Coach Todd Starkey and team after victory last season. (Photo from KSU website.)
A 6-3 forward from suburban Pittsburgh who averaged a double-double as a junior is Kent State’s third verbal commitment in the class of 2020.
She is Lexi Jackson of Gateway High School in Monroeville, who averaged 16 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks a game last season. In one game, she had a triple double of 37 points, 16 rebounds and 11 blocks.
She tweeted earlier this fall that she planned to attend KSU. Coaches can’t comment on recruits until they’ve received signed letters of intent. The earliest that can happen is Nov. 13.
Jackson was a third-team member of the Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class 5A All State team and is taller than any other player on the first, second or third team. One recruiting service ranked here as the third best power forward in the state.
Her team finished 19-4, won its league title and lost in the regional quarterfinals.
Jackson had offers from at least four other mid-majors, including Western Michigan and James Madison.
In an interview with TribLive, a Pittsburgh online news site, she said she was sold on Kent State’s coaching staff.
““You can tell the coaches really care about the girls (on the team),” Jackson told the site.
Her high school coach, Curtis Williams, said KSU coach Todd Starkey was “really, really genuine” in the recruiting process.
“He appeared to care for her as a person, not just a player,” he said in the TribLive article. “That was most critical to her decision making.”
Williams was very high on Jackson as a player.
“She’s a young player in terms of her growth and development over the last 18-24 months,” he said. “She is scratching the surface with how good she can be. Most people aren’t aware of what is she capable of.”
Jackson joins two-time all-state guard Casey Santoro from Bellevue High School in northwestern Ohio as an announced KSU commit. Kent Coaches tweeted another commitment in June but couldn’t name the player because of NCAA rules. I hear she is a 6-4 post player from Ohio who isn’t active on social media, which is the only way I can learn her name.
Santoro was district player of the year and first-team all-Ohio in both her sophomore and junior seasons. She and averaged 22 points last year, once scoring 40 points in a game where she made 10 three-point shots.
Casey is the sister of Carly Santoro, who started three years for Bowing Green, then graduated early and transferred to Ohio State. She also started there. The Santoro sisters’ father, Kory, is Bellevue’s head girls coach.
The two incoming post players and 6-4 Indiana transfer Linsey Marchese will give Kent State as much size in the front line as it has ever had. Marchese will sit out this year because of NCAA transfer regulations. Marchese scored in double figures in all three of Kent’s exhibition games in British Columbia in August. She was a highly ranked high school recruit out of Georgia who was recruited by Starkey when he was an assistant for the Hoosiers. Marchese was a backup at Indiana, averaging about 11 minutes a game over two years.
From my conversations with Starkey, I’m pretty sure that’s all the recruits he’ll sign in November.
He and his assistants are working hard on the class of 2021. Starkey was in Texas last month for an open high school practice to see a 6-2 forward rated one of the best in the state. Assistant Morgan Toles was at another open gym in Michigan, where she watched one of that state’s best junior guards, who later tweeted that KSU (and MAC rival Central Michigan) was one of the six final schools she’s considering.
(Central, by the way, landed 2020 forward Rachel Loobie, who seemed to have offers from most teams in the MAC. I mentioned her earlier when she posted (in a single tweet) photos of her visiting Kent State, Miami and Bowling Green.)
“We’ve been very active on the 21 class and the 22 class,” Starkey said in an interview earlier this month. “Those are the two classes that are going to replace the young talent (on the current roster) moving forward.”
When the class of 2022 arrives at Kent, the team’s current six-person sophomore class will be seniors. Two players from that class made the MAC’s all–freshman team last season. Two more were key reserves. Marchese will become a member of that class, and she’s very likely to be a starter next season.
Kent State will lose three players to graduation in May — last year’s leading scorer, guard Megan Carter; guard/forward Ali Poole, who was KSU’s fourth leading scorer last season, and forward Sydney Brinlee, who was the second post player off the bench last season.
The Flashes’ current junior class, which will graduate in 2021, has only two members, neither of whom played significant minutes last season.
Director of basketball operations moves on and up
Alison Seberger, KSU’s director of basketball operations since Starkey arrived, has become an assistant coach at North Alabama.
It’s an expected move for someone in that job. Director of basketball operations is sort of a junior assistant coach. She handles many of the mechanics of the team, especially travel arrangements and scheduling for recruit who visit Kent State. She helps in practice but can’t recruit off–campus.
Seberger’s busiest time at Kent State came during the Flashes’ two-game run in the WNIT last season. She had to schedule travel arrangements for both games on two- and three-day notice. I heard one player tease her during the trip that the phone grew out of Seberger’s ear.
In a goodbye tweet, assistant Mike McKee called her “one of the best DOBO’s to ever do it!”
No replacement has been announced.