Lady Dawgs Pull in Top 5 Class

ATHENS - A quartet of the nation's top girls' basketball players inked letters of intent with the Georgia Lady Bulldogs on Wednesday, giving Andy Landers and his staff what is widely regarded as one of the top-5 recruiting classes in the nation.

Anne Marie Armstrong, Jasmine Hassell, Jasmine James and Tamika Willis -- each ranked among the nation's top-50 overall prospects by one or more scouting services -- will continue their basketball careers in Athens next fall. The class has been ranked No. 3 nationally by both All-Star Girls Basketball Report and The Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, as well as No. 5 by Blue Star and No. 7 by Hoopgurlz.

"I'm very pleased with the quality of the class," head coach Andy Landers said. "I'm sure this class as a whole will be recognized as an outstanding group, but each individual player is outstanding and will have the opportunity to make our team better. This is the sum total of a lot of hard work and diligence on the part of our coaching staff and our assistant coaches should be congratulated."

Armstrong, a 6-3, wing coached by Jan Azar at the Wesleyan School in Norcross, Ga., is the reigning Miss Georgia Basketball and ranked as the nation's No. 6 prospect at her position by the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. Armstrong has captured no less than seven state titles in her first three years of high school -- two championships in basketball, three in volleyball and two individual crowns in the high jump.

"Anne Marie is an exciting part of this class," Landers said. "She represents the tallest perimeter player that we've ever had at 6-3. She has excellent skills and a lot of untapped potential. All she's done is win. She's dominated several sports in high school and I'm eager to see what happens when she concentrates on one."

Jasmine Hassell, a 6-2, center coached by Bud Brandon at Wilson Central High School in Lebanon, Tenn., was named the 2008 Division I AAA Miss Basketball for Tennessee after leading the Wildcats to their second state title in three years. She is listed as the nation's No. 6 center by the All-Star Girls Report. Hassell scored 71 of her team's 143 points in its 2008 state tournament games.

"Jasmine is a proven player," Landers said. "She's won in a very competitive high school environment, she was a feature player on a very good summer team and she wins. Her style is a mix of both skill and aggressiveness. She's just a very powerful player."

James, a 5-9, guard coached by Lynn Whitfield at Barlett High School in Memphis, Tenn., was named the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Player of the Year as both a sophomore and a junior. She is ranked No. 5 nationally among guard prospects by the All-Star Girls Report. As a junior, James averaged 24.8 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals while leading Barlett to its first state tournament appearance since 1928.

"Jasmine has the potential to make the lights on our side of the scoreboard change often," Landers said. "She is an excellent offensive basketball player who not only scores it but creates scoring chances for other people. She has the potential to be an outstanding defender as well."

Willis, a 6-2, forward coached by Hilda Hankerson at Atlanta's Westlake High, is a two time All-State performer in Class AAAA and tabbed as the No. 11 post prospect by the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. Willis was a consensus first-team All-State pick after leading Westlake to the semifinals of the state tournament as a junior, a year after she garnered second-team All-State honors as a sophomore.

"Tamika is a warrior," Landers said. "She brings the fight; she doesn't watch it. She's an extremely hard worker, plays the game with great enthusiasm and has an excellent post player skill set. She can score it low, high and she'll rebound. She's definitely an underrated player."

The 2008-09 edition of the Lady Bulldogs open their regular season this Saturday when Georgia hosts Alabama State at 5:00 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum.

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