Saint Louis Women's Hoops Sign Five

ST. LOUIS – Saint Louis University women's basketball coach Shimmy Gray-Miller announced today that five high school student-athletes have signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Billikens beginning next season

The 2010 SLU recruiting class is comprised of 5-foot-9 guard Desirae Ball (Cincinnati, Ohio/Ursuline), 5-8 guard Halee Castleman (Springdale, Ark./Har-ber), 6-0 forward Lorreal Jones (Detroit, Mich./Renaissance), 6-2 post Jenna Mueller (Clarence, Mo./South Shelby) and 5-8 guard Abby Willis (Overland Park, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas).

"It is hard to believe this is our fifth recruiting class and that we have completed a recruiting cycle," Gray-Miller said. "I have a clear understanding of the type of player and person we want to coach and the type who will be successful at Saint Louis University. We are bringing in many different types of student-athletes, players with various skill sets and strengths. Also, every member of our 2010 class fits the mold of what best epitomizes Billiken women's basketball. They are passionate, hardworking, mentally tough and selfless young ladies of strong character who have a desire to be great teammates, players and students.

"I genuinely enjoy spending time with these student-athletes off the court and have loved getting to know them," Gray-Miller said. "We will have big shoes to fill next season because of the graduation of (current seniors) Amanda Kemezys and Katie Paganelli, two great leaders and potential career 1,000-point scorers who have done much for our program. I am confident that this class will do its part to help the program continue to move in the right direction."

Ball earned a third consecutive first-team All-Conference honor last season and added first-team All-District and second-team All-City plaudits. A team captain and recipient of Ursuline's Leadership Award, she averaged 14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, three steals and two assists her junior year while shooting 46 percent from the field and 79 percent from the free-throw line.

Ball also excelled in soccer, capturing first-team All-Conference accolades four times, All-City laurels twice and All-State honors this season. She led the Lions in goals scored (17) for a third straight season in 2009, finishing with 39 career goals.

"I compare Desirae Ball to (current SLU junior) Lauren Woods," Gray-Miller said. "She possesses similar athleticism, versatility, defensive prowess, infectious leadership skills and off-the-court personality. Because of her strength, toughness and ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, I expect Dez to be in the mix for playing time when she arrives on campus. She is a natural leader who hates to lose, expects to win and loves to compete, and she is pure energy on and off the court. She is quick enough to defend smaller guards at our level but strong enough to play the wing spot. I know Dez will be a favorite because our fans appreciate tough players who sacrifice their bodies to make big plays."

"Desirae has been one of the best athletes, as a person and a player, I have had the privilege to coach in my 12 years," Ursuline assistant athletic director and head soccer coach Colleen Dehring said. "While basketball is the sport she has chosen to play in college, she puts her heart and soul into every sport she plays. She understands her sports, stays late and comes early to perfect her skills, and she demands the same of her teammates.

"Desirae takes criticism well and seeks out coaching advice," Dehring added. "Her maturity and talent have been evident since her freshman year at Ursuline, and I am sure those qualities will shine through at SLU as well. I look forward to watching Desirae excel at basketball and succeed in life."

Castleman garnered All-Conference recognition last season and was selected to the state All-Tournament team and the KURM radio Dream Team. She averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 steals as a junior while shooting 46 percent from the field and 72 percent from the foul line. Off the court, Castleman is a two-time national gold champion in Tae-kwon-do.

"Halee Castleman was our first commitment of the 2010 class," Gray-Miller said. "She will remind a lot of people of Katie Paganelli because of her build, size and scorer's mentality. The things that stood out to us as we evaluated Halee were her toughness and work ethic. She plays with a swagger and confidence you cannot teach. I love that in a recruit. Halee is a gym rat who will flourish under our tutelage."

"Halee is an extremely competitive player who has great work habits," Har-ber head coach Sandy Scranton Wright said. "She brings 100 percent to practice every day and is a great leader by example. Halee is high-energy, and she is a lot of fun to coach because I know I will get her best every time she steps on the court."

Jones was tabbed All-State, All-Detroit and her team's Most Valuable Player the past two seasons. She averaged 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks a year ago as Renaissance reached the state tournament semifinals. Jones has helped lead the Phoenix to three district championships, two regional crowns and a 47-12 record in her first three campaigns.

"Lorreal Jones is the most athletic player we have recruited during my tenure," Gray-Miller said. "She is a natural small forward with perimeter skills that we will continue to develop. Lorreal is versatile, competitive and a tenacious rebounder who will immediately compete for playing time. She is a winner and a natural leader who has started for one of the top programs in Michigan since she was a freshman. The sky is the limit for Lo, and we are thrilled to sign a player of her caliber."

"Lorreal is a significant example of hard work, dedication and determination," Renaissance head coach Diane Jones said. "Along with her incredible athleticism and skill, her leadership has taken us to a city championship and the state semifinals. On and off the court, Lorreal demonstrates that academics and athletics go hand in hand. She is a vocal leader and sets high standards for herself and her teammates. She never gives less than her very best."

Mueller averaged 15 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.4 blocks as a junior while shooting 50 percent from the floor. She collected All-State plaudits, was a unanimous first-team All-District selection and a Quincy Herald-Whig first-team All-Area choice, and was named the Clarence Cannon Conference Player of the Year. Mueller was a first-team All-District, first-team All-Conference and Quincy Herald-Whig All-Area performer her sophomore year, helping South Shelby to a state tournament runner-up finish as well as its second consecutive conference and district titles. She also is a three-year honor roll student.

"Coaches always look to replicate the success they have had in certain areas or with certain types of players," Gray-Miller said. "We obviously have had a great deal of success with Amanda Kemezys in the post. Jenna Mueller is similar to a young Amanda, except with better mobility and athleticism. She came to our individual camp not on our radar, and she left with a scholarship offer. Jenna has great size, a soft shooting touch and excellent hands, and she moves well for a player her size. She will benefit greatly from coach (Erick) Schork's strength and conditioning program. Because of her attitude, work ethic and desire to be great, we have no doubt Jenna will have a great college career as an A-10 post."

Willis received an All-Conference nod and was named to the Music City Madness All-Tournament team last season, averaging 10.3 points, three rebounds and two steals while helping lead St. Thomas Aquinas to a record 15th consecutive state tournament appearance. She was a member of the 2006-07 Saints team that was the state tournament runner-up and played on the KC Blue Streaks club team that won the Miss Basketball National Showcase. Willis is a member of National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society and the Principal's Honor Roll.

"You can't go wrong signing a player like Abby Willis," Gray-Miller said. "She has an amazing sports pedigree and grew up in an environment that fostered competition and valued hard work. As a person, student and player, she embodies what we have identified as the characteristics of Billiken women's basketball – hard work, passion, discipline, toughness and success. Abby has had excellent coaching and understands the nuances of the game better than most players her age. She is skilled and fundamentally sound, and she wants to be a Billiken. She came here for summer camp and won us over in two hours with her tenacity and hard work. It also didn't hurt that she is a great shooter who shot lights out all summer."

"Abby has been an important part of our program the past four years," St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Rick Hetzel said. "She is a tough-minded player who is passionate about the game."

"All five student-athletes we are signing today want to be Billikens, want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and want to help Saint Louis develop into one of the Atlantic 10 Conference's premier women's basketball programs," Gray-Miller said. "I am appreciative of their commitment to Saint Louis University. My staff and I will work hard for them during their Billiken careers to ensure their success on and off the court. I also am thankful to my assistant coaches for their hard work and diligence in recruiting these outstanding players to our University."

Billiken Report Top Stories