Early 2010 class rankings

It has a top-10 recruit as its centerpiece, three ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred prospects in all, and another who just missed. It addresses every part of the court, and is assembled from various regions of the country. And it's every bit as good as any in recent years, which gives it a good chance of standing up as the best in the country when all the returns finally are counted.

Are we talking, say, the Connecticut recruiting class? Well, yes and no. The Huskies do have an excellent 2010 group already committed, but, as things stand today, theirs probably trails a great one assembled by coach Joanne P. McCallie at Duke.

With school in session nationwide, fall to start on Tuesday and official visits begun in earnest, the recruiting cycle hits a critical stage. There will be a rush of commitments during the six weeks before the start of the early signing period on Nov. 11. Fifty-nine recruits in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred have committed with five schools -- Boston College, Connecticut, Duke, Louisville and Maryland -- each having snared at least three ranked prospects, and UConn being the only one with four.

Half of ESPN HoopGurlz's top 10 -- including No. 1 Chiney Ogwumike, No. 2 Natasha Howard, No. 5 Kaneisha Horn, No. 6 Richa Jackson and No. 8 Shoni Schimmel -- still have not committed and could significantly alter the class rankings when they do.

Ogwumike, for example, told ESPN HoopGurlz she considers Connecticut, Notre Dame and Stanford her "forerunners," but has not shut the door on Duke, Cal, Texas and USC.

Among the top recruiting classes so far, Duke would have to earn the early nod with its first three recruits averaging a ranking of 18.6 to Connecticut's 31.6. McCallie's class is led by Chelsea Gray, No. 4 overall, a great point guard with size at 5-foot-11 who can control a game with her scoring or playmaking. It also includes No. 19 Haley Peters, a 6-3 versatile forward; No. 33 Tricia Liston, a savvy and well-sized wing, and unrated Clair Watkins, who nevertheless is one of the top post prospects in the class.

In addition being a dark horse for Ogwumike, the Blue Devils remain in the hunt for both Horn and Jackson.

With an eye on UConn's post-Maya Moore era, Geno Auriemma has recruited a couple of versatile wing-forward types in No. 10 Samarie Walker, who has Moore-like length and athleticism, and No. 46 Michala Johnson, who at 6-3 can fly but is coming off surgery to repair a torn anterior-cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. The class is significantly bolstered by No. 39 Stefanie Dolson, the No. 2 post prospect in 2010, and No. 95 Lauren Engeln, a versatile guard with good size.

Connecticut still could make a move on Duke because it is in the mix for No. 1 Ogwumike, No. 11 Cassie Harberts and No. 14 Bria Hartley.

Hot on Connecticut's heels is another Big East team, Louisville, which met the Huskies in the 2009 NCAA women's basketball championship game. Coach Jeff Watz has earned verbals from one of the country's top point guards, Charmaine Tay, ranked No. 17 overall; No. 45 Antonita Slaughter, a versatile scorer with great size at the wing, and No. 51 Sheronne Vails, an explosive inside player with great upside. Also in the Cardinal class is Polly Harrington, who is unranked but still one of the country's top forward prospects.

Two other ACC programs join Duke in the rarefied air of 2010 class rankings, including one stalwart in Maryland and one upstart in Boston College.

Coach Brenda Freese will add significantly to a roster already brimming with good young talent. Her 2010 class includes No. 7 Alyssa Thomas, who has earned positive comparisons to former Terp star Marissa Coleman; No. 23 Laurin Mincy, an explosive scorer from the backcourt or wing, and No. 96 Natasha Cloud, who has a strong combination of size at 6-0 and speed for at the guard or wing positions. Meanwhile, second-year coach Sylvia Crawley continues to point Boston College toward an upward swing with a class of No. 12 Kristen Doherty, a scorer deluxe; No. 63 Katie Zenevitch, a forward with versatility, and No. 92 Tiffany Ruffin, a point guard bursting with intangibles.

A sixth school, Oklahoma, has three ranked players among its five-player class. They include No. 41. Jacqueline Jeffcoat, No. 49. Aaryn Ellenberg, and No. 80. Nicole Griffen.

Eleven schools -- including LSU, Stanford, Texas A&M, Seton Hall, Oklahoma, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Florida State, USC and Florida -- have verbals from two prospects ranked in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred. Another, Notre Dame, would head that list with No. 20 Kayla McBride, but one of its top commitments, Natalie Achonwa, a stalwart on the Canadian national team, but ESPN HoopGurlz has not ranked Canadian prospects. The site's rankings panel considers Achonwa at least a top-25 equivalent.

The Irish are getting an official visit from Ogwumike and likely are excited at the prospect of a front line featuring her and Achonwa.

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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the Parade All-American Selection Committee, he formerly coached girl's club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.