All new for LSU
This technically may be Nikki Caldwell's first recruiting class for LSU, but the reason it was such a coup to lure her back to SEC country is how she approached this task -- she got a running start. The ink barely dry on her contract, Caldwell re-recruited Krystal Forthan, the No. 5 prospect by ESPN HoopGurlz in 2011, and got her to honor her National Letter of Intent, entered into for Van Chancellor, Caldwell's predecessor. She also secured the perfect front-line complement, rough-and-tumble Sheila Boykin, the No. 27 prospect who originally signed with Caldwell at UCLA.
That truly qualified as heavy lifting. The looming 2012 class was notoriously thin on front-line talent, and Caldwell skirted the issue perfectly.
If the spring provided the thunder, Part Deux of Caldwell's first Tiger class will supply plenty of accompanying lightning.
Applying the bow on this year's package, Kuaneshia Baker of Gretna, La., announced her pledge to LSU on the first day of the early signing period. Ranked No. 96 in the 2012 class by ESPN HoopGurlz, she was the best prospect in Louisiana. and Caldwell snatching her up sends a clear signal that the local elites have no need to cross state lines. Baker also is an athletic, skilled guard who happens to also be one of the most all-over-the-place players in this class.
When focused, Danielle Ballard of Memphis, Tenn., this group's headliner, does not get out-worked, either. A difficult year off the court caused Ballard to slip down the prospect rankings to No. 24, but there are few, if any, backcourt performers who come more talented and rocket-powered. If Caldwell can keep Ballard's confidence high, she could have herself one of the nation's premier lead guards.
The inclusion of three-star post prospect Derreyal Youngblood of Harvey, La., continues the local vibe as well as adds depth on the front line.
The trio of Ballard, Baker and Youngblood likely gives LSU one of the top signing classes in 2012. Toss in instant aircraft carriers in Forthan and Boykin as part of a two-stage effort, and Caldwell's recruiting debut in the Bayou has to be considered nothing short of spectacular.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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