CHAMPAIGN — First-year Illinois women's basketball coach Matt Bollant on Tuesday picked up his first transfer when Georgia Tech's Sarah Hartwell signed a financial aid tender at Illinois.
Hartwell, a 5-foot-10 guard who played in 10 games for the Yellow Jackets as a freshman last season, will have three years of eligibility with the Illini. The Tacoma, Wash., native will have to sit out the 2012-13 season because of NCAA transfer rules and will be eligible to compete in the 2013-14 season.
"She's a great kid, very athletic. She wants to go out and get better, and her AAU coach has coached 30 to 40 Division I kids and says she's the best athlete he's ever coached," Bollant said of Hartwell, who was a member of two state championship relay teams at Tacoma's Bellarmine Prep.
Hartwell was rated a four-star recruit out of high school by ESPN's HoopGurlz.
"Her AAU coach called and said they want to send us a release, and I've been friends with him for about five years, and (associate head coach) Mike (Divilbiss) has been friends with him for a really long time," Bollant said. "He's a guy I really like and trust, and he told us she wanted to be in the right program and felt like ours was a good one."
Class of 2013 coming along. Bollant secured two more commitments in the Class of 2013 after Minnesota prep star Mikaala Shackelford made a pledge to the Illini earlier this month.
Maine South's Jacqueline Grant and Bolingbrook's Kennedy Cattenhead will join Shackelford in Bollant's first recruiting class at Illinois.
Grant is a 6-3 forward who is a two-star recruit, according to HoopGurlz. Grant averaged 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks for the Hawks as a junior and has eclipsed 1,000 points in her career. Grant also considered DePaul, Marquette and South Florida.
Cattenhead, a 5-10 guard, comes from one of the state's premier programs. Cattenhead is considered a three-star recruit.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge opponent set
The Illini will host Wake Forest on Nov. 29 as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
It's the second time the teams will meet in the Challenge. Illinois came from 17 points down to defeat the Demon Deacons 65-50 on the road in 2009.
Wake Forest went 20-14 last season and finished seventh in the ACC at 7-9.
"It's a neat thing. Each conference has a lot of pride and wants to say they're one of the best in the country by going against another of the top conferences," Bollant said. "Hopefully our teams can do well."
The ACC won the first four Challenges, and the leagues each won six games to share last season's title. Illinois is 2-3 all time in the event. The Illini defeated Clemson last season.
McGee transfers. Centrese McGee, who started all 32 games as a freshman in 2010-11 before missing all of last season with a torn ACL, has left the Illinois program. The 5-7 guard, who averaged 5.7 points as a freshman, and native of south suburban Calumet City will transfer to DePaul. McGee will sit out the 2012-13 season and will have two years of eligibility remaining.
"She had her mind made up when I got here. Before I sent the release, I told her to give us a week to get to know us and see if she wanted to change her mind at all," Bollant said. "After a week she said 'Coach, I believe in you, I think you'll do a great job with your teaching and you'll get the program going, but I want to be back home and my mind has been set and nothing's going to change it.' "