In the Big East, Connecticut nailing down its recruiting class early has become a rite of spring. Just as reliable a tradition is C. Vivian Stringer's late-breaking, recruiting high-wire acts at Rutgers.
The lesson for Scarlet Knight fans has been to practice patience because the rabbits eventually come bounding out of the hat. This year is no different as Rachel Hollivay of Columbus, Miss., the No. 8 prospect in the 2012 class, came through with a verbal on Monday, just two days before the start of the early signing period.
The last time Rutgers was a real factor in the national-championship race, the Scarlet Knights featured Stringer's trademark fleet, lockdown defense, though anchored by deterrent and inside defensive finisher, Kia Vaughn. The 6-foot-4 Hollivay, though not the load Vaughn was, offers oodles of shot-blocking and rebounding potential and is the kind of athletic post that can flourish in Rutgers' up-and-down style. Stringer got the roadrunners (Briyona Canty, Syessence Davis, Betnijah Laney, Shakena Richardson) last year; Hollivay is her coyote.
The five-star post has a shot at proving herself a somewhat undervalued prospect. Before she injured her left eye in a terrible car accident in 2009, Hollivay had impressive offensive tools -- explosion off the floor, maneuverability and a reliable mid-range jump shot. The injury has robbed Hollivay most of depth perception and sucked her offense closer to the basket, though she has shown signs of adjustment and could benefit from more advanced health care at Rutgers.
Hollivay joins No. 69 Precious Person of Rex, Ga., in Rutgers' 2012 class -- so far. Person also is a prototypical Scarlet Knight -- long, athletic with breakdown ability off the bounce and she comes with the added bonus of long-distance shooting prowess. Rutgers remains in the hunt for No. 17 Kahleah Copper of Philadelphia, Pa., who also is long, slinky and explosive. Stringer and staff also are in the mix for two more bigs -- No. 66 Je Zhe Newton of Chandler, Ariz., who may sign late, and No. 75 Ariel Butts of Columbus, Ga.
If Rutgers were to complete a sweep of those recruits, the Scarlet Knights surely would be back in business as national-championship contenders. They probably are anyway. Hollivay at least gives them a potential answer to UConn's Breanna Stewart and all the long, explosive athletes give them a shot at throttling all those delicious scorers Geno Auriemma lured to Storrs.
Also on the national scene, securing Hollivay did the double duty of keeping her away from Tennessee. With the news of Jordan Adams' pledge to USC on Friday, the Lady Vols have been shut out by elite recruits since coach Pat Summitt's announcement that she is suffering from early-onset dementia. It could be pure coincidence, but it's a development worth tracking.
Meanwhile, Stringer and her staff continue to hammer home a theme that would translate well on the court, as well as the season: Better late.
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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.