Early commitment period buzz dwindles
If you think about it, the battle for the 2011 recruiting class really is a battle for control of the subsequent cycles of NCAA championships. By the time those youngsters graduate to the college level, Maya Moore will have moved on to the WNBA and Baylor will have one or two more cracks at national supremacy, depending on whether Brittney Griner's people find an escape hatch to the pros.
Moore, and the talented supporting cast coach Geno Auriemma recruited for her, arguably was Connecticut's retort to Candace Parker and the talented supporting cast that coach Pat Summitt recruited for her at Tennessee.
But, maybe for the first time in the intense, superpower struggle in women's college basketball, UConn and Tennessee secured an It-girl in the same class. Their rankings notwithstanding, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Connecticut commit) and Cierra Burdick (who just committed to Summitt's program on Sunday) could be the first versatile, ball-in-their-hands, potentially dominant assassin types to come along since Moore. And the usual suspects have landed them.
Yes, with the start of the early signing period on Wednesday, the 2010 recruiting season is winding down, but 2011 is on our minds because of Burdick's decision. For those still counting, only four prospects ranked in the top 100 -- No. 1 Chiney Ogwumike, No. 5 Kaneisha Horn, No. 8 Shoni Schimmel and No. 62 Chloe Wells -- remain uncommitted. Of those four, only Ogwumike can significantly alter the team recruiting race.
Connecticut, of course, would be the biggest benefactor of an Ogwumike commitment, vaulting to No. 1 in the 2010 team recruiting rankings. It also would give the Huskies a leg up on setting the table for their 2011 It-girl. Tennessee recruited an entire backcourt -- No. 24 Meighan Simmons and No. 28 Lauren Avant -- in 2010 and gained a significant prize in 2009 with Taber Spani. But there would be an additional onus on Summitt & Co., to recruit some inside might (No. 37 Isabelle Harrison would be a good in-state catch) to keep up with Connecticut's length and developing interior.
ESPN HoopGurlz takes a closer look at this past weekend's top commitments.
No. 6 Burdick to Tennessee
The Skinny: Usually, we don't like hearing about early commitments. The recruiting system is not perfect, but it does provide the means for meaningful research on the part of prospects and their families. We're not so worried about Burdick and, before her, Mosqueda-Lewis among the elites. Both knew what they wanted, put together a shopping list and did their background work. Both also have sound, rational reasons for going where they are going, and it might not have served any purpose to wait. In the case of Tennessee, it now has a better idea of what pieces it still needs. For UConn, Auriemma can put together an Olympic-level team in peace.
The Whole Story: Glenn Nelson
No. 67 Evans to Kentucky
The Skinny: We're starting to feel like the Wildcats program's propaganda arm with our weekly message of coach Matthew Mitchell's recruiting triumphs. But we're not making up anything. Kastine Evans, ranked No. 67 in the 2010 class by ESPN HoopGurlz, is a slinky scorer who joins three other ranked commitments -- No. 30 Jennifer O'Neill of New York, N.Y.; No. 64 Laquinta Jefferson of La Vergne, Tenn., and No. 74 Samantha Drake of Bardstown, Ky. It's hard to imagine that Kentucky's class, which also includes Maegan Conwright and Sara Beth Barnette, would be counted among the nation's top 10 when all is said and done.
The Whole Story: On The Trail
No. 62 Wells Still at Four
The Skinny: The back-on-the-West-Coast point guard represents large stakes for each of her four finalists. Arizona State would regain some oomph lost when No. 11 Cassie Harberts changed her commitment to Southern Cal. California would gain the elite point guard it has coveted from this class. Duke would add to an already fabulous class that currently sits at No. 1 in 2010. And Stanford, nervously awaiting the decision from Ogwumike, would gain the athletic ballhandling it lost in the graduation of Candice Wiggins.
The Whole Story: On The Trail
No. 70 Sweat to San Diego State
The Skinny: Melissa Sweat's commitment solidifies a big leap into legitimacy for coach Beth Burns' program, which last season returned to the NCAA tournament after an absence of more than 10 years. This year's recruiting class, which includes a second ranked prospect, No. 94 Jasmine Porter, is a grand encore to the 2009 class, which included well-regarded backcourt prospects Ashley Duffy and Kiyana Stamps to go along with two transfers from Arizona, 6-0 Courtney Clements and 6-6 Malia Nahinu, both of whom will be eligible when Sweat and Porter report to campus.
The Whole Story: Fresno Bee
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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