© Old Gold Free Press Columnists
With the reviews of Sharon Versyp's second recruiting class in, the Purdue staff is on track to exceed their efforts in the class of 2008 with a heavy recruiting effort in the deep class of 2009. Blue Star rated Purdue's 2008-09 freshman class as the eighth best class in the nation. Discussions following Purdue's follow-up class in 2009-10 may be if it is the best in the nation. That is, if the staff can sign even a fraction of the players on their priority list.
Leading the class of 2009 so far is 6'2 Sam Ostarello. From unknown to the top 15 in less than a year has been a reminder to all the players out there with hopes of playing Division I ball that getting in front of the right staff at the right camp can lead to discovery, regardless of prior national recruiting attention. In just the past two games, Ostarello has averaged 24 points and 18 rebounds in two road games.
With 10 scholarship players for the 2009-10 season, and one scholarship now marked for Ostarello, the staff plans to use up to the maximum number of scholarships on the class of 2009. The players on the priority list are among the best regionally at their positions. More precisely, many are the best at multiple positions.
Guard priorities are focused on 5'7 point guard Alex Bentley of Ben Davis High (IN), 5'9 point guard Sharena Taylor of Detroit Country Day (MI), and all-purpose guard Skylar Diggins of South Bend Washington (IN). All three guards have the advantage of leading teams with a significant amount of Division I talent against tough, multi-state schedules.
Ben Davis High seems to be getting more national attention than Bentley herself, but make no mistake Bentley is one of the top guards in the nation. Her list currently includes Purdue and Duke, and she recently visited Mackey Arena for Purdue's win over Wisconsin.
Sharena Taylor leads Detroit Country Day, a team with one player already committed to Notre Dame, and two others that will eventually go high Division I. Taylor's list includes Purdue, Minnesota, Bowling Green and Syracuse, and Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp watched Taylor and Bentley in person last week.
The last guard is the do-everything Skylar Diggins, who has been more non-specific when it comes to her interests. But Diggins is still looking at Purdue, as well as Notre Dame and a host of other top programs.
Among the group of wings and small forwards, Purdue is looking at 5'11 Kelly Faris of Heritage Christian (IN), 6'1 Alexis Rogers of Lakota West (OH), and 6'3 Kendall Hackney of Mount Notre Dame (OH).
Faris has been considering Purdue and Notre Dame, but has recently been named as one of UCONN's top four priorities for 2009. Faris is a frequent visitor to Purdue, and got an opportunity to meet all four of Versyp's 2008 signees last fall during one visit.
Rogers is hard to classify, as she can play four positions and has the quickness to defend those positions. Her shooting from the field and line are exceptional, but she's also respectable from the perimeter. Rogers was the leading scorer in their early season match up with Mount Notre Dame and fellow Purdue target Kendall Hackney. Rogers currently averages 12.6 points and 5.7 rebounds for undefeated Lakota West.
At 6'3, Kendall Hackney is an intriguing player at small forward, as she shoots 50-percent from the perimeter attempting two shots per game, and shoots a slightly better percentage from the field in general. She separates herself from the other forwards on the list because of her reputation as a shooter. The two time Division I most valuable player in the Ohio state tournament has a list that includes Purdue, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida and Southern Cal. Hackney is currently rated as the 39th player in the class of 2009 by Hoopgurlz.
While both Rogers and Hackney can also take their games successfully inside, the four players mentioned next do their best work inside the perimeter. The list of inside and post player priorities includes 6'0 forward Ashley Wilson of Wheeling (IL), 6'2 Emilee Harmon of Pickerington Central (OH), 6'2 Mikaela Ruef of Beavercreek (OH) and 6'2 Brianna Jones of Toledo Central Catholic (OH).
Wilson at 6-foot is one of the Chicago area's best inside players. Wilson is a relentless rebounder and physically strong. She is also good at handling the ball, which makes her good driving on players. Wilson's list is said to be down to Purdue, Michigan State and Marquette. Wilson went head to head with Stanford signee Sarah Boothe on Saturday and the pair played to a near draw with Wilson giving up five inches. Wheeling won the battle, 47-44, to give Warren their first loss of the season. Wilson is rated No. 43 by Hoopgurlz.
Harmon has been keeping her list close to the vest, but has had Purdue on the list for a couple years now and was among the first group of Ohio prospects we saw visit for a Purdue game last season under Versyp's direction. Schools who have reported visits from her include Ohio State, Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke. She has visited Purdue unofficially in each of the past two seasons. Harmon is a handful of a player, virtually unstoppable when she gets the ball down low and versatile enough to play out to the wing. She had a career high 38 points two weeks ago against Gales. Harmon is ranked No. 19 by All Star Girls Report and No. 23 by Hoopgurlz.
Mikaela Ruef was spotted unofficially visiting Purdue just last week, and has visited twice now unofficially. UCONN seemed to be interested before December, but a recently leaked priority list published in both newspapers covering Connecticut basketball did not mention her on the current four player priority list. The lefty has several nifty post moves including a jump hook from either side, and has a solid mid-range game. She also has to be respected on the perimeter and as a perimeter feeder. Ruef leads her high school team in assists. Ruef had game-highs in her last game against Fairfield of 13 points and eight rebounds for 8-0 Beavercreek.
The final big on the priority list is power forward Brianna Jones of Toledo Central Catholic. Jones is the kind of player that can lock down an opposing post, and is the perfect high/low post candidate. Jones handles the ball well away from the basket and can bring the ball down under decent pressure. Her offense has a little flash, mixing baby hooks with fade-away mid-range jumpers. Her rebounding skills are excellent, keeping the ball high and quickly turning for the outlet on the break. She is crafty at drawing fouls, and delivers from the free throw line. Of the players above, Jones is likely the most unheralded by the recruiting gurus, but is close to one of the best. Jones also played on the same club team as point guard target Sharena Taylor.
If Purdue can sign a few of the players on the priority list, the class of 2009 could be a statement type of class for Versyp and staff. The staff made a decision to stop recruiting the class of 2007 early two summers ago to concentrate on underclassmen, and it is showing in Purdue's involvement with some of the midwest region's top 2009 players.