It would appear that the Minnesota Gophers are pretty much done recruiting the 2014s with 4 girls committed:
• 6-5 Josie Buckingham and 6-4 Terra Stapleton, a pair of Ohio posts
• Carlie Wagner and Grace Coughlin, a pair of Minnesota guards
Of course, Kionna Kellogg recently announced that she was leaving the program, leaving an obvious hole in the Gophers front-court for 2013-2014. Or is there? Michaela Riche, Amanda Zahui, Jackie Johnson, Kayla Hirt and Stabresa McDaniel are all available for duty, along with Sari Noga, though whether she's really a forward or whether that's a 3-guard scheme when she's on the floor is a matter of taste.
In other words, there is in fact not a gap in terms of quantity. Whether there's a problem with quality is, again, a matter of taste. Coach Pam Borton's taste was to split minutes at the 4 pretty much 50/50 (or rather 20/20) between Kellogg and Hirt, so the loss of Kellogg may mean a loss of quality for whatever minutes Hirt needs to spend resting on the bench. Or, on the other hand, is Jackie Johnson ready to contribute?
If you think there's a terrible hole as a result of Kellogg's departure, another 2014 recruit is not the answer. If you think Hirt and Johnson can do the job, then getting another body in here by next fall is not the answer, especially if you suck up a scholarship that you think you can give to a better player in 2014. If so, who would that be?
2014 Front Court Prospects
Well, duh. The top 2014 front court prospects who are not already spoken for are:
• Cayla McMorris, 6-1, post-forward, Park Center. I've even seen her play the guard position on defense, though not successfully against Rebekah Dahlman. A 3 or 4 in college with plenty of mobility and perimeter skills. But if it's a 4 you need, she's all of that, too.
• Bailey Norby, 6-2, post, Forest Lake. Plays hard, stays down low, does not shy away from physical play, fair variety of offensive moves.
• Bryanna Fernstrom, 6-5, post, Chisago Lakes. Do not see her as a fit with a team that has the 6-5 Zahui plus Buckingham and Stapleton already in the paint.
• Kylie Brown, 6-3, forward, Simley. A true forward at 6-3, but she is also a little bit tentative. Who knows if or when she will outgrow that?
• Chase Coley, 6-3, center-forward, Mpls. Washburn. Anybody who saw her in the state tournament is mightily intrigued. Averaged an awe-inspiring 11 blocks as a junior. Can score and rebound. Not as strong or as mature or as skilled as McMorris, but she sure is longer.
When I said, well, duh, I meant that McMorris remains the obvious superstar talent in this group, but if you're willing to take a chance with a project, Coley is the one with the upside. Both can and do play away from the basket and so are not subject to the Zahui-Buckingham-Stapleton rule. If Minnesota has the scholarships, they could do a lot worse than grabbing both of these girls, if McMorris and Coley will, of course, have Minnesota.
The 2015s do not, at this stage, look like a particularly deep class, and maybe not even a very good class top, middle or bottom. Time will tell. The obvious prospects include:
• Maddie Guebert, do-everything-guard, Eastview. If Grace Coughlin can play for Minnesota, Maddie Guebert certainly can.
• T.T. Starks, basketball player. In other words, I don't know exactly what skill or what position on the floor you recruit her for. I just know you recruit her and you sign her up. I guess when all is said and done, you give her a shot at putting the ball in the hole. She does pretty much everything else, but that might be her strongest suit, and it tends to be a fairly valuable skill, especially with Rachel Banham being gone about the time the 2015s show up.
• Taylor Reiss, 5-10, post, Minneota. Some may question her size and strength and even her skills. You know, she plays in Class A, how good can she be? The correct answer is, Good enough. But the fact is she's a volleyball player, so we don't really have to worry about it.
NOTE: She is indeed listed at 5-10 in the tournament program, as natstar1 says. She looks taller and plays a lot taller. She's 4 inches shorter than Alli Knuti? Same size as Faribault BA's big girls? 1 inch taller than Ada's tallest player? I saw all 3 games and all 3 of those comparisons are false. But 6-3? I guess she only plays like she's 6-3 and I fell for the act.
• Tara Dusharm, 6-5, post, Foley. Does she also run afoul of the Zahui-Buckingham-Stapleton rule?I mean, she's a year younger and a bit better than Fernstrom. She's still be the 4th post among a junior-sophomore-sophomore-freshman group, so that's s tough call. There's a couple of great posts in the 2016s, maybe you wait for them. But, wait, they're 6-2. Dusharm is 6-5. I say, Grab her.
After that, I'm not sure there's anybody that looks like a high D1 player though, yeah, they're young, they'll mature, they'll get better. Maybe Jill Morton, Edina guard. Maybe Alex Wittinger, Delano post-forward. Maybe Ali Greene, Mahtomedi forward. Maybe Monica Burich, Roseville forward. Maybe not. So it you've got the schollies, grab Guebert, Starks and Dusharm and move on.
Once again, well, duh. There's a girl named Nia at Hopkins, believe it or not, and it's not Nia Coffey. It's 5-10 guard Nia Hollie. She is the nextest greatest guard after Rachel Banham. So, well, duh. Get her.
The 2016s are deeper than the 2015s and so, after Hollie, there are some other nice prospects though, as I said, the posts are 6-2 and not yet ready for play away from the hoop. I'm talking Jamie Ruden, Rochester John Marshall, and Abi Scheid, Elk River. And Abby Kain of Simley is 6-1. Ditto that regarding Kain. Jury's out.
At the forward spot, you've got a couple serious lookers in Courtney Frederickson, 6-1, Minnetonka and Sydney Tracy, 6-2, St. Michael-Albertville. And at guard, after Hollie, you've got Taylor Koenen, 6-0, Shakopee, Kiara Russell, 5-8, Bloomington Kennedy and Andrayah Adams, 5-10, St. Paul Como Park.
If I had to pick a couple of them right now, I'd pick (after Hollie, did I mention after Hollie?) Tracy and Russell. Fortunately, we've got a year before we (Pam Borton) has to make such a decision, though I hope she has entered into a dialogue with all of 'em by now.
Well, duh. Jasmyn Martin. Could be the best Minnesotan since Rachel Banham. Or, could be the best Minnesotan since Lindsay Whalen. On the other side of the coin, her sister was rated #1 in her class at this age level and ended up #5. I think Jas will still be #1.
And don't forget Lyndsey Robson, point guard at Apple Valley. Just call her Tyus II. Could be the best point guard since Rachel Banham. Or, could be the best point guard since Lindsay Whalen. There's nobody else at 2017 that looks anything like a D1 lock but they've got a long way to go.
Well, duh. Carmen Backes, 5-11, Chisago Lakes. Looked terrific against DeLaSalle in the 1st round of the state tournament as a 7th grader.
P.S. I have only mentioned 3 2017s and/or 2018s. More will emerge, but this is also a fairly accurate reflection of the fact that the 2016s look like a really terrific class at this point in time and they've made it hard for the 2017s and 2018s to look really good.
The best prospects of the next 5 years who are not already Gopher recruits:
1. Jasmyn Martin, 6-3, forward, Bloomington Kennedy. 9th grade next fall (2017).
2. Nia Hollie, 5-10, guard, Hopkins. 10th grade next fall (2016).
3. Lyndsey Robson, 5-9, point guard, Apple Valley. 10th grade (2017).
4. Cayla McMorris, 6-1, forward, Park Center. 12th grade (2014).
5. Carmen Backes, 5-11, forward, Chisago Lakes. 8th grade (2018).
6. Maddie Guebert, 5-10, guard, Eastview. 11th grade (2015).
7. T.T. Starks, 5-10, guard-forward, Hopkins. 11th grade (2015).
8. Tara Dusharm, 6-5, post, Foley. 11th grade (2015).
9. Chase Coley, 6-3, forward, Mpls. Washburn. 12th grade (2014).
10. Kiara Russell, 5-8, guard, Bloomington Kennedy. 10th grade (2016)
Honorable Mention in alpha order
Andrayah Adams, 5-10, guard, St. Paul Como Park. 10th grade (2016).
Katy Brattland, guard. 8th grade (2018).
Bryanna Fernstrom, 6-5, post, Chisago Lakes. 12th grade (2014).
Courtney Frederickson, 6-1, forward, Minnetonka. 10th grade (2016).
Taylor Koenen, 5-10, guard, Shakopee. 10th grade (2016).
Chelsea Mason, 5-8, guard, Mountain Iron-Buhl. 9th grade (2017).
Hana Metoxen, 5-11, forward, Eastview. 11th grade (2015).
Jamie Ruden, 6-2, post, Rochester John Marshall. 10th grade (2016)
Abi Scheid, 6-2, post, Elk River. 10th grade (2016)
Sydney Tracy, 6-2, forward, St. Michael-Albertville. 10th grade (2016). If I had a #11, Tracy would be it.
P.S. I do not assume that the Gophers won't be signing some out-of-state recruits, I just don't pretend to know who that should be.