Undecideds determined to get it right
Before sounding off the alarms and wondering what could be taking these elite kids so long, the fact is this group of patient players is even smaller than last year. At this point last year, six of the top 10 prospects were still undecided.
Each has found her way to this place from different circumstances and are ultimately looking for very different things.
"You can't make a decision as a sophomore," Jones said. "You just don't know what things will be like, if the coaches will be there, anything."
Canty, who will take the third of her five official visits to Kentucky this weekend, has a mantra she has focused on to keep things from getting out of control.
"Seize the moment because it only happens once," Canty said. "I just try to not let it get overwhelming, or too overwhelming for me."
Canty, the 5-foot-10 guard from Willingboro, N.J., has already made official visits to Penn State and Miami (Fla.) and will follow up her trip to Lexington with visits to in-state Rutgers and South Carolina. Taking the recruiting process to its designed duration has been beneficial in her ability to identify several important components.
"The right education is my number one, just making sure they're going to educate me even if basketball doesn't work out so I still have something to fall back on," Canty said of her interests. "And then just the basketball program, if they're building up or if it doesn't look like they have a future."
For Williams, the 6-3 post from Virginia Beach, Va., her current academics have guided how she handles what is perhaps the most overwhelming piece of the process for girls, the phone calls.
"I've pretty much regulated when I'm going to talk to coaches anyway," Williams said, "where they might ask me or email 'when is the best time to call?' just because sometimes I just know I'm not going to talk to you on a certain day."
Visits for Williams, be they official or unofficial, come on the weekends and thus the studies-minded future doctor feels the burden on her studies when she is out visiting. She has banned phone calls from coaches on Sunday and Monday so she can catch up on her homework.
"So I just try to regulate where it's convenient for me because it's not like I'm going anywhere," Williams said.
Canty and Jones noted some dry moments on the phone because of the sheer volume of calls. With coaches feeling like they have to call stay in the mix, both also spoke to the unplanned damage the phone calls can have.
"Yeah I think that could be a big impact," Canty said of calling with nothing to say. "If you call and we are just sitting on the phone not saying anything, it's pointless because I could be doing something better. But if you call and we talk and we're laughing, having fun, joking at the same time, I'm going to listen to what you have to say, and you listen to my opinion -- it's more like interesting staying on the phone with you."
"That's the one thing I like about visits, it's a lot less awkward when you can see someone in person."
Jones said, "Don't get caught up in how everything is so great. Really pay attention to the details, how the team interacts; just listen." Jones has narrowed her choices to primarily midwestern schools.
All three were savvy enough to see that all the schools on their final lists will have fantastic facilities and plenty of student support and fanfare for big football games. In fact they saw that as a redundancy in the recruiting process.
These elite athletes also had opportunities with USA Basketball, starting with team trials in June, that took away from their summer and chances to maybe get ahead in the decision-making process. Williams was selected to the U17 National Team that won a gold medal in the FIBA World Championships while Canty went to Singapore as a member of the 3-on-3 team that won bronze in the World Youth Games.
None of the three really felt any pressure to commit, though Canty admits that the coaches recruiting her still ask with some frequency if she will commit before finishing her visits.
"I think just the fact that most people have already committed it kind of lingers on you, that you feel like other people in this class got the process over with earlier," Williams said. "It's not necessarily pressure but sometimes when you don't feel like taking phone calls on a day you think, man maybe I should've just committed early like everyone else. But at the same time I'm glad I've been sticking it out."
Jones seemed to have similar sentiments but was equally resolute in taking her time to get it right.
"A lot of younger people see their friends committing and think they need to do it too," Jones, from Altamonte Spring, Fla., said. "I've not been around kids who have committed early so it's not really been a pressure."
Jones, a 6-2 forward, may be taking her time but she also avoided calling schools early on, before they could call her within NCAA regulations. Her parents, who coached her club teams, filtered out a lot of the pressing. Her first offer was from LSU coach Van Chancellor her sophomore year.
She would put word out that she was not interested in the Southeast and that helped keep the call madness to a minimum.
Jones didn't cut to her final five until after this past July when she gauged some of the interest of several programs based on their attendance at her games this summer. She has already visited Missouri, Michigan and Cal and is at Marquette this weekend. She has one final visit next weekend to Northwestern, a school she said she is proud to simply be accepted to.
One committed long before she was even able to officially take recruiting phone calls, while the other let the early signing period come and go, ultimately announcing her commitment during the McDonald's All-American Game.
The amount of time that elapsed between these two prominent players commitments could be measured in years, yet their first year experience in college contradicts what most assume is true in recruiting. Bone, who committed in April of her senior year, ended up transferring out of South Carolina to Texas A&M, while Griner, who committed to Baylor in June of her sophomore year, is still holding down the for the Bears.
Time may not be the only factor, but the results of recruiting processes and decisions can only be measured in time in this era of transfers. These three senior standouts are determined to get it right no matter how long it takes.
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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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