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|Mercedes Russell (center), Kaela Davis (right) and Diamond DeShields teamed up for USA Basketball over the summer, but they'll be going their separate ways after signing their national letters of intent during the early signing period.|
It's all about letters this week.
Starting Wednesday, the best high school girls' basketball players will sign their national letters of intent, sparking celebrations on their future campuses and officially bringing an end to what can be a long, grueling, stressful recruiting process.
Most of the top players already have announced their college destinations, taking the suspense -- but not the joy -- out of the week.
In the spirit of letters, here is an A-to-Z guide to the early signing period as the class of 2013 prepares to sign off on the recruiting process.
A: ACC. Make it an A-plus for the Atlantic Coast Conference, which should get signatures from eight of the top 15 prospects in the nation this week and 22 of the top 100. North Carolina, Duke, Maryland and Florida State are the big winners, with verbal commitments from four top-100 prospects each.
B: Baylor. The reigning NCAA champions have verbal commitments from three prospects in the top 100: 5-foot-11 guard Imani Wright, ranked No. 31; 6-1 wing Nina Davis, ranked 52nd; and 5-9 wing Breanna Hayden, ranked 82nd. The trio of stars will have supersized shoes to fill when they become the first freshman class in the post-Brittney Griner era.
|Diamond DeShields is the top prospect in North Carolina's sparkling class.|
C: Chong. Saniya Chong, a 5-9 point guard from Ossining (N.Y.) and the No. 75 prospect in the 2013 class, is Connecticut's lone verbal commitment. "I just really fell in love with [UConn]," Chong told The (Westchester) Journal News last month. "The players, the campus, how close it is to home, the staff, the coach." Speaking of the coach, Geno Auriemma had scored the No. 1 prospect each of the past two years with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in 2011 and Breanna Stewart in 2012.
D: Diamond. Diamond DeShields. The No. 3 prospect in the 2013 class, an exceptionally athletic 6-2 wing, is the gem of the North Carolina class, which also features No. 7 Allisha Gray, a 6-foot guard; No. 14 Jessica Washington, a 5-8 point guard; and No. 23 Stephanie Mavunga, a 6-2 forward. "Great players want to play with other great players," DeShields said.
E: Erica. Erica McCall, a 6-3 forward and the No. 11 prospect in the 2013 class, is the highest-ranked player in Stanford's impressive haul. Also in the Cardinal class are 6-3 forward Kailee Johnson, the No. 20 prospect; 5-11 guard Karlie Samuelson, the No. 77 prospect; and three-star prospects Briana Roberson and Khaliya Thompson.
F: Flyers. The Dayton Flyers, who have made three straight NCAA tournament appearances, expect signatures from two top-100 prospects in 6-2 forward Andrijana Cvitkovic, the No. 45 prospect, and 5-9 guard Celeste Edwards, the No. 47 prospect. Virginia Commonwealth, with No. 95 Camille Calhoun, is the only other Atlantic 10 school with a top-100 commit.
|Rebecca Greenwell is one of the reasons Duke's 2013 class is among the best in the country.|
G: Greenwell. Rebecca Greenwell, a 6-1 guard and the No. 6 prospect in 2013, is the top prospect in Duke's blockbuster class. Coach Joanne P. McCallie also will be welcoming 6-3 forward Oderah Chidom, the No. 10 prospect; 6-3 post player Kendall Cooper, the No. 12 prospect; and 5-9 guard Kianna Holland, the No. 32 prospect.
H: Hoyas. Need another "h"? How about haul. As in the Hoyas' haul. Keith Brown's five-player class features three top-100 prospects: 6-1 forward Shayla Cooper, the No. 35 prospect; 5-11 guard Tyshell King, the No. 44 prospect; and 6-2 forward Faith Woodard, the No. 89 prospect.
I: Ivy. The Ivy League continues its run of securing a top-100 prospect. Vanessa Smith, a 6-1 wing and the No. 60 prospect, will be heading to Princeton. A year ago, Shilpa Tummala, the No. 68 prospect, chose Harvard. Tummala followed in the Crimson footsteps of the No. 13 prospect in 2011, Temi Fagbenle. Also in 2011, Mariah Smith, the No. 57 prospect, chose Princeton.
J: Joe. And there's nothing average about him. Northwestern coach Joe McKeown will have ample reason to celebrate this week. With two top-100 prospects -- No. 24 Nia Coffey, a 6-1 forward, and No. 64 Christen Inman, a 5-9 guard -- in their four-player signing class, the Wildcats should be in good shape for years to come.
K: Kansas. A family tree is taking root in Lawrence. Twins Dylan and Dakota Gonzalez, three-star prospects from Highland (Pocatello, Idaho), have given their verbal commitment to the Jayhawks. The twins' mother, Angie Snider, was a Kansas star who averaged nearly 18 points per game from 1982 to '84.
L: Linnae. Linnae Harper, a 5-6 guard and the No. 5 prospect in the 2013 class, headlines a big-time class at Kentucky. Coach Matthew Mitchell has landed three top-100 commits. In addition to Harper, 5-8 guard Makayla Epps (the No. 37 prospect) and 6-1 forward Kyvin Goodin-Rogers (the No. 72 prospect) are heading to Lexington.
|Taya Reimer will bring her considerable skills to the Notre Dame campus.|
M: Mercedes. Mercedes Russell silenced all doubts about Tennessee's status in the post-Pat Summitt era when she gave her verbal commitment to the Lady Vols and coach Holly Warlick late last month. "Ever since I was little, Tennessee had been my dream school," the No. 1 prospect in the 2013 class said. The 6-5 post player joins Jannah Tucker (the No. 8 prospect) and Jordan Reynolds (the No. 42 prospect) in Warlick's first recruiting class.
N: Notre Dame. The runner-up in the past two NCAA tournaments has a class that should keep it in contention for years to come. Taya Reimer, a 6-2 forward and the No. 4 prospect in the class, is joined by 5-8 point guard Lindsay Allen, the No. 25 prospect; 6-3 post player Kristina Nelson, the No. 39 prospect; and Diamond Thompson, a 6-4 post player and four-star recruit.
O: Osahor. Chantel Osahor, who helped lead St. Mary's (Phoenix) to a high school national championship last season, will stay in Pac-12 country but has decided to play for coach Kevin McGuff and Washington. The No. 71 prospect in the class will be joined by two other top-100 players, No. 26 Kelsey Plum and No. 65 Brianna Ruiz.
P: Parity. A year ago, with the top two prospects in the country in Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, it was UConn in a landslide. This year, the winner of the recruiting sweepstakes is not so clear. Cases can be made for a handful of schools, starting with North Carolina, Duke, Tennessee and Notre Dame.
Q: Quentin. Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman has strung together two impressive classes. A year ago, the Orange pulled in the sixth-best class in the nation. And, like last year, Hillsman currently has commitments from three top-100 prospects. This class features Briana Day, a 6-4 forward and the No. 57 prospect; Tasia Butler, a 6-1 wing and the No. 73 prospect; and Alexis Peterson, a 5-6 guard and the No. 92 prospect. The fourth player in the Orange class, Bria Day, is a 6-4 post player and Briana' twin sister. The twins originally committed to North Carolina.
|Ronni Williams looks to be the Gators' one and only in the 2013 class.|
R: Ronni. Ronni Williams, the highest-ranked prospect from Florida at No. 13, will be sticking close to home to play for the Gators. Of the nine other top-100 players from Florida, four -- Kai James (Florida State), Shanae Armbrister (Florida State), Brittany Brown (Florida State) and Trimaine McCullough (South Florida) -- also are staying in-state. Raigyne Moncrief (LSU), Sydnei McCaskill (Georgia) and Faith Woodard (Georgetown) will be heading out of state. Destinations are still unknown for Ieshia Small and Brittany Dinkins.
S: Scaife and Small. As in Tyler Scaife and Ieshia Small. Scaife, a 5-9 point guard and the No. 9 prospect in the 2013 class, and Small, a 6-foot wing ranked 19th, are the only two top-20 prospects who remain undeclared. Scaife plans to announce her decision later this week. Small is expected to wait until the spring signing period, which starts April 17.
T: Texas. The Lone Star State counts nine prospects in the top 100. Seven of them -- No. 31 Imani Wright (Baylor), No. 48 A.J. Alix (TCU), No. 53 Diamond Lockhart (Texas Tech), No. 56 Jada Terry (Texas A&M), No. 58 Nekia Jones (Texas), No. 78 Jada Butts (TCU) and No. 82 Breanna Hayden (Baylor) -- are staying in-state and heading to five different schools. Only No. 64 Christen Inman (Northwestern) and No. 87 LaBrittney Jones (Arizona) are crossing state borders.
U: USA Basketball. And a bucket of gold. The top 100 prospects in the 2013 class have won a total of 28 gold medals with USA Basketball. Diamond DeShields, with four, leads the way.
V: Vanderbilt. It should be smooth sailing for years to come for coach Melanie Balcomb and the Commodores. With No. 16 Rebekah Dahlman, a 5-9 point guard; No. 21 Marques Webb, a 6-foot forward; and No. 62 Kylee Smith, a 5-11 guard, Vanderbilt's class measures up with the best of the best.
W: Washington. As in Coquese Washington. As in the reigning Big Ten coach of the year. Washington and Penn State scored a blockbuster class, which includes four top-100 prospects: No. 46 Alexandra Harris, No. 59 Peyton Whitted, No. 84 Lindsey Spann and No. 88 Kaliyah Mitchell. The fifth player in Washington's class is 6-5 post player Infiniti Alston.
|Kaela Davis, the daughter of former NBA All-Star Antonio Davis, is expected to make an instant impact at Georgia Tech.|
X: Xavier. The Musketeers have a verbal commitment from 6-1 wing Maddison Blackwell. Blackwell is the daughter of Georgeann Wells, who in 1983 became first woman to dunk in an NCAA game. Wells played for West Virginia.
Y: Yellow Jackets. It could turn out to be the signature signing for Georgia Tech and coach MaChelle Joseph when Kaela Davis puts pen to paper. The 6-2 guard and No. 2 prospect in the nation gave a verbal commitment to Georgia Tech earlier this month after decommitting from Tennessee in February.
Z: Zero. Of the 12 top-100 prospects from Georgia, not one will be heading to Athens. No. 3 Diamond DeShields (North Carolina), No. 7 Allisha Gray (North Carolina), No. 15 Lexie Brown (Maryland), No. 29 Sydney Umeri (Virginia), No. 35 Shayla Cooper (Georgetown), No. 39 Kristina Nelson (Notre Dame), No. 41 Nigia Greene (Miami), No. 59 Peyton Whitted (Penn State), No. 62 Kylee Smith (Vanderbilt), No. 79 Ivey Slaughter (Florida State) and No. 88 Kaliyah Mitchell (Penn State) all are headed to out-of-state schools. No. 2 Kaela Davis (Georgia Tech) will be staying close to home.