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Gray down to final five

5/4/2012
Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com

Scoring the ball off the dribble is a major, major weapon to have at any level of basketball, and 2013 heralds a big evolutionary step forward in the women's game. With her explosiveness, lower-body strength and deft touch, No. 8 Allisha Gray could be the best in her class at it.

As such, many college programs in the country were pursuing Gray, but as of this past week only five -- Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee -- still have a shot at her.

From a purely basketball point of view, Gray's choices are interesting. Maryland, for example, already has one of the few elite commitments in the class, from No. 17 Lexie Brown of Suwanee, Ga. Brown has seemed better suited for being a targeted scorer off the ball, but has played a lot at the point and has the skill set to flourish there. She and Gray could prove to be a speedy tandem of interchangeable Georgian guards for the Terps.

Kentucky of course likes to play a lot of guards, and goes at a pace well-suited for Gray's game. North Carolina just reloaded with its 2012 signing class at every position but Gray's. Tennessee just signed a talented point guard from the state of Georgia, No. 20 Andraya Carter of Flowery Branch, Ga., who has similar explosiveness and could be a great pairing with Gray. Having just loaded up on guards, South Carolina might seem the longest shot of the bunch, but coach Dawn Staley's professional-backcourt queen-making is a strong lure.

-- Glenn Nelson

Plenty of 2013 talent still unsigned

When No. 2 Kaela Davis of Suwanee, Ga., made her decision in January to de-commit from Tennessee it looked like the class of 2013 was going to move at its own pace when it came to recruiting decisions. At the time, Davis' decision left only two committed players, Lexie Brown and No. 27 Briana Day of Durham, N.C., in the top 30 of the ESPN HoopGurlz Super 60.

Compared to previous years this class was moving at a much slower pace in its commitments, and it appeared that we were going to be in for a long drawn out summer followed by a hectic and news filled fall. Coming out of the April evaluation period, it looks like things are starting to fall into place a little quicker than that for the class. Of the top 30 players, six are now off the board to schools of their choice while the rest of the group for the most part seems to be narrowing down choices and picking finalists.

During the past month we have seen No. 1 Mercedes Russell of Springfield, Ore.; No. 8 Allisha Gray of Sandersville, Ga., and No. 13 and Jessica Jackson of Jacksonville, Ark., release official lists of finalists, adding more light to what has been a murky recruiting landscape for the class of 2013.

Moving forward, a lot is yet to be known about the class and where all of the chips will land. Right now, Notre Dame, Maryland, and Northwestern appear to be off on hot starts, with multiple Super 60 kids committed to each school. While all three are the current front-runners for one of the top 2013 recruiting classes, there is still plenty of time and talent available for others to make a push.

-- Keil Moore

Umeri eyeing an Ivy

Sydney Umeri of Acworth, Ga., is one of the nation's most highly recruited members of the class of 2013. The 6-foot-2 power forward is ranked No. 19 in the ESPN Super 60. Umeri has been on campus at Vanderbilt and Virginia already. This weekend, she's headed to Harvard to see what the emerging Ivy League power has to offer.

Umeri's presence on campus gives the Crimson a shot of landing an ESPN HoopGurlz Top 100 prospect for the third straight year. In 2011, they snagged No. 13 Temi Fagbenle and followed that with No. 68 Shilpa Tummula in 2012. Getting a pledge from Umeri would put Harvard's recruiting on par with reigning Ivy League champion Princeton.

-- Brandon Clay

Rankin Schneider returns to coach USA U17s

Reprising a winning formula from the inaugural FIBA U17 world championships in 2010, USA Basketball is bringing back the coaching staff, led by Jill Rankin Schneider of Monterey High School (Lubbock, Texas), that earned the U.S. its berth with a 5-0, gold-medal finish in the 2011 Americas U16 championship. In 2010, Barb Nelson took the core of the team that won gold in the 2009 Americas tournament to the same color medal at the world championships.

This certainly is no surprise. Because the time of high-school players is so limited, continuity is paramount when competition gets to the world stage. In 2010, the U.S. made only three changes from the 2009 team. That sounds about right. One strong candidate to be added is Diamond DeShields of Norcross, Ga., who was playing for the U18 team last summer and has more international experience than any of the other 34 players who will try out May 17-19. The stalwarts from the 2011 team include Rebecca Greenwell of Owensboro, Ky., the co-MVP of the Americas tournament; Mercedes Russell of Springfield, Ore., who averaged a double-double, and Linnae Harper of Chicago, who led the team in assists and steals.

Interesting enough, one player who definitely not be added is Kelsey Mitchell of Cincinnati, Ohio, ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as the top prospect in the 2014 class. After being a surprise early cut at last year's trials, she said she would decline any future invitations by USA Basketball. The 5-foot-7 blur of a point guard will not be among the 35 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

A 2008 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Schneider certainly has put in her time with USA Basketball for this gold-medal opportunity. As an athlete, she helped the U.S. to gold medals in the 1979 FIBA World Championship, the 1979 R. William Jones Cup and the 1980 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, to a silver medal in the 1979 Pan American Games and was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team that did not compete in the 1980 Olympics that were held in Moscow. As a coach, she led the USA U16s to gold in 2011 and shared the head coach position for the 1982 USA Select Team that compiled a 2-1 record in Bolivia.

Also returning to the U.S. staff will be assistants Gail Hook of Monarch (Louisville, Colo.) and Letitia Hughley of Mott Community College (Flint, Mich.).

-- Glenn Nelson

Memphis hosts visitors

With a strong 20-plus win campaign this year, Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin has her program on solid ground in Conference USA. That's essential as the Tigers make the transition into the Big East starting in the 2013-2014 season. With that transition comes three programs -- Connecticut, Louisville and Notre Dame -- who have played in the Final Four since 2007 as yearly foes.

To prepare for that, Memphis has been active on the recruiting trail hosting a couple 2013 visitors this week in No. 58 Nina Davis of Memphis, Tenn., and Jordan Dillard of Decatur, Ga., a three-star forward. Davis in particular would be a huge get for the program as they attempt to keep local talent home. The 5-10 wing has been a key cog in Memphis Central's ascension to being in the POWERADE FAB 50 discussion yearly and would fit right in with the Tigers uptempo style of play.

-- Brandon Clay


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Brandon Clay is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the publisher of the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report and the owner of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Clay has been involved in the community since 2001 as a recruiting analyst, event operator and trainer. He can be reached at brandonclay@peachstatehoops.com or you can follow him on Twitter @peachstatehoops.

Keil Moore is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report - a division of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Moore has been involved in the community since 2007 as a recruiting analyst and trainer. He can be reached at keilmoore@peachstatehoops.com or you can follow him on Twitter @keilmoore.

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.