The 2018 freshmen: An old coach’s recommendation, beating the rest of the MAC, a small but quick leader

Kent State coach Todd Starkey first heard of Massachusetts recruit Asiah Dingle at an AAU tournament. Assistant coach Fran Recchia first watched Hannah Young in eight grade.

Yesterday we told their recruiting stories. Kent’s three Ohio recruits took their own paths to become members of the 2018 recruiting class. Starkey calls it “a very good class.” I call it perhaps the best class in KSU history.

You’re getting so much detail because it’s a group we could still be talking about in 15 years. And their stories also are a window on the style of Starkey and his staff, and a look at what Division I recruiting is like in 2017.

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Annie Pavlansky, 5-11 wing, Lakeview High School, Cortland

Starkey had barely moved into his office when he started to hear about Pavlansky.

“I played J.V. basketball for her uncle in Canfield,” Starkey said. “Her dad is the head football coach over in Lakeview in Cortland. I knew the Pavlanskys before I even knew that Annie could play.”

Starkey was named head coach in mid-April. Within a month, Pavlansky was the first recruit to sit in his office, there on an unofficial visit she initiated.

“My high school coach — who’s still coaching — knew of her and told me, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get your eyes on Annie Pavlansky. She’s got a chance to be a heckuva player.‘ His opinion means a lot to me.”

Pavlansky verbally committed to Kent State that summer.

Her senior year was cut short by a leg injury. Starkey called her the next day.

“He told me not to worry, to keep my head up and come back better than ever,” she told the Youngstown Vindicator this week. “That meant a lot.” (Here’s that story on her signing.)

Pavlansky’s stat line from 2016-17: 18.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 3.2 assists per game. She was second-team all-state as a sophomore, honorable mention in her injury-shortened junior season. She’s played every position — from point to post.

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Lindsey Thall, 6-2 forward, Strongsville High School

Thall is an archetype mid-major player. Kent State outbattled six other MAC schools, plus a couple of similar schools in Indiana and Ohio, to get her commitment.

“She can really shoot the ball,” Starkey said. “She’s 6-2 and has range to 24 to 25 feet. She’s a better shooter than any post player we have. And we have some very good post players.”

One — McKenna Stephens — led the MAC in three-point percentage in conference games (44 percent on 20 of 45).

“Lindsey’s a very effective, skilled post player,” Starkey said. “She’s not a rough and tumble five-foot-and-under post. But she can rebound. She’s a smart player and just going to keep getting better.”

Thall fills a critical need for the Flashes; three senior forwards after this season — Stephens, all-MAC player Jordan Korinek, and reserve Zenobia Bess.

Thall’s stat line: 15 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. She once blocked 14 shots in a game. Rated three-star recruit by ESPN HoopGurlz Basketball. Thall’s mother is one of the top scorers in Strongsville history; Lindsey is chasing some of her records. (Here’s a feature on her and her mother.)

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Mariah “Ri” Modkins, 5-foot point guard, Solon High School

Modkins is the shortest player I can remember in 25 years of following Kent State women’s basketball, and her statistics don’t bowl you over (5.4 points a game).

But Kent State coaches say her intangibles are terrific.

“She’s so steady,” Starkey said. “She always makes the right pass at the right time. You can’t sag help defense off of her because she’ll step back and bury the three. She’s quick enough to drive by you.

“On defense, when the ball hits the floor off the dribble, she’s there waiting for it. She’s already a really solid, steady leader.”

Modkins’ father, Curtis, is an assistant coach with the Chicago Bears and former offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills.

“She’s been around big-time athletics all her life and carries herself with that kind of confidence,” Starkey said.

Modkins’ stat line: 5.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.1 steals. Her Solon team was 24-3 and lost in the regional finals by two points. That team’s lineup had five future Division I players. Modkins first played on a high school varsity team as a seventh grader when her family lived in Buffalo. (Here’s a feature from her hometown newspaper.)


In my first real interview with Starkey in September 2016, he gave me her early impressions of the team — a team that would go on to unexpectedly win the MAC East title.

It would be nice, he said,  to have “more elite talent.”.

This week, I asked him if his 2018 recruiting class had it.

“Yeah,” he said with a slow smile. “They do.”







One comment

  1. Pingback: From Strongsville to Virginia to Boston to Kent State: The core of the Class of 2022 averaged a total of 83 points a game | wbbFlashes

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