Commentary

Central outlook: The Essence of power

Updated: November 4, 2011, 3:08 PM ET
By Glenn Nelson | HoopGurlz

As the early signing period for the class of 2012 approaches, the pivotal figure in the central portion of the country is not necessarily a player, but Kimberly Davis Powell, who coaches several elite prospects in play here. Her Florida-based club team, Essence, produced the fine guard, Niya Johnson, who recently committed to Baylor.

Johnson's club teammate Alexis Prince, the No. 16 prospect in the 2012 class by ESPN HoopGurlz, also has Baylor on her list. Prince also is in the mix at another looming contender, Kentucky. Their Essence teammate, Rachel Hollivay, No. 8 in the class, could dramatically improve an already strong recruiting class at Tennessee.

Not that we believe club coaches directly puppeteer prospects to college programs, but there are three here who will taste Davis Powell's indirect influence during the coming week or two.

BAYLOR


Committed: PG Niya Johnson (No. 43), F Chardonae Fuqua (No. 44), P Kristina Higgins (No. 56), G Destiny Brown (4-star)

Considering: W Alexis Prince (No. 16)

Outlook: Johnson hails from Gainesville, Fla., and is a self-admitted small-town girl, so the appeal of Baylor in Waco, Texas, is understandable. Although she's from larger Orlando, Fla., Prince has always been more comfortable outside the spotlight's glare, so it's not inconceivable that Johnson draws her Essence teammate with her. It's also not inconceivable that Prince will thrive in an environment where her supporting cast offers the kind of grit, athleticism and length that coach Kim Mulkey's recruiting class includes.

With Prince, this group would address every spot on the floor. That's usually not essential for a recruiting class to be considered successful, but it is in this case. Britney Griner's group came to Baylor en masse, so this class would get a season as understudies before taking over, plus the leadership of Odyssey Sims.

KENTUCKY


Committed: PG Janee Thompson (No. 35)

Considering: W Alexis Prince (No. 16), W Branndais Agee (No. 27), P Ariel Butts (No. 75), G Kuaneshia Baker (No. 96)

Outlook: The Wildcats are the program most likely to be chewing through fingernails and sweating bullets during the coming two weeks. Their list of remaining 2012 recruits is like a guest list for the McDonald's game.

The best-case scenario for Kentucky, which graduates only three seniors, isn't landing five ranked prospects. The dream probably would include Prince, but getting any two of the remaining four on the board would be a strong group. At first glance, the final combination should include Baker to fortify Kentucky's depth up front, but securing a pair of athletes like Agee and Baker, to go with lightning-quick Thompson, still would jibe with the fleet tempo coach Matthew Mitchell favors.

TENNESSEE


Committed: F Bashaara Graves (No. 5), PG Andraya Carter (No. 20), F Jasmine Jones (No. 39)

Considering: Jordan Adams (No. 6), Rachel Hollivay (No. 8)

Outlook: As much as nobody likes to address this publicly, talk behind the scenes is that this could be coach Pat Summitt's legacy recruiting class because of her battle with early-onset dementia. If that ends up being the case, the path-blazing coach will go out with a huge bang.

The Lady Vols already have the No. 4 class in the country, so obviously adding No. 6 Adams and No. 8 Hollivay doesn't dramatically improve their ranking. Plus they would bump up against the glass ceiling that is Connecticut this year; it's hard to argue that a class that includes the Nos. 1 and 2 prospects (Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson) isn't No. 1. But with Tennessee's best-case scenario, rankings really would be secondary. On the court, you'd wonder if anyone else would ever grab a rebound with the duo of Graves and Hollivay -- plus Adams, who rebounds her position as well as any prospect in the class.

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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 glenn@hoopgurlz.com.

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