Mark Lewis of Blue Star Media has ranked coach Pam Borton and the University of Minnesota Gophers' 2014 recruiting class #24 in the nation behind:
1. UCLA--has Savanna Trapp, Esko, Mn, from the 2013s
2. Ohio State--Big 10
5. Connecticut--this represents a weak class for the 800-lb. gorilla of women's college ball
6. Notre Dame
8. South Carolina
9. Vanderbilt--has Minnesota's Rebekah Dahlmanfrom the 2013s
10. Tennessee--another weak class for the #2 power in the land
11. Maryland--future Big 10, coached by former Gopher coach Brenda Freese
12. St. John's--signed Kennedy's Tonoia Wade, #99 and #22 at her position, among the 2014s
14. Purdue--Big 10
21. Michigan State--Big 10
The Gophers rate ahead of:
26. Michigan--Big 10
28. Marquette--signed 3 2014 Mn guards, Kenisha Bell (#24/#11), Tia Elbert (#97/#23), Hannah Grim
30. Iowa--Big 10, signed Chase Coley, Mpls. Washburn, among the 2014s
34. Iowa State--has signed several Mn girls in recent years
38. Nebraska--Big 10
43. Illinois--Big 10
Conspicuous by its absence is Creighton, who signed 3 Mn girls among the 2014s. Also absent are Wisconsin, Northwestern, Indiana and Penn State of the Big 10.
Coach Borton has basically recruited a "team," 5 players including a post, a forward, a wing and a couple of guards. This is a big big recruiting class (I mean, qualitatively) because, first, of its size (quantitatively). These 5 girls will represent darn near half the team. And second, because of the obvious near-whiff on "the mighty 2013s," coach needed a better showing in 2014 to keep disgruntlement at a minimum. The 5 girls are:
C- Josie Buckingham, 6-5, New Richmond, OH. Scored 21 points with 14 boards and 6 blocks per game last year. Rated #172 nationally by one service.
F- Rangie Bessard, 6-0, Houston Manvel. Scored 14 points with 10 boards for a 33-4 team. Rated #260 in the nation by one service.
W- Tory Jacobs, Irving MacArthur. Scored 24 ppg with 4 assists for a 24-9 team. Rated #118 and #179 by two services.
G- Carlie Wagner, NRHEG, Mn, 5-10. Rated #54 and #100 by 2 services and #9 among point guards by the former, though she is not a point guard at D1, she will be a 2. Scored 40 ppg in 6 state tournament games so far.
G- Grace Coughlin, Benilde-St. Margaret's. Rated #89 by one service (cited on GopherSports Web site).
Superficially, it's a pretty good class, a nice bounce back from the near-whiff in 2013. But let's look a little closer.
Ohio State and Purdue
The top 2 rated recruiting classes among current Big 10 members are Ohio State (#2) and Purdue (#14). (Future conference member Maryland is #11.) Interestingly, the Buckeyes and Boilermakers, like Minnesota, signed big classes, 5 players each. How do the 3 big and highly rated classes compare?
Post--At the center spots, Minnesota's 6-5 Buckingham, who is from Ohio, is rated #172. Ohio State signed Alexa Hart, 6-3, who transferred from North Ridgeville, OH, to Columbus Africentric and was ineligible last year. She is rated #82 and #16 at her position. Purdue signed Bree Horrocks, 6-5, from Georgia. She is rated #35 and #13. So at the post it's 1) Purdue, 2) OSU, 3) Minnesota.
Power Forward--At the 4, Minnesota's Bessard is ranked #260. Ohio State has a second post, actually, 6-2 Makayla Waterman from Kettering Fairmont, 27-1 and Ohio state champ last year. She scored 9 ppg with 7 boards, and she's ranked #69 and #14 at her position. Purdue also signed a second post, Haley Bodnar of Utah's state champions, who averaged 14 points and 10 boards last year, and was rated #149 and #20 at her position. So at the 4 it's 1) OSU and 2) Purdue, with Minnesota at #3.
Small Forward--Minnesota's Tory Jacobs is rated #118 and #179 by two services. Ohio State grabbed 5-11 Chelsea Mitchell, who is not highly rated (more about her below under the point guard section). Purdue signed Erica Moore, who scored 19 points with 7 boards for the Indiana state champ, and she's rated #78. So it's 1) Purdue, 2) OSU and 3) Minnesota.
Off Guard--Minnesota's Carlie Wagner is rated #54 and #100 by 2 services. OSU got Asia Doss, 5-7, from Detroit Country Day. She scored 18 points with a ridiculous 14.5 assists, and is rated #92/#22 at the point, actually. Purdue got Andreana Keys from Georgia, who has flown under the radar a bit due to injuries. So it's 1) Minnesota , 2) OSU, 3) Purdue at the 2.
Point Guard--Minnesota's Allie Coughlin is rated #89 in one service and outside the top #200 in another. Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell is rated #23 overall and #3 at the point. Her sister Chelsea is obviously recruiting because that's what you had to do to get Kelsey. Purdue got Justin Hall who scored 17 ppg for the Colorado state champs, and she is rated #74/#14. 1) Ohio State, 2) Purdue, 3) Minnesota.
So among the top 3 rated classes, Ohio State got the top prospect 3 times and Purdue twice, Minnesota not at all.
Among all Big 10 teams, the top candidates would seem to be:
Center--Chatrice White, Illinois, 6-3, top 20
PF--Waterman, Ohio State
SF-- Kaylee Page, Nebraska, 6-2, wing, 40s
PG--Mitchell, Ohio State
SF--Jasmine Lumpkin, Michigan State, 6-0, #51-52-61 in 3 services
PG--Doss, Ohio State
SG--Kiara Leslie, Maryland, 5-11, #57
C--Hart, Ohio State
PF--Kennedy Johnson, Michigan State, 6-2, #78
SF--Aja Ellison, Maryland, 6-3, F, 52 percent shooter, #45
PG--Natalie Romeo, Nebraska, #55
SG--Kristen Confroy, Maryland, 5-8, #51
C--Chase Coley, Iowa
SF--Lexi Gossert, Michigan State, 32.5 ppg, #54
PG--Justine Hall, Purdue
SG--Ally Disterhoft, Iowa, 6-0, #69
PF--Chandler Smith, Nebraska
SF--Tory Jacobs, Minnesota
PG--Amara Coleman, Illinois
SG--Katelynn Flaherty, Michigan
Given that there's a lot of guesswork in rating recruiting classes, let's not try to split hairs. Let's just divide 'em into groups.
Group 1--national leading class--Ohio State
Group 2--Big Ten leading class--Maryland, Purdue
Group 3--better than average--Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska
Group 4--middle of the pack--Illinois, Iowa, Michigan
Group 5--they also ran--Wisconsin, Northwestern, Indiana, Penn State, Rutgers
Been There, Done That
So, all in all, this is a pretty fair class--the Gophers, I mean. If there's a problem, it lies not with the class itself, but with the history. We've seen classes like this before and have pretty much nothing to show for them.
In 2008 the Gophers rated #16 (Buford, Mastey, Voigt)
In 2009 they rated #34 (Cotton, Dvorak, Loberg)
In 2010 #46 (Clay, Kellogg, Noga, Riche)
In 2011 #23 (Banham, Hirt)
In 2012, the class of Bailey, Johnson and Mullaney was not rated, and in 2013 the class of Hedstrom and McDaniel was not rated. Hedstrom was rated the #26 point guard, McDaniel the #57 wing.
The class of 2008 at #16, and followed up by three top 50 classes, would seem to have had great potential, and no one can possibly dispute that that potential was not realized. The class of 2011 was rated most closely to where the 2014s are rated, but it was not supported by a top 50 class until 2014, though it's true that the 2013 class did not include Amanda Zahui when the ratings came out.
But the point is simple. A Big 10 school with the #16, 34, 46, 23 and now 24-rated recruiting classes should have a tradition of winning going on, and Minnesota doesn't have that. So, no matter what you think of the 2014 class as high school players or rookies, why do we think they'll get better results than what we've had over the past six or seven years?
Because maybe the chemistry will suddenly work and create synergies so that the sum is greater than the parts? Or because suddenly women will be developing to their full potential and become as juniors and seniors the players we thought the could be when they were freshmen?
Just for the Record
Some possible lineups for the coming years.
C- Amanda Zahui 6-5 fr.
PF- Micaella Riche 6-2 sr.
SF- Sari Noga 5-10 sr.
G- Rachel Banham 5-9 jr.
G- Shayne Mullaney 5-10 soph.
C- Zahui soph.
PF- Jackie Johnson 6-2 jr.
SF- Kayla Hirt 6-2 jr.
G- Banham sr.
G- Mullaney jr.
C- Zahui jr.
PF- Johnson sr.
SF- Hirt sr.
G- Carlie Wagner 5-10 soph.
G- Mullaney sr.
C- Buckingham jr.
PF- Zahui sr.
SF- Jacobs jr.
G- Wagner jr.
G- Hedstrom sr.
Obviously there could be some 2015s or even a 2016 freshman by now (Nia Hollie will be a freshman in 2016-2017) but we don't know who they'll be.
So, OK, the talent looks pretty good. I was going to write about what a great job Pam has done with this class. She's semi-abandoned Minnesota as there are too many Minnesota girls who don't want to play at the U. Can't fault her for that.
But on closer look, the talent is "pretty good," but not great. And we've had pretty good talent before, and got pretty much nothing to show for it. If the effort down at Creighton proves to be anything close to typical this year. then there's no real rebuilding going on, just hanging on, surviving. Here again, I'm afraid the talent is good enough to keep hanging on, but not good enough to get over the top. How long is this going to continue?
So, sure, there's reason for optimism (talented women on the roster and coming next year). And there's reason for resignation (the failure to capitalize on similar talents in the past). Again, "how long" is the operative question. How long are we going to hang in limbo with this program? The caliber of talent we will have 2-3-4 years from now, we've got it now. If there's not a renaissance in 2014, why would we expect one in 2015 or 2016? This really ought to be the last shot. If Rachel Banham doesn't get to the NCAA tournament this year, she ought to get one more chance as a senior under a new regime.