Archive for Friday, November 15, 1996

S HOOPS SHOWS PROMISE

November 15, 1996

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KU has received letters of intent from four high school players all ranked among the top 50 in the country.

Kansas University's women's basketball coaches were worried that a late start and short-handed staff could spell trouble this recruiting season.

But if the early returns are any indication, those fears were unwarranted.

As of Thursday, the Jayhawks had received signed letters of intent from four high school players, and all four are ranked among the top 50 players in the country.

They come despite the fact that KU coach Marian Washington spent her summer coaching in the Olympics, leaving her KU coaching staff an assistant short.

"We are very, very pleased," KU assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Tim Eatman said. "This class, to me, is a top-10 class. When you get four players in the top 40 in the nation, that's a good class. They're all play-makers, and they all can score. Now we just need to make sure we have enough basketballs to go around."

The four signees are:

  • April Nance, a 6-foot forward from Huntsville, Ala., Butler High. Nance was a Street&Smith's preseason All-American and the MVP of the Junior National Tournament over the summer in Washington, D.C. Nance is the 26th-best player in the country, according to Blue Star Recruiting.
  • Nikki White, a 6-4 center from Memphis, Tenn., Harding Academy. White is the nation's 37th-best player according to Street&Smith and the nation's fifth-best center according to the All-Star Girls Report.
  • Jaclyn Johnson, a 6-1 forward from Burbank, Calif., Jefferson High. Johnson is the nation's 32nd-best player, according to the Women's Basketball News Service.
  • Jennifer Jackson, a 5-10 guard from Tuscaloosa, Ala., Academy. Jackson is ranked 44th nationally by the Women's Basketball News Service.

"I don't know much about the rest of them," said Linda Holt, Nance's high school coach. "But Kansas got the two best players in Alabama. I'd say they have the makings of a pretty good class."

Nance and White are the headliners of that class.

Nance picked KU over Alabama, Kentucky and Clemson. Though she has yet to meet NCAA initial-eligibility guidelines, Holt thinks she will.

"She's a scorer," Holt said. "She averaged 20 points and 14, 15 rebounds for us last year. She's a force, offensively and defensively. Academically, she's a little behind in her core curriculum. She hadn't really gotten the guidance she needed. But I got her in the right classes. She's a little behind. She's been playing catch-up, but I think she will (qualify)."

Nance wasn't highly recruited until she led an Alabama team to the Junior National Tournament title over the summer. She played with fellow KU signee Jackson.

"There were 85 teams there, all top-notch teams," Holt said. "April was the MVP, and she played great. That was really the first time she had gotten any exposure. Someone from the Blue Star Camp said she's one of the best five players in the country."

White has made grades, and her height attracted KU. White picked Kansas over Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

"She is going to be the main anchor and the leader," Washington said. "We've been really working hard over the past several years to attract fine players with some size, and she helps us in achieving our goal.

"We realize that the Big 12 is filled with height and talent, and she brings good size, she's mobile and she can get up and down the court well. Nikki is just an all-around good player."

Jackson picked the Jayhawks over North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi State.

"She is a competitor," Washington said. "She has good shooting ability. She is a young player who we feel will help us out like Angie Halbleib did as far as shooting range."

Washington is also sold on Johnson.

"She will bring a new intensity level to our defense," the coach said. "She is not real tall, but she excels in her leaping ability. She can pound the boards for us."

The Jayhawks hope to sign two more high schoolers in the early period and possibly a junior college transfer in the spring. They have seven scholarships to give.

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