Chicago Fenwick, featuring Purdue signee Erin Lawless, has been named the No. 1 team in Illinois, in recently released preseason polls by both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Fenwick returns six seniors from a 30-4 team, and hope to return to the Class AA championship game before graduation. Fenwick last won the tournament in 2001.
Coming in at No. 2 in the Chicago Tribune poll is Marian Catholic featuring 6-foot-2 junior Lauren Lacey, a Purdue prospect. Marian Catholic finished the 2002 season with a 31-2 record, but will be without Illinois-bound Missy Mitidiero until late December due to a knee injury.
Another program of interest sits at No. 7. Trinity may become a popular destination for the Purdue staff as they monitor the progress of 6-foot-2 junior Caprice Smith. Smith averaged 21.5 points and 11.8 rebounds as a sophomore. According to Trinity head coach Jason Nichols, in reference to the recruiting attention given to Smith, "The phone calls are pouring in."
Also keep an eye on preseason No. 14 Niles North. Center Natasha Williams, at 6-foot-3 and a power game to go with her height, is getting major attention as a rising star in the junior class. Purdue has already traveled to Skokie to scout her this fall. Williams traveled with the Illinois Hustle 15-under AAU team to nationals this year and came away with the tournament MVP award. Her team finished second. Her high school team attended Purdue's Team Camp this past summer and compiled an 8-2 record, losing their two games by three and seven points. At the Maine West tournament, also this summer, Niles North beat preseason No. 2 Marian Catholic and almost pulled off the upset of preseason No. 1 Fenwick.
We first saw Williams at the 2001 Blue Star Elite Camp, where she was coming just shy of dunking a basketball in practice. Our report on her then read..."Very solid player. Can execute a sharp bounce pass into the paint, and can finish if posting up herself. She's got a very smooth form and seems to make the most shots in the 15 to 17 range. Had a little trouble finishing on the last day of camp."
Williams, who averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds last season, is being recruited by a lengthy list of programs including Purdue, Illinois, Illinois State, Marquette, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Iowa State.