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Two who got away

11/8/2011

Coquese Washington awakened Monday to the smell of continuing scandal at Penn State. No coach likes a mess on campus, even if it doesn't involve her particular sport. Still, while her day wasn't as bad as football coach Joe Paterno's, it was one that a coach tends to have nightmares about.

In the morning came news that Brittney Sykes, the No. 30 prospect in the 2012 class from Newark, N.J., committed to Syracuse. In the evening, Branndais Agee, the No. 27 prospect out of Detroit, Mich., verballed to Michigan State.

Last month, Washington, architect of a Big Ten program on the rise, had herself a more-than-nice recruiting class. Two of the more dynamic perimeter players coming out of high school, Agee and Sykes, had been part of it. Now only the first one in, Candice Agee of Victorville, Calif., a 6-foot-6 post ranked No. 34 in 2012 by ESPN HoopGurlz, remains.

The early signing period begins on Wednesday and, although 14 ranked prospects remain uncommitted, Penn State is in the mix with none of them.

The other side of the de-commitment coin, of course, is the hardship imparted on college coaching staffs. Washington and her staff put countless hours and resources into recruiting Agee and Sykes. College coaching staffs lose recruits all the time. But not after having counted upon and planned around a pair of commitments like this, only to have the recruiting class implode just days before the National Letters of Intent are to be signed.

At this point, there virtually is no drawing board to which the Penn State staff can go back. It might be a little melodramatic to say jobs were riding on the Agee and Sykes commitments, but Washington's just became a lot harder.

On the other hand, it should be pointed out that the course of young lives are tied up in these decisions. There are those who argue that Agee and Sykes should have "grown up" and lived up to their word, which is nonsense.

Sykes cited her intended major, communications, for her pledge to Syracuse, which has a renowned program. Agee on Monday night again spoke of "things moving too fast" when she originally committed to Penn State. When she slowed things down, staying closer to home emerged as an important consideration. So was how she felt about her role in either program.

"There was no comparison," Agee said of Michigan State and Penn State. "Both are great schools. Michigan State was just a better fit for me."

Agee, who plans to study kinesiology and sports medicine, bubbled with enthusiasm about her choice.

"It's going to be great," she said. "It's going to be a nice four years. Something different from high school, you know?"

That's the perspective of a teenager.

For the adult most affected by changing, young hearts, Monday was rough. But Coquese Washington is a bright, young coach. And she didn't do anything wrong. She gets to do her thing again, in arguably a deeper 2013 class with presumably more scholarships to give. There's little to doubt that this will be a more meaningful learning experience for Washington than it will be for the two girls who ended up spurning her.

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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.