|Women's basketball signs four in early period|
MOSCOW - University of Idaho women's basketball coach Jon Newlee announced his 2009 early recruiting class on Thursday, and it features a group of student-athletes with length, athleticism and versatility.
Four players, three high school recruits and one junior college transfer, signed their letters of intent during the early signing period, and all of them are at least six feet tall.
Kelsey Bybee (Coeur d'Alene, Idaho/Coeur d'Alene HS), Alyssa Charlston (Sammamish, Wash./Eastlake HS), and Ashley Walters (Wilsonville, Ore./Wilsonville HS) are Idaho's high school signees, while Adrie Shiels (Canberra, Australia/Midland College) will come in as a junior next season.
"In our league, you really need to have length and athleticism to compete," Newlee said. "You look at Louisiana Tech, Fresno State and Boise State and the size and athleticism those programs have, and that's where we need to be. I think these girls have really addressed those issues with us and I expect all of them to come in and contribute right away."
Bybee, a 6-3 post player from perennial Idaho 5A girls basketball power, Coeur d'Alene High School, has helped the Vikings to back-to-back Idaho state titles, with a combined 50-3 record in the last two seasons. She also played for the North Idaho Elite club team for five years. She was also recruited by schools from the Big Ten, Big 12, Western Athletic Conference and West Coast Conference.
"It's great to have a local player from Coeur d'Alene, a winning high school program," Newlee said. "At 6-3, Kelsey is so athletic and can finish with either hand. She runs the floor really well and is a physical player inside. That's just the kind of post we're looking for."
Charlston is a 6-1 wing player from Sammamish, Wash. She comes to Idaho as one of the most highly-rated players in the Northwest. ESPN.com's HoopGurlz recruit service rates her as the No. 61 forward in the nation and the No. 8 overall prospect from the state of Washington.
"Alyssa was one of the more highly-recruited players that I've ever gone after," Newlee said. "She got recruited by a lot of the top schools in the Northwest, California, and the Big 12. To be able to get a player of that caliber at Idaho really sets the tone for classes to come, since we know we can get one of the top recruits in the nation."
As a junior last season, Charlston led the Wolves to a 17-9 record and second-place finish in the 4A KingCo - Crest league and a sixth-place finish at the Washington 4A state tournament. She was a first-team all-KingCo as a sophomore and junior. She averages 12 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
"She's so versatile," Newlee said. "Alyssa is going to give us so many looks, offensively and defensively, with her length and athleticism. She really gets up and down the floor, she can step out and shoot the three, she can play with her back to the basket if she has to, and she can really do a little bit of everything, and do it well."
Walters is a 6-4 post player from Wilsonville, Ore. She has led the Wildcats to back-to-back Oregon state tournaments, including a semifinal appearance in 2008 as a sophomore. WHS is 37-14 over the last two seasons, during which time she has led the team to a Northwest Oregon Conference title, earned first-team all-NWOC and broken school records for blocked shots and free throw percentage. For her career, she averages 10 points and six blocked shots per game, along with a 74 percent clip from the free throw line.
"Ashley Walters, at 6-4, has great size and is able to change shots defensively," Newlee said. "I think she's very talented, she runs the floor well, which I want to be a trademark of our post players, she can finish inside, and she can really alter shots with her length."
Shiels helped lead Midland College to a 30-2 overall record, a Western Junior College Athletic Conference title and a ranking as high as No. 3 in the nation last year as a freshman. In 2005, she led Weston Creek to a third-place finish at the Australian Junior Championships and was selected to the Australian Junior Camp, which invites the top 20 players in the nation.
"Adrie is an Australian with a lot of international experience, and she'll have two years at one of the top junior colleges in the country at Midland, and that has really toughened up her game," Newlee said. "I think she's going to come in here and give us a real toughness inside, but also the ability to step out. She can handle the ball and pass it on the perimeter, and she can shoot it from the outside."
Newlee said that these four recruits could create nightmares for opponents in coming years, as their versatility and athleticism can create mismatches at every position on the court.
"They can actually all play together, or they can complement each other as they come in and out," Newlee said. "I'm really excited about this class, more than any class in a while, just because of their length and athleticism, and the versatility that they're going to bring to our program."
Newlee also said that he is please with the strong classroom achievements of the signees. In addition to being recruited by Ivy League schools, the high school signees also come in with many honor roll and academic all-conference accolades.
"It's always our goal to bring in the best athletes and the best students," Newlee said. "When you have a class like this that has both, that can only be good for your program."
After beefing up the backcourt with his 2008 class of Bianca Cheever, Natasha Helsham and Kanisha Bello, Newlee has added four solid pieces to the frontcourt in the 2009 early period. Now, he said, there is one more piece left in the puzzle.
"The last piece of that recruiting class will be a point guard," Newlee said. "That will be our priority as we go through our end of the year recruiting."
Bybee, Charlston, Shiels and Walters will join Idaho for the 2010-11 season.