If Kevin McGuff was to draw battle lines around a certain player during his first recruiting go-round at Washington, it had to be Katie Collier, the most elite prospect to come out of the state in a while.
In recent years, the Huskies essentially ceded the state, which produces reasonable Division I talent, to Kelly Graves at Gonzaga, and he has made NCAA tournament hay with his take. With Courtney Vandersloot graduated to the WNBA, the Zags certainly were looking at Collier, ranked No. 21 in the 2012 class by ESPN HoopGurlz, as a reload star.
Instead, the 6-foot-3 forward from Covington, Wash., becomes the foundation for McGuff's urban renewal project at Washington. This get is critical on several fronts.
Although Collier presently is battling a rare form of leukemia, all involved in her treatment are confident that she will be cleared to play college basketball next year. That big whoosh emanating from the Seattle-based campus wasn't the start of the latest Pacific Northwest rainstorm, but a huge sigh of relief as the Huskies graduate all of their size (Mackenzie Argens, Regina Rogers and Mollie Williams) in the spring.
Moreover, securing a star-level prospect could convince yet another, Jordan Adams of Irvine, Calif., the No. 6 prospect in 2012, to get in on the ground level of the start of something special. McGuff already has a pretty good recruiting class anchored by Collier, and it also includes four-star speedster Airashay Rogers of Renton, Wash., and three-star guard Heather Corral of Vancouver, Wash., who is 6-1 and possibly undervalued because she is coming off a second ACL injury. That class climbs into the stratosphere with Adams, plus next season's prospects become exciting with the return of the team's leading scorer, Kristi Kingma, who is recovering from an ACL tear.
With three natives in this class, McGuff and his staff managed to do something the two previous regimes at Washington whiffed on -- serve notice that they are locking down the state borders. This is a claim Graves used to be able to make. However, the other ranked prospect from Washington, No. 41 Jamie Weisner of Clarkston, Wash., pledged to Oregon State. She and Corral arguably are the kind of in-state recruits that Gonzaga feasted upon in recent years. Now, the Zags have a pretty good three-prospect recruiting class, but none hailing from the home state.
It makes for an interesting dynamic because the red-hot mid-major head coach that Washington tried to hire before Kevin McGuff was none other than Kelly Graves.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.