BOGACZYK: No. 52-Ranked Signing Class Buoys Daniel
The Word on the Herd-Nov. 12, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - In his almost 30 months as Marshall's women's basketball coach, Matt Daniel hasn't had many days like Wednesday.
Many? Make that "any."
Daniel's 2014-15 team opens the season Friday at Rhode Island, but the excitement on this day was about the future.
When Daniel awoke Tuesday and checked the BlueStar Report that tracks women's collegiate basketball recruiting, he saw Marshall ranked second among the honorable mentions teams - or at No. 52 nationally. On Wednesday, the Herd received National Letters of Intent for a 2015-16 signing class of six, and Daniel said one more committed combo guard from out-of-state is committed to come aboard in the April signing period.
All are high school seniors.
To put the Herd's unheard-of women's basketball recruiting ranking in another perspective, Marshall was No. 2 among mid-major programs, behind only Princeton, which has won four consecutive Ivy League titles. MU was in the rankings neighborhood of teams like Kansas State, Northwestern, Texas A&M and Oregon, and ahead of Villanova, Indiana, Boston College and Cincinnati.
"No question," Daniel said when asked if the recruiting ranking was the biggest thing to happen in a program that has endured two straight 20-loss seasons. "I say `no question' because I think it's the biggest thing that anybody knows about.
"Now, I think the transformation of the type of kid we're involved with now, kids we inherited, the way they're carrying themselves now, the way they feel about themselves now, that's completely different, too, but I think that's harder to see for somebody who doesn't know any different. That's internal."
The Herd's signing class included three in-state players and another from the Tri-State. Add in a playmaker from Irving Texas, and a 5-foot-11 slasher and athletic defender from Bristol, Conn., and you have what Daniel wanted and needed.
The signees are Maddie Morris of Spring Valley High in Huntington; Shayna Gore of Logan, Hope Lester from Westside High; Logan Fraley of Boyd County (Ky.) High; Tana Driver of Irving (Texas) MacArthur High and Khadaijia Brooks of Eastern High in Bristol, Conn.
"I think this is the biggest thing," Daniel said. "I stand by this, that given tools and time, we'll build it, and we're going to build it the right way ... the quality of student-athlete. Not only can these kids play, but they're good students, all qualified academically already.
"You may have some who are sprinkled in there every once in a while, but your nucleus is going to be a base that's proven as dependable, with ability. Given the tools and the time, I have a great vision of what we can be.
"The flip side of it is we'll be really young next season. That's the second part of it, tools and time. Another part is our staff has remained so strong in our attitude and effort - the two pillars of our program -- and I am proud of them and happy for them and thankful to have them as part of my family."
With five or six scheduled returnees from the 2014-15 club next season to go with two players sitting out this season - Talequia Hamilton (from Huntington, a Cincinnati transfer) and Taylor Porter (a Lawrence County, Ky., product from Fort Gay, a Murray State transfer), Daniel likes the future.
He offered a glimpse at each signee (listed alphabetically, with junior season statistics):
*Khadaijia Brooks, 5-foot-11, Bristol (Conn.) Eastern High, 22.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 5.0 apg - "Good utility player, slasher, can defend bigger because she plays bigger; good scorer and rebounder."
*Tana Driver, 5-foot-1, Irving (Texas) MacArthur High, 12.1 ppg, 4.1 apg, 4.2 steals - "Played at the USA Basketball Trials ... the best female ballhandler I've ever seen." (ESPN.com listed Driver as the nation's No. 91 point guard prospect with the following scouting report: Tough, confident floor general, handles and attacks in transition with creativity; court awareness, distributes efficiently in uptempo; quick off the bounce, penetrates, dishes; diminutive size, tough to contain.)
* Logan Fraley, 5-10, Boyd County (Ky.) High, 15.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.1 apg - "A coach's kid (her father, Pete, is the BCHS coach) who has a coach's kid's IQ and that's something I can certainly appreciate (Daniel was the son of a coach). That understanding goes in, and I think she sees `team' from every angle. I think she lives it, breathes it."
*Shayna Gore, 5-9, Logan High, 21.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 7.4 apg, 3.7 steals (career stats) - "A combo guard, good body, can handle it, shoot it, post it. A really, really versatile guard. Can do anything we ask, like these others (except Driver, with her height and point skills)."
*Hope Lester, 6-0, Westside HS, 20.0 ppg, 14.0 rpg - "An undersized 4, an in-and-out player. Can stretch the defense, high IQ, pretty skilled, deceptively mobile."
*Maddie Morris, 6-0, Spring Valley HS, 21.4 ppg, 10.0 rpg - "Hard-nosed, that's the best thing. She plays hard, attacks the game, attacks life. There's no back-down in her, and that characteristic alone is a huge asset to any program, and I'm glad she chose ours."
So, where did Daniel expect his third recruiting class - he brought in 10 players to much less fanfare when he arrived in 2012-13 - to be ranked?
"It probably depends on who you ask. I believe these kids can play. Four of them are local kids who probably raise some eyebrows all over the country. But they fit me, and I think that is hugely overlooked, hugely overlooked.
"And I didn't know. I had an idea we were headed in the right direction - to what magnitude, I don't know. But if you couple these players with Taylor Porter and Talequia Hamilton sitting out. And we're trying to get a year (of eligibility) back for Leah Scott ... Now, you're starting to assemble something you can hang your hat on.
"We're close to a commitment for the following year already, almost have one for 2017. We'll never stop recruiting because you never know if somebody will want to go. I've never lost a commitment. I don't understand the world of soft commitments. Either you're committed or you're not.
"Those local kids who signed today have been committed to us for two years. We're glad to have each and every one we signed today. This is a very big day for us."