Monday, September 26, 2011

Jackie Johnson, Shayne Mullaney Commit to Minnesota Gophers

EDIT 9/26/11:

On Sept. 17 I wrote that the Gophers 2012 recruiting class--at that time, consisting of Mikayla Bailey and Shayne Mullaney--was not rated among the nation's best by HoopGurlz. It was the very next day that Mullaney's high school teammate at Eden Prairie and the #1 rated 2012 in Minnesota, Jackie Johnson, verballed the Gophers.

Johnson is rated #100 nationally by HoopGurlz, so they'll notice, but don't hold your breath for this to get the Gophers into the top 25 or 30 recruiting classes. It's probably not going to happen. But, hey, that's HoopGurlz. What is truly maddening is the negativity on the Gophers forum, GopherHole, where apparently some girl from Texas or Florida or New York would be preferred to the #1 girl in the home state.

Well, I've been critical of Pam Borton's recruiting, as some of you know. But the past couple of years she's returned to her roots--or, rather, the U's roots--which is getting the best Minnesota kids. And as of next year you'll have Rachel Banham, Kayla Hirt, Johnson, Mullaney and Bailey running the raised floor at the Barn, and I think that's just fine. Win, lose or draw, it's the right way to build a University of Minnesota program. Not to say that a 1st division finish in the Big 10 isn't desired, it is. Another finish near the bottom, as in 2010 and 2011, and I'll be at the head of the line calling for a coaching change.

But as of today, things are looking up. Nothing against some really great kids and great basketball players who have come to the U from points further removed, but shortly we will be represented by the best that Minnesota has to offer. I'll take my chances with that.


Well, here's something to celebrate! Shayne Mullaney, 5-8 Eden Prairie high school guard in the class of 2012, has committed to the Minnesota Gophers.

Mullaney has quietly worked her way upward in the rankings of Minnesota's 2012s. Her talents somewhat hidden on a team that has always boasted several great guards (Aubrey Davis, Morgan Van Riper-Rose, the year before that it was Karin Gibson), a year ago she was rated somewhere in the middle of the second 10. Now she's rated #9 on gPrep. In a couple of weeks she'll be rated higher than that as gPrep responds to her new "market" evaluation (i.e. her committing to a BCS school, something only 2 girls ahead of her in the rankings have already done).

Let's not mince words. This is a great get for Pam Borton. Some time ago, I wrote that she should sign 4 girls from among Minnesota's 2012s. My second choice was:

"#7. Shayne Mullaney, just 5-8, a combo G from Eden Prairie. Not rated this highly by most but, hey, have you seen her play? A very creative guard with excellent ball-handling skills. Oh, and a terrific shooter. She shot 58 percent this past year. Granted, she gets to the rim with her creativity but, what, you're going to hold that against her?"

Still, I am shocked that it actually happened. Borton has a history of eschewing Minnesota guards. Yes, of course, there's Rachel Banham to the contrary. But there's also Kamille Wahlin, Brittney Chambers, Alyssa Karel, Courtney Boylan, etc. etc., on the other side. And if Mullaney reminds me of anybody, it's Wahlin. Both were their team's primary ballhandlers, but both could also score pretty much at will. Mullaney can get to the rim, while Wahlin usually stopped and popped from 8 to 10 feet when she penetrated the outer defense. That, of course, reflects Mullaney's slightly greater size and significantly greater strength. But both could also hit the 3--as her 58 percentage suggests, Mullaney's a little better.

I'm not sayin' Mullaney will be a better college player than Wahlin. Mullaney is better in almost every tangible area. But what really sets them apart from other high schools guards is that both are among the cleverest playmakers I've seen since Lindsay Whalen (include Karel in that club). But Wahlin was the best and it's that creativity that has made her an all-Big Ten player. Will Mullaney bring as much of the intangibles to the Gophers? Who knows. But the good news is she is battle tested in a way that Wahlin was not--playing against the best competition Minnesota has to offer in AAAA, including the Hopkins juggernaut of 2011. Against the Royals' frenetic pace, Mullaney was the best player on the court for Eden Prairie. She was the one who continued to do the things she always does despite things speeding up a notch or two. So she has less downside than Wahlin had going into her freshman year.

Still, Mullaney was only my #2 choice on the Gopher wish list a year ago. My #1 choice is still out there. That would be Mullaney's high school teammate, Jackie Johnson. A vastly better high school player than, say, Katie Loberg, just to name one, I get that that doesn't guarantee anything in college. But Johnson is highly skilled and works as hard as anybody on the court. Sign Johnson and the Gophers will have a homegrown nucleus (Banham, Hirt, Mullaney, Johnson) that clearly could contend in the Big Ten. In my opinion.

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