In three days in late June, the women added perhaps the two best recruits of the Todd Starkey era.
One was last year’s best point guard in Massachusetts. The other is a 6-2 three-star forward from Ohio. She’s the first three-star player I can remember in the seven or eight years I’ve been following recruiting closely.
They join a second-team all-Ohio guard who has already scored more than 1,000 points despite missing a good part of her junior year with an injury, and a Cleveland point guard who is supposed to be lightning quick and is the shortest player I can remember on a Kent scholarship (5 feet).
The Flashes have offers out to at least two more players, a guard from Louisville and a post player from suburban Fort Worth.
All four are verbal commitments, announced by them or an AAU coach on Twitter. Kent State coaches can’t comment on a player until she signs a letter of intent in November.
On paper, it looks to me like the best recruiting class for the Flashes since the early 2000s. (We won’t know for sure for two or three years, of course.)
Here are the players who have announced their commitments:
ASIAH DINGLE, a point guard who helped lead Archbishop Williams to the Massachusetts state championship last season. I’ve seen her listed between 5-3 and 5-5. She was a second-team USA Today all-state selection and the only junior among the top five on the Boston Globe’s all-scholastic team. Last season she averaged 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals per game. She has 1,069 points so far in her career. Here’s a nice feature on her from the Quincy, Massachusetts, newspaper.
LINDSEY THALL, a mobile 6-2 post player from Strongsville High School. She was honorable mention all-Ohio last season and is listed as a three-star recruit by ESPN. To my knowledge, Kent State has never had a three-star recruit before, including rising senior Jordan Korinek, who was called the best post player in Ohio Division II at Akron St. Vincent St. Mary’s. Thall averaged 15 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game last season. She blocked 14 shots (that’s not a typo) in a sectional victory over Highland (and also had 14 points, 11 rebounds and four assists). But her highlight film has as many clips of her making three-point shots as her defending, rebounding and scoring inside. Her mother is one of the top scorers in Strongsville High School history. Here’s a feature on her and her mother from Lindsey’s freshman year.
MARIAH “RI” MODKINS, a 5-1 (and that’s “very generous,” according to a reporter who covers her high school) point guard from Solon High School. Her team reached the state semifinals two years ago and was 24-3 last season). Modkins’ statistics don’t bowl you over — 5.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.1 steals a game. But she’s supposed to be extraordinarily quick (“a ferocious on-ball defender,” one of her AAU coaches said) and a strong leader. Her father is Curtis Modkins, running running backs coach for the Chicago Bears and former offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. Modkins was a teammate of Dee Bekelja, Gatorade Ohio Girls Basketball Player of the Year and a DePaul recruit, and Valencia Myers, a 6-3 rising senior post player who’s rated a four-star recruit by ESPN. Those players did most of the scoring for Solon last season. Can a 5-foot guard have an impact? Last year’s MAC freshman of the year, Lauren Dickerson, is generously listed at 5-3. Cha Sweeney was an all-conference player for Eastern Michigan at 5-2. Another question is how Modkins and Dingle — both apparently pure point guards — will work together.
ANNIE PAVLANSKY, a 5-11 shooting guard from Lakeview High School in Cortland, was the first 2018 recruit to announce she was joining the Flashes back in May. Pavlansky averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds before an ankle injury ended her 2016-17 season after 15 games. Pavlansky was second-team all-state as a sophomore and special mention this season.
Pavlansky and Dingle already have scored more than 1,000 points in high school. Thall should easily hit that mark this season.
In my first interview with Starkey a year ago, he said he wished his team had more “elite talent.” It looks as if he’s recruiting it.
Also on KSU’s radar for 2018 are Brianna Mishler, a 5-8 shooting guard from Louisville Eastern High School. She averaged 14 points a game as a junior; a report from an AAU tournament called her “spectacular as a spot-up shooter.” Her AAU team tweeted in June she had an offer from Kent State. So did the AAU team of Lauryn Thompson, a 6-foot post player who averaged about 12 points and seven rebounds a game last season at Texas state runner-up Mansfield Timberlake High School. That team was ranked ninth best in the nation by MaxPreps last season and was led by five-star senior Chennedy Carter. She averaged 20 points a game and is headed to Texas A&M.
Kent State offered the two players scholarships on the first day allowed by the NCAA in July. They very likely have other offers and, as far as I can figure, the Flashes have just one more scholarship available.
I think the Flashes have five spots open for its 2018 class. Point guard Naddiyah Cross and forwards Jordan Korinek and Zenobia Bess will graduate. There’s an open scholarship because forward McKenna Stephens decided against coming back for a redshirt senior season. And sophomore reserve point guard Taylor Parker has left the team. (More on that in a separate post.)
Other spots can open up. Players can transfer or leave the team. Players who commit verbally can change their minds. A Nevada guard recruited by Starkey did last fall. So did a point guard from Pennsylvania recruited the year before by former coach Danny O’Banion. An all-state guard decommitted shortly before signing day a few weeks before Bob Lindsay’s contract wasn’t renewed. That player eventually started at point guard at Ohio State.
One other player asked to be released from her letter of intent after Lindsay’s firing. She started for three years at Bowling Green.
But that’s four out of the 30 or so players who committed to Kent State over the last six seasons.
Two reserve point guards are gone
Parker and walk-on guard Paige Salisbury aren’t on the 2017-18 roster posted on KSU’s website this month. Both were rising juniors.
Both averaged less than two points and six minutes a game last season. Salisbury actually played more minutes than Taylor both theirt two seasons and started 12 games at point guard in 2014-15. Parker was part of a Kent State contingent from many sports that went on a service project in Belize (Central America) this summer. She was the fastest player on the team but struggled to play under control most of her time at Kent.
At Brunswick High School, Salisbury set a record for most games played and was in the school’s top 10 in most statistical categories. Despite not having a scholarship, she steadied the team when she became a starter her freshman season. She was not particular fast or smooth but rarely turned the ball over. Salisbury was still enrolled at KSU this summer; she’s a bio-technology major.
The 2017-18 roster
POST: 6-2 senior Jordan Korinek (three-year starter, 1,000-point scorer at KSU, second-team all-MAC, 18 points per game in MAC play last season), 6-4 junior Marissa Barber-Smith (13 rebounds against Michigan in the WNIT), 6-0 senior Zenobia Bess (a transfer from Illinois State who averaged 1.6 points and 7 minutes), 6-3 freshman Amanda Sape (averaged a double-double her last two years in high school), 6-2 freshman Kennedy Roberts-Rosser (a late recruit who averaged 8 points in high school).
WING: 5-11 sophomore Ali Poole (4.3 points and 14 minutes pre game, scored 19 points and went 5 for 5 on three-pointers at Wright State, 5-11 redshirt junior Tyra James (missed last season with a knee injury, team’s third-leading scorer at 9.4 points a game as a freshman); 5-10 freshman Monique Smith (averaged close to a double-double her last three years of high school) in San Diego. Here’s an interview with Smith by the San Diego Hoops Report this summer.
SHOOTING GUARD: 5-9 sophomore Alexa Golden (the team’s defensive specialist, averaged 41 percent on three-point shots, though she took just 51); 5-6 freshman Kasey Toles (11 points a game on state semifinal team in high school).
POINT GUARD: 5-6 senior Naddiyah Cross (64 starts over three seasons, 3.9 points, 3.5 assists last season). 5-7 sophomore Megan Carter (20 minutes a game in MAC play with six games in double figures), 5-7 freshman Erin Thames (8 points a game in high school).
Carter and Poole also can play shooting guard. James and Smith could play forward in a small lineup.
Seniors: Korinek (F), Cross (PG), Bess (F).
Juniors: Golden (G), James (G), Barber-Smith (C).
Sophomores: Poole (G), Carter (G).
Freshmen: Smith (G), Sape (C), Toles (G), Thames (PG), Roberts-Rosser (F).
Here’s link to the official roster.
Lindsay to KSU hall of fame
Former women’s coach Bob Lindsay is one of nine inductees into the Varsity K Athletic Hall of Fame this year. Lindsay won more games than any other MAC basketball coach, men or women, over his 23 seasons at Kent State and had a record of 418-256. Twice MAC coach of the year, he led Kent State to four NCAA and three WNIT appearances and six straight MAC East titles from 1997 to 2003. His contract wasn’t renewed after a 6-21 season in 2012-13, one of only three losing seasons in his career.
This year’s ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Sept. 30 in the Student Center Ballroom. Inductees also will be introduced at that afternoon’s football game against Buffalo.
Other new Hall of Fame members are Mike Caza (track & field, 1996-98), Al Fisher (basketball, 2008-09), Martina Gavier (golf, 2008-11), John Hahn (golf, 2008-11), Dr. Doug Hanzel (golf, 1976-79), Rachel Miller (field hockey 2007-10), Danny Mitcheff (wrestling, 2007-10) and Andy Sonnanstine (baseball, 2003-04). Full release is here.
The freshman class
The 2017 freshman class (from left): forward Kennedy Roberts-Rosser, point guard Erin Thames, center Amanda Sape, wing Monique Smith, guard Kasey Toles. New practice uniforms, too. The whole team has been on campus since the start of summer school. The NCAA allows teams two hours of on on-court practice and six hours of conditioning in summer. (Photo from women’s basketball Twitter feed)