By Carl Schierhorn
The Kent State women’s basketball team has added a 6-3 transfer from Penn State and received its second verbal commitment from the Class of 2021.
MORE ON THE TEAM: After almost six months, Flashes return to the court.
Bexley Wallace: Pickerington to Penn State to Kent State
Bexley Wallace is a 6-3 post player who Prospect Nation rated the No. 91 prospect in the nation in the class of 2018. She will sit out this season because of NCAA transfer rules.
“She’s a very skilled, savvy and confident post player,” coach Todd Starkey said. “She’s played against some of the best players in the country since she was young.
“Being in the Big Ten for a couple of years, she’s used to a high level of competition. She comes in with a great pedigree and skillset.”
In 2015, Wallace was a member of the USA Basketball under-16 national team. That team went 4-1 and won a bronze medal in international competition with other teams from the Americas. A story in the Columbus Dispatch said Wallace was getting interest from college coaches when she was 13.
Wallace’s high school team, Pickerington Central, has one of the strongest programs in Central Ohio. In her senior year, it won the Ohio Division I championship and had four players who went on to Division I basketball.
As best as I know, Wallace is the first Kent State’s first player from Pickerington Central. In Starkey’s last three recruiting classes, he’s brought in players from some of the best high school programs in the state: Solon (junior guard Mariah Modkins), Newark (sophomore guard Katie Shumate) and Bellevue (freshman point guard Casey Santoro).
Wallace’s statistics in high school and at Penn State weren’t particularly special.
At Penn State, she averaged just over a point and a rebound per game. She started three games over two years and averaged about eight minutes in 51 games. Her best games were six points and five rebounds against Big Ten co-champion Iowa last season and nine points and five rebounds against Florida State in her freshman year.
In high school, she averaged about eight points and seven rebounds over four years. In her freshman year, she averaged a career-best 10.1 points a game. Her junior year she averaged 9.0 rebounds.
“She’s not a feature-scorer type player,” Starkey said. “That’s not what her game or mindset is. She’s balanced in all areas of the game, and that’s what makes her a really strong player.”
Wallace is Kent State’s second Big Ten transfer in two years. 6-4 post Linsey Marchese joined the Flashes last season after two years at Indiana. She sat out the season because of transfer rules. I’ll be surprised if Marchese is not one of the team’s top rebounders and scorers this year.
Marchese, Wallace, 6-2 junior Lindsay Thall, 6-2 sophomore Nila Blackford and 6-4 freshman Lexi Jackson will give Kent State what likely will be the tallest team in school history. I’ll have a post on the implications of that soon.
Lexy Linton: N.J. guard for the Class of ’21
Kent State’s second verbal commitment for 2021 is 5-8 guard Lexy Linton from Mt. Holly, New Jersey.
Linton, who announced her commitment by Twitter in August, is a bit of an under-the-radar recruit. I didn’t find her on any all-state teams online, nor did I find another Division I offer to her online. I did see stories saying D1 teams had shown interest. The Courier-Post, one of the larger papers in south Jersey, called her one of the area’s “players to watch in 2019-20.”
She averaged a little less than 15 points a game her sophomore and junior seasons at Rancocas Valley High School. For her senior year, she’ll play for Jackson Memorial High in Ocean City, which went 23-4 last season and reached the state quarterfinals.
Her highlight video is one of the most interesting I’ve seen. The first half dozen plays are all of her stealing the ball or blocking shots. (Most are of players shooting.) Linton has long arms and looks very quick. She’s reminiscent of Alexa Golden, Kent State’s director of basketball operations who led the KSU defense for her four years as a player.
In an interview online, she said she sees herself as a point guard, but it’s clear from her video she could also play shooting guard or wing.
Linton’s father, Garry, is the founder of TakeFlight Basketball, which runs basketball skills and training clinics in New Jersey. Lexy is featured a number of his training videos.
Kent State coaches can’t comment on recruits until they have signed a letter of intent in November.
Earlier in the summer, 6-3 post player Bridget Dunn of Carmel High School outside Indianapolis became KSU’s first 2021 commit. Dunn averaged 12.3 points and 9.9 rebounds as a junior and made the state basketball coaches association’s 15-member all-junior team in 2020.
Here’s the post on Dunn after her commitment.
The recruiting trail
Starkey said his staff is still recruiting.
“We’ve got two scholarships available, and we’re still working,” he said.
A majority of top prospects have made verbal commitments, but many teams are still looking for players. Ball State, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Ohio and Toledo also have two recruits who have committed publicly. Western Michigan, Akron and Bowling Green each have three, and Eastern Michigan four. Typical size of a class is three or four.
It’s been a hard recruiting season for Starkey and other coaches.
Recruiting been in an NCAA “dead period” since COVID-19 shut down college basketball in March. That means that coaches can’t go to off-campus events like AAU Tournaments, can’t do home visits with recruits or can’t have recruits visit them on campus officially or unofficially.
So coaches have been working entirely by phone and online. One out-of-state KSU recruit posted a screenshot of her talking with the four Kent coaches, her and her parents.
Coaches build a list of potential recruits three or four classes out and had seen many players before last March. Kent State, for example, offered Indiana commit Dunn a scholarship in summer 2019. I’m sure they had seen her in AAU or high school games.
But players who recently came to a school’s attention have been evaluated only through video and phone calls to them and their coaches.
Many AAU tournament operators, who in normal charge visiting college coaches hundreds of dollars in fees, this year streamed games on video — and charged coaches for access to the feeds. Most players have highlight videos online; a recruiter can usually get full-game video from a high school or AAU coach.
But it’s pretty unlikely that KSU coaches had ever seen Linton, the guard from New Jersey, in person.
In-person observation makes a difference. Starkey and Associate Head Coach Fran Recchia told KentWired’s Kathryn Rajnicek last spring that they like to look at things you can’t see on video — how players act during warmups and after a game, how they act on the bench, how they react when they’re taken out of a game.
A father of a Texas all-state guard KSU had been recruiting heavily complained about the NCAA rule on Twitter in summer, saying how difficult it was to evaluate a school long distance. (His daughter eventually chose Abilene Christian in Texas.)
“It’s been very, very challenging,” Starkey said. “I think it’s more challenging for the recruits and their parents — to be able to try to make an informed decision when not being able to go to campus and talk to coaches and players in person. We’ve been on so many Zoom calls. You try to simulate as much of that as you can, but it’s just not the same.”