Bollant's first class could form solid nucleus
The first Illinois women's basketball recruiting class put together by head coach Matt Bollant and staff might not have that one standout recruit who can change a program, but put together, all six could make a difference.
That's the opinion of Chris Mennig, a former women's college basketball assistant coach who is a national evaluator and event coordinator for Blue Star Basketball, one of the best recruiting services used in the women's college game.
Of the six commits for the Class of 2013, three are ranked in the top 300 by Blue Star. Headlining that ranking is senior center Jacqui Grant from Maine South (Ill.) High School, who checks in at No. 141.
"I've watched her play since she was a freshman," Mennig said of the 6-foot-3-inch Grant. "I've really liked the progress that she's had over the last four years. She's your prototypical four who can play a solid five in the Big Ten. She's got some back to the basket skills, but her mobility probably allows her to be an effective four."
If need be, Grant can step away from the paint and also handle the ball.
"She's not going to kill you with blazing speed, but she's confident with both hands around the basket," Mennig said. "I thought she'd be a Big Ten prospect for the past couple of years. It's one of those where if (Illinois) wasn't signing her, they'd be playing against her in the Big Ten."
Mennig is also high on Grant based on her club team, the Illinois Midwest Elite.
"Her club program played on the highest stage," he said. "The Illinois Midwest Elite travel program has gone against the best of the best in the country, so she's a proven commodity against some great competition."
Next on Blue Star's ranking is Bolingbrook (Ill.) High School senior guard Kennedy Cattenhead. She checks in at No. 164.
"There's a kid who's been a part of a winning tradition," Mennig said of the 5-10 Cattenhead, whose squad has won two Class 4A state championships and advanced to a 4A super-sectional last year since she's been in high school. "She's a lefty who can play all three guard positions. I wouldn't label her as a point guard, but she's a band-aid if you needed it. She's actually fairly confident with both hands. Our most recent evaluation we had on her and the biggest question mark was just knocking down that perimeter shot with consistency."
Another in-state product is Morton (Ill.) High School senior forward Sarah Livingston, who is ranked No. 295 by Blue Star. She stands in at 6-1 and is the younger sister of former Peoria Central (Ill.) High School great and NBA veteran Shaun Livingston.
"She's probably a four-spot kid," Mennig said. "She can knock down the three. She moves and runs the floor well. She needs a little more consistency on her finishing at the rim, but she has good court awareness and has good ball skills for her size. She has nice versatility. We're not sure how physical a kid she is around the rim, but she posts up well."
The other three recruits — 5-10 senior forward Andie Bolton from Chicago Marist High School and two out-of-state products, 5-9 senior guard Taylor Gleason from Goodrich (Mich.) High School and 5-10 senior guard/forward Mikaala Shackelford from Hopkins (Minn.) High School — aren't ranked by Blue Star, but are players Mennig feels fit the type of system Bollant wants to play.
— Mennig on Bolton:
"To me she's kind of a post kid that can score in multiple ways. The question mark with her is her three-point shot and if there's consistency there. This is a wing that can post up a bit. There was a wide range of schools involved. Again, I think she's another program kind of kid. It gives them another Illinois kid who has some ties to some different clubs. That's one of the things that they've done is give them a nice mix from a club standpoint. They didn't put all their eggs in one basket. We had her as a mid-major to upper major project."
— Mennig on Gleason:
"She's a three-point shooter. There's no question about it. She's a glue kid, but again, she'll be one of your better perimeter shooting guards in that class."
— Mennig on Shackelford:
"She's a decent outside shooter and can knock down the three. She has a pullup and works hard on defense. We had her as an upper mid-major to a low major prospect."