New coaches are already on the recruiting trail

New Kent State coach Todd Starkey hit the recruiting trail before he had a permanent place to live and has already had at least one 2017 prospect on campus.

Starkey will have as many as four scholarships to give for the 2017 recruiting class. Four rising seniors — Larissa Lurken, Keziah Lewis, Chelsi Watson and Lacy Miller — finish their eligibility this year.

Lurken should be a starter for the fourth straight year. Lewis and Watson were junior college transfers last season. Watson started 10 games, mostly early in the season, and generally was the first post player off the bench. She averaged 4.6 points and 4.6 rebounds a game.  Lewis was a back-up wing who averaged 2 points and 9 minutes in 22 games. Miller was originally a walk-on who received a leftover scholarship last season. She got in three games and played just three minutes all season, but former coach Danny O’Banion considered her a valuable practice player and popular member of the team.

Last year’s team had no seniors, and all players are back, along with one incoming freshman recruited by O’Banion.

So Starkey had no scholarships to give when he arrived on campus in April. Coming on board so late would have made it difficult in any event, but he said in an interview last week that he might have been able to add a freshman or a graduate transfer had he had an  open spot.

But, he said, he knew the situation when he took the job.

Still he was off to an AAU tournament the weekend after he was announced as head coach, looking at played who would graduate from high school in 2017 and beyond.

“We’re really already late to the party for the 2017s,” he said. “We’re a year to a year-and-a-half behind in developing the relationships you try to build in recruiting these days.”

Next year’s high school seniors can sign letters of intent in October. Many of those players already have made verbal commitments to schools; two years ago O’Banion had locked up a six-person recruiting class by July.

Still Starkey said he had a line on some prospects and had already made offers to some rising seniors and even two members of the class of 2018. Some of his prospective freshman came off of what he called the “B list” from Indiana University, where he was an assistant last season. (MAC schools aren’t often in competition with Big Ten “A list” players.) New assistant Fran Recchia was recruiting coordinator at Redford University in Virginia (a title she now has at KSU) and assistant Pat Mashuda recruited heavily in Virginia and up the East Coach when he was head coach at Division II Chowan University in North Carolina.

One high school point guard was on campus last week and tweeted she had a “great time.” (I want to emphasize that I did not hear about the visit from Starkey, who’s not allowed to talk about players before they’ve signed letters of intent. I learned of her visit from the Internet.)

The prospective Flash averaged 20 points, 5 assists and 5 steals a game as a junior and was her hometown newspaper’s player of the year. Point guard is a position of need for the Flashes. Last season sophomore Naddiyah Cross and walk-on freshman Paige Salisbury split the starting job and averaged 6 points a game between them. Redshirt freshman Megan Carter, one of the team’s top recruits a year ago, can play point or shooting guard but was hurt in the team’s third game and had surgery on a knee and a shoulder.

Starkey said he planned to build his team with high school recruits, along with “strategic and efficient” recruiting of transfers and junior college players. Especially in the last few years, recruiting has been changed enormously by graduate transfers – students who have graduated from college but who still have a year of eligibility remaining. Unlike undergraduate transfers, those athletes can play immediately. Other MAC teams have already announced a half dozen players like that. Bowling Green’s 6-4 center last season, a third-team all-conference choice, was a transfer from Marquette, where she had played sparingly.

Ohio high schools have especially strong classes coming in 2018, 2019 and 2020, Starkey said. KSU will recruit them (“and so will a lot of other people”). Some, he said, may be players a mid-major like Kent State can get in a “soft landing” — players who go to a big name school elsewhere and transfer because they didn’t get the playing time they wanted or wanted to play closer to home.

But, he said, Kent State will recruit realistically. “It doesn’t do you any good to be the second or third choice” of outstanding players, he said.

Starkey said the critical freshman classes for his teams will be 2017 and 2018. The class of 2018 will be freshman during his third season. Coaches don’t get much more than four years to show progress toward a winning program. O’Banion’s contract wasn’t renewed after a 21-98 record over four seasons.



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