Coach Todd Starkey and his staff are putting together a national recruiting class.
So far four high school seniors – from California, Nevada, Georgia and Michigan – have announced that they’ll play for the Flashes starting in 2017.
NCAA rules don’t allow coaches to talk about specific recruits until after they’ve signed letters of intent in November.
The four verbal commitments have very good junior year credentials and include a center, forward, and two combination guards who look more like shooting guards on paper.
The list, gathered from the players’ or their AAU teams’ Twitter feeds:
KASEY TOLES, a shooting guard who can also play point, from Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Georgia, about 25 miles from Atlanta. She’s the sister of KSU assistant coach Morgan Toles, a starting point guard herself at both Auburn and Florida State. Kasey was an all-regional player who averaged 14 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and and 2 steals last season. Here’s a very nice profile of her from last December.
She and her sister, who got her masters degree from Florida State in May before joining the Kent State staff, come from an amazing athletic family. Their father, Alvin, was a first-round draft pick by the New Orleans Saints in 1985 after playing linebacker and fullback at Tennessee. Their mother, Vicky, played shooting guard at Hiawasse College in Madisonville, Tennessee.
Brother Andrew is a rookie outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .357. Uncle Johnnie Jones is the fourth leading rusher in Tennessee football history and played in the NFL and Canadian Football League.
The other three recruits don’t have the same family pedigree but have equally impressive high school statistics.
AMANDA SAPE is a big, strong center from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. She’s 6-3 and 210 pounds and an all-state shot putter. Sape averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks last season but missed a number of games because of a concussion. She was honorable mention all-state as a sophomore. Here’s a story on her that talks as much about her track career that basketball.
MONIQUE SMITH is a 5-11 forward from Serra High School in San Diego. As a junior, she averaged 17.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, 6.7 steals and 2.7 assists on a team that went 20-10. She also led the team in scoring, rebounding and steals as a sophomore.
KAILY KAIMIKAUA is a 5-9 shooting/point guard from Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada, a city 16 miles from Las Vegas. As a junior she averaged 8.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game on a team that went 26-4 and was ranked third in Nevada. She made 23 of 36 three-point shots.
Both Smith and Kaimikaua come off of what seems to be a legendary GBL Lady Rebels AAU team in Los Angeles. (A link to that history.)
Sape and Toles also come from nationally known AAU teams – the Michigan Storm in Sape’s case and the Georgia Metros for Toles.
Starkey has four or five open scholarships for 2017. Three-year starting guard Larissa Lurken graduates, along with wing Keziah Lewis and post player Chelsi Watson (both junior college transfers last season) and center Lacy Miller, a walk-on who earned a scholarship from former coach Danny O’Banion.
Another scholarship opened up when Savannah Neace, a freshman forward who missed all last season with a medical issue, left the team this summer. I haven’t heard whether Paige Salisbury, a walk-on who started 12 games last season at point guard, got that scholarship for the upcoming season.
Starkey had recruited several point guards this summer, but I haven’t seen any announcements on that front. I swear I saw a photo from a Southern AAU tournament of three point guards, one of whom was wearing a KSU t-shirt, but I didn’t save it and can’t find it again. The point guard from West Virginia – not the same person – who visited campus earlier this summer hasn’t announced where she’s going to school. She has multiple offers, including Kent State, Akron and Xavier.
The four who have verbally committed look like an impressive group. We certainly haven’t seen national recruiting like that since early in the Bob Lindsay era. That’s likely due to Starkey’s national recruiting experience at Indiana University, where he was an assistant. Current KSU assistant Pat Mashuda and recruiting coordinator Fran Recchia came out of the South. And of course Toles had an in with her sister.
I struggle evaluating recruiting in these days of junior commitments. It’s often hard to find information on out-of-state recruits. All-state teams tend to be dominated by seniors, especially for MAC-caliber players.
But to me, this class looks deeper and more talented than I can remember in at least 10 years. It’s far stronger than O’Banion’s first full recruiting class, which included Lurken and three players who didn’t last beyond their sophomore years.
Article has been corrected for the right name and city of Monique Smith’s high school.