Women's basketball and volleyball beat writer Jeff Huth chats at 11 a.m. Fridays. Plenty on his plate this week - the NCAA tournament chances of Matt Bollant, the recruiting of Kevin Hambly. Submit questions any time
Welcome to our weekly chat on Illini women's basketball and volleyball. We'll get started in a few minutes.
-- Jeff Huth
I read with excitement (and a certain amount of shock) this week about the verbal commitment from Beth Prince - WOW! I have been following her recruitment and had all but given up on her (assuming she was headed to Texas). I was discouraged after losing both Stahl and Frantti to other Big 10 schools, but the addition of Prince more than makes up for these misses. Congratulations to Coach Hambly and his staff - this is a huge catch for Illinois. I think Prince will be a game-changer for the program and will elevate the program to yet another level. With the commitments from both Prince and Poulter, I expect other prized recruits will give Illinois more serious consideration. Before all is said and done, the 2015 class has the potential to be ranked #1 in the nation.
I've been following the women's basketball team this season and am quite pleased with coach Bollant and am impressed with how quickly he is turning the program around. I hope that 2014 and 2015 recruits are taking notice. Can you identify any of the primary recruits for 2014? With the loss of Magrum and Morris to career-ending injuries, what are his options for securing another post player for next season? What can you tell us about Jacqui Grant or Sarah Livingston? Are either ready to step in and contribute right away?
Thank you - I appreciate the chats.
Since women's basketball recruiting (and volleyball, for that matter) doesn't attract the kind of scrutiny that football and men's basketball receives from specialty websites like Rivals and Scout, it can be difficult to get information on which recruits a program is strongly going after -- the "primary" targets you refer to.
However, we have a few names that Matt Bollant and his staff appear to have an interest -- perhaps a strong interest -- in the Class of 2014:
Gabby Ortiz of Prairie Du Chien High School in Wisconsin. She's a 5-6 point guard ranked No. 36 in her class by Blue Star Report and No. 42 by ESPN Hoopgurlz.
Jasmine Lumpkin of Joliet Catholic. She's a 6-foot wing ranked No. 83 by Blue Star (and No. 20 at her position by Hoopgurlz).
Chatrice White of Shelby High School in Nebraska. She's a 6-3 center ranked No. 54 by Blue Star and No. 24 by Hoopgurlz.
Kortney Dunbar of Edwardsville. She's a 6-1 wing.
Kia Nurse, a 5-9 point guard from Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada.She's ranked No. 87 by Blue Star. An interesting side note: Nurse is the niece of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb
Looks like Hambly got another good one in Beth Prince. That said, I have to wonder about the lack of recruits from the state of Illinois. The 2015 class has recruits from Indiana and Colorado, but none from Illinois so far. The 2014 class has none from Illinois or anywhere else. The 2013 class has recruits from Ohio and Wisconsin along with Roustio from Illinois. The returning classes for next year have only three Illinois kids between them that weren't walkons. High school volleyball in Illinois isn't like football or baseball, there are plenty of great recruits. We are one of the top recruiting hotbeds in the nation. In fact, virtually every Big Ten team is after players from the state. If you look at 2014 alone, the rest of the conference has commits from ten Illinois players while we have none. The local club and high school coaches have to notice. Zook alienated coaches from across the state by not recruiting locally and by dropping a number of Illinois kids that Turner had recruited. I hope that doesn't happen with volleyball.
Your point about the multiple programs that recruit prep talent in Illinois is one factor to keep in mind. There is a lot of competition, and it comes from many of the nation's top schools.
Kevin Hambly did go hard after junior Ali Frantti of Richmond-Burton and lost out on her to Penn State. She was one of two recruits the UI made a priority in its Class of 2014 recruiting. The other was Azariah Stahl of Elkhart, Ind., who committed to Purdue.
Hambly has said several times that when it comes to recruiting, he is not going to settle on recruits that aren't near the top of his list just fill in a class. That's what happened, I think, in the Class of 2014.
If you are disturbed that more Illinois prospects aren't choosing the UI, I certainly won't discount that sentiment. I would urge fans to consider that in order to compete for NCAA titles, a program needs to win recruting battles for top-tier recruits whereever they reside.
For the most part, Hambly's recruiting has been Midwest-based. And some of the out-of-state recruits do have State of Illinois ties, like Liz McMahon and, now, Beth Prince.
Ultimately, Hambly's recruiting will be judged by how his team's fare on the court. And I suspect UI fans won't care where the players are coming from if the team is in the Final Four.
Thinking about how next year's team will be without Penn and Godbold, have you had a chance to see transfer Sarah Hartwell in practice? Bollant is high on her. What can you tell us about her game?
I have seen a little bit of Sarah Hartwell in practice, but probably not enought to make a fair judgement. Plus, there's a lot more to practices than full-court scrimmaging.
Based on her high school career as a 4 star recruit out of Tacoma, Wash., Hartwell appears to be a pretty well-rounded player who can score, pass and rebound. The fact that she won defensive awards as a prep is a good sign, too.
Given her size (5-10) and position (guard), I suspect she'll be a strong contender to fill the void left after this season by senior Adrienne GodBold.
Seems like there's an update on the Men's basketball recruits at least weekly if not more frequently, & nothing on the Women's recruits. I've asked this before, but how about giving us an update on how the Women's recruits are doing?
A while back, I contacted the high school coaches of each of the Class of 2013 signees and asked for updates. Heard back from two of them. Getting information via the Internet on high school basketball is kind of hit and miss.
We'll do our best to pass along information at the end of each recruit's season: final stats, awards, etc.
Bob Becker, Sarah Livingston's coach at Morton, recently passed along this note:
Sarah has helped lead the Morton Potters to a 24-4 record and 13-0 Mid-Illini
record. She has recovered fully from an early season ankle injury and has come on
strong since the new year started. She is averaging 14 ppg over the 12-0 run in 2013
the team is on. She has been showing more consistent dominance at both ends of the
court and we're excited for the post season.
Jacqui Grant of Maine South was closing in on 1,500 career points, the last I knew and might have reached it by now.
Here's what her coach, Mark Smith, had to say about Grant:
Over the four years, she has increased her skill sets and range. When she
was a Freshmen, most of her baskets came from high-low entries and rebound,
put-backs. Now, she is shooting the three, taking girls off the dribble
and can score with both hands in the post.
As a Sophomore, she helped us upset Whitney Young (ranked #9 nationally at
the time) in the 3rd place game down state by a point. That year, we won
The following year (her junior year), we won 25 games but exited the
playoffs early due in part to her not playing in our sectional semi-final
(sprained ankle). We will win 25+ games again this year
The commitment from Beth Prince was exhilerating, but can you tell us a little about the setter from Colodrado who also committed? Thank you for doing this chat. NaplesIllini
You're referring to Jordyn Poulter of Eaglecrest High School in Centennial Colorado. A Class of 2015 commitment, Poulter was named to the Denver Post's seven-player All-Colorado volleyball team. Considering she's just a sophomore, and that Colorado is one of the best prep volleyball states, it was a noteable achievement.
Earlier this week, Prepvolleyball.com announced its 2012 high school All-Americans. The 6-1 Poulter was among 75 players named to the "Highest Honorable Mention" list.
Two other future Illini made the 150-player All-American list: senior outside hitter Michelle Strizak of Cincinnati and sophomore outside hitter Beth Prince of Avon, Ind.
Looks like we're out of questions so we'll wrap up the chat. Thanks for the interest, and talk to you next Friday.