Bill Fennelly and Iowa State team picked up a big time recruitment last week with the commitment of TT Starks, the top recruit in Minnesota and the No. 28 prospect in the nation.
Starks is a 5-foot 10 guard who averaged 9.2 points per game, 3.8 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game for Hopkins High School (Minnetonka) which finished 24-4 after losing in the Class 4A Section 6 State Semifinals. Despite missing nine non-conference games with an injury, Starks was still able to make all-conference.
It was the time and intense effort of the Cyclones staff that pushed Starks to make her decision.
"I had a real good relationship with the coaching staff and it felt like I was a priority to them during the recruitment," Starks told AllCyclones.com. "Some schools wanted to wait to see what other kids were going to do, but Iowa State showed strong interest from the beginning. They came up to visit me within my school last winter and then I took a few unofficial visits down to Iowa State later in the year. My family is close to where they can see me play, and I have friends already at the school. I'd played with [current Cyclone] Seanna Johnson a few years ago and we are real close. There was no point in waiting to make a decision and I felt the most comfortable with Iowa State."
This summer, Starks will continue to sharpen her skills with the North Tartan AAU basketball team and compete against high-level competition across the country.
"She has been with us for the past six years and we have 10 Division 1 kids signing every year – she has been the only freshmen that I'd ever moved up to our top team of all the years that I'd been doing this," said Tartan Head Coach Bill Larson. "She is at an elite level.
"I strongly believe she will put a lot of time on the floor during her freshmen year in college. She is physically ready now to complete. There were a lot of high level colleges that recruited her and were very upset when they learned of her commitment. I would say between 20-30 coaches and school recruited her, all Division 1 and most high-level BCS schools. She's that special."
Starks says she's been working on her perimeter shot since the season ended. Her defense is already a strength, per her coach.
"You talk about being a good player and what it takes to be great, TT has all the intangibles of being great," Larson said. "She can defend anywhere from the 1 to 4 position on the court. She is physically strong so she rebounds the ball well, and has good vision to where she passes the ball well and can handle the ball good. Everyone wants to talk of the offensive skills of athletes first, but you cannot do that with TT as she does everything very well."
After just completing her junior season at Hopkins, Starks could have waited and entertained more schools and taken additional visits but she is happy to have made her decision.
"I didn't feel like I needed to wait to make my decision," Starks said. "It's good, it feels like a relief to have it over with and just enjoy the summer."
"Bill and his entire staff did a great job making them feel comfortable and put a lot of special time into her recruitment and I think she felt comfortable with them and committed now instead of entertaining all the other offers," Larson said.
"I've had other former Cyclones play for me in the past such as Chelsea Poppins and Seanna Johnson, and TT is right up there. She is special and I cannot wait to make the trip down to Ames and watch her in the coming years."
Fennelly and his staff have had a strong connection with North Tartan AAU players over the years: Seanna Johnson (2012), Chelsea Poppins (2009), Amanda Zimmerman (2009), Zoraa Quoie (2006), Gillian Bjerke (2005) as well as legends Angie Welle (1998) and Megan Taylor (1997).
The Cyclones now have two commitments in the 2015 class in Starks and Canadian Bridget Carleton. Per a source, they could take up to five players in the class.