Recruiting battle of 2013 begins
The truth is, Kayla Davis and Tennessee were always a good match.
It was an early love for Davis, the daughter of former NBA player Antonio Davis. Kayla grew up around Candace Parker -- she of Lady Vol lore -- and tagged along on frequent trips to Knoxville. Such is the life of CP's god sister.
"It was just one of those things, I was always coming around," said Davis, a top 2013 prospect who on Monday committed to play in Pat Summitt's program after years of watching it up close. "I was always thinking about (Tennessee)."
Committing this early may be a surprising choice for lots of young players, but Kendra Davis, Kayla's mom, said it made sense for her daughter.
"Typically I would say it's not a great idea," Kendra laughed. "It's like marrying your eighth grade boyfriend -- see what else is out there!
"But she did her due diligence. She would come back and say, 'I looked at this, I looked at that.' My husband and I ran out of reasons for why she couldn't commit early."
So Kayla committed to the Lady Vols, relieving herself of potential future stress. But what does it mean for the rest of girls' basketball?
Often recruiting is an indicator of things to come. When Tina Charles decided on Connecticut in the 2006 class and Maya Moore picked the Huskies as well in 2007, the writing was on the wall for the future: UConn would be the team to beat.
The Huskies' roll to dominance moved to full throttle in 2008 when the third consecutive No. 1 player pledged UConn. Though Elena DelleDonne left school and took up volleyball closer to home at the University of Delaware, the Huskies resurgence to the very top of the sport was the worst kept secret in the sport.
Now, with Davis' commitment to Tennessee, perhaps college basketball should be ready for Connecticut and Tennessee to again lock horns in recruiting battles for national dominance.
In 2007 Tennessee landed the No. 2 prospect, Angie Bjorklund, the counter to Moore committing to Geno Aurimma. In 2008 both programs signed several elite recruits with Glory Johnson, Amber Gray, Shekinna Stricklen and Alicia Manning saying "yes" to Pat Summitt and DelleDonne, Caroline Doty and Tiffany Hayes signing with Aurimma.
The 2009 and 2010 class signings were headlined by Baylor and the additions of Brittany Griner in '09 and Odyssey Sims in '10 and Duke signing Chelsea Gray, Richa Jackson and Haley Peters from the top 20 in 2010.
Fast-forward to the current underclass groups and things are starting to look like the heated rivalry of Connecticut and Tennessee is back for round two. Connecticut has already secured the commitment of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the No. 2 player in the 2011 class, and Tennessee has countered with Cierra Burdick, the No. 4 player in the class. The Huskies also have a commitment from Briana Banks out of Georgia, the No. 33 prospect
The scrum has now trickled into the younger classes: Tennessee has a commitment from the No. 9 player in the 2012 class, Andraya Carter, a good friend and future high school teammate's of Davis. Additionally, Diamond DeShields of Norcross has been rumored to be a Tennessee lean though Davis said she and DeShields did not talk about the commitment. With Connecticut's penchant for landing the top players from New York it would not be a surprise if the 2012 class's top player, Breanna Stewart, ends up picking the Huskies.
Recruiting is usually the first indicator but with transfers and injuries a constant factor, the next few years could be incredibly competitive with the two most familiar faces of the past two decades leading the charge.
Davis says that UConn was never really in the mix for her, noting that its distance from home and habit of cold weather didn't interest her. She says she also seriously considered Georgia, UCLA and Duke but that she wanted to get the process over early so that no one would be led on.
"Some kids enjoy the whole recruiting process and love the attention and all the visiting but I'm not really that kid," said Davis, noting that decisions get harder the longer you keep recruiting relationships. "I wanted to get it over with."
Davis admits she was encouraged about her early decision by Carter, with whom she will soon team up with at Buford High School in Buford, Georgia, as Davis plans to transfer from Norcross. Davis and Carter have both gushed about Summitt's success in Knoxville, and tabbed Tennessee as their "dream school" from an early age.
"I've been around Tennessee since I was 8 or 9, just taking unofficial visits," Davis said. "I established that relationship with the coaches early and I obviously considered a lot of schools, but Tennessee was the best fit for me."
And while she still has plans to grow and improve as a player, and recognizes that teenagers have a habit of changing their minds, Davis has no doubt she made the right decision, however early it may be.
"Tennessee, they kinda stick in the back of your head," she said. "I'm not really worried about it. It's definitely the place I know I wanna be."
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Lindsay Schnell is a staff writer for HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Oregon State University, she has been involved in the Oregon girls' basketball community for most her life as a player, high school coach, writer and fan. She also has been regular contributor to The Oregonian and won several awards for her writing. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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.
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