor roll student and scholar-athlete, Hamlin is the school record holder in the shot put, discus and javelin.
"JoAnn is a big, strong physical presence in the paint who also has the ability to stretch the floor and shoot the ball extremely well from 17 feet and beyond," Patterson said. "She is a very effective offensive rebounder, much out of the 'Stacy Stephens' mode of play."
Shalee Lehning, a 5-9 guard from Sublette, Kan., led Sublette High School to a state 2A championship title with an undefeated 26-0 record a year ago. As a junior, Lehning averaged 23.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game. A three-time KBCA all-state first teamer, Lehning holds the school records in career scoring (1,724), career rebounds (947) and career assists (525). She has scored in double-figures in 74 career games to date.
"Shalee is the consummate floor general at the point position," Patterson said. "She plays with superb intensity and has great presence and command on the floor. Her innate abilities as a leader, as well as her understanding of the game, make her the kind of player who makes everyone on the floor better. The character and energy she brings to the floor, as well as the passion and intensity she plays with, will remind a lot of our fans of Megan Mahoney.
"She can go by you with either hand, passes with great efficiency and can stick the 3-pointer."
Danielle Zanotti, a 6-2 forward from Yukon, Okla., rounds out this year's recruiting class for the Wildcats. The Mustang High School standout averaged 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game leading the Broncos to a 20-5 record as a junior. An avid distance runner, Zanotti was honored as a USATF All-American as well as an all-state, all-region and all-big city selection in cross country. A national finalist for the Wendy's High School Heisman Award, Zanotti is a 4.17 grade-point average honor roll student, class valedictorian and National Honor Society member. She also serves as chairperson for Relay for Life and volunteers with Special Olympics. The prestigious award recognizes academic aptitude, athletic talent and community service. ESPN2 will feature all 12 national finalists (six girls and six boys) during the Wendy's High School Heisman Awards Ceremony broadcast live from New York City on Dec. 12.
"Danielle Zanotti is a tremendous talent with great size at the wing position," Patterson said. "At 6-2, she can shoot the 3-pointer in transition, she can run like a deer and she can defend both on the perimeter and in the post with equal effectiveness. She will be an extremely tough zone defensive presence on the wing."
Star shines on Buckeyes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Star Allen of Columbus Independence High School has committed to join the Buckeye basketball program next year, Ohio State coach Jim Foster announced Friday.
Allen, a 5-11 forward from Columbus, Ohio, averaged 18.8 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game as a junior. She was the No. 17-ranked senior nationally in the 2004 All-Star Girls Report and was a 2003 adidas All-American. Allen was named a 2004 Nike All-American and a Street & Smith's honorable mention All-American.
"We are thrilled to have Star Allen as a Buckeye," Foster said. "She is a versatile young player who is as comfortable around the basket as she is bringing the ball up the floor."
Allen has accumulated more than 1,000 points and 600 rebounds throughout her career, while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.