'06 Cardinal Class Ranks Among Nation's Best

Stanford Women's Basketball signed in November one of its best ever recruiting classes, with four complementary commits each rated as four- or five-star talents. You will not be surprised, then, to see that the Cardinal's 2006 class is ranked today by Scout.com as one of the top five in the nation. You might be surprised to learn that another Pac-10 program ranks number one...

1. USCIt hasn't taken Mark Trakh long to make USC a player at the national level.  The Women of Troy made a thrilling run through last spring's NCAA tournament, and Trakh leveraged that performance into a brilliant recruiting class -- topped by one-time UConn commit Jacki Gemelos (#2 in the Full Court Press/Scout ‘06 rankings).  Gemelos is a 6-0 combo guard from Northern California, who will be joined by SoCal 6-0 forward Morghan Medlock (#19) and 6-0 wing Aarika Hughes (#32) from Oregon prep power Southridge.  If that weren't enough, Trakh also landed another Southern California product, 6-1 Hailey Dunham (#35), who, like the others, is more of an all-around basketball player than someone who defines a particular position.  Grade: A

2. Purdue:  This one is simple: If Amber Harris (#4) plays hard all the time, the Boilermakers have the best player in her class in the country -- and perhaps the best player across all current high school girls.  At 6-6, there's nothing Harris can't do when she feels like it.  If Kristy Curry can get her to feel like playing hard every night, she and 5-11 wing Dee Dee Jernigan (#21) are a tremendous combo that could change the landscape in the Big 10, and maybe the nation.  Grade: A

3. Stanford:  The long line of superb Stanford posts seems destined to continue as the Cardinal landed the best pure post in the class in 6-5 Jayne Appel (#5).  Appel has the skills modern posts possess (she can shoot the three and handle more than a little), but she's also tremendous with her back to the basket -- and she may have the best hands in the country.  In addition, the Cardinal landed from Utah 6-2 Michelle Harrison (#31), a sweet-shooting wing who can jump out the gym (though she prefers to stay outside).  Oregon's JJ Hones (#36) from Southridge and Brooklyn's Melanie Murphy add backcourt depth to another fine Stanford class.  Grade: A

4. Baylor:  Kim Mulkey-Robertson took full advantage of that unexpected national championship by leveraging all that exposure into a brilliant recruiting class.  Latara Darrett (#12) from Southern California and Whitney Jones (#27) from Louisiana are superb guards -- Darrett more a smooth scorer, and Jones with tons of potential -- and all four will have an opportunity to play quickly in Waco.  Grade: A

5. Connecticut:  It's always a good start when the number one player in the country signs on the dotted line, and with Tina Charles, the Huskies have landed a strong, athletic and skilled 6-3 power forward.  Kaili McLaren (#46) is 6-2, and has had no problems dominating smaller high school posts, but must find a way to get it done against the bigger bodies in the Big East.  Grade: A

6. Rutgers:  C. Vivian Stringer just keeps bringing athletes into Piscataway, and this year's crop is led by New Yorker Epiphanny Prince (#13).  The 5-7 Prince would have ranked higher if pure talent were the only criterion, but she, like Amber Harris, has had some intensity issues.  6-1 Myia McCurdy (#22) and 5-9 Brittany Ray (#42) are also elite recruits, and 6-4 Rashidat Junaid (#44) is one of those big kids with lots of potential who has yet to really produce.  Grade: A

7. Duke:  The Blue Devils didn't sign many, but Bridgette Mitchell (#12) and Joy Cheek (#20) make up in quantity for what might be lacking in quantity.  Cheek, a 6-0 forward, struggled a bit this summer, but a torn labrum in her shooting shoulder was the reason.  She's good to go now, and she and Mitchell give Duke a pair of tall and skilled wings.  Mitchell may be a bit more athletic, but Cheek's basketball IQ is high enough to make up for whatever quickness she may lack.  Grade: B

8. Georgia:  There are some who believe Ashley Houts (#11) is the best point guard prospect in the country.  She can run a team, hit the open shot and plays without fear.  Christy Marshall (#45) is one of those athletic 6-0 wings, but she needs to develop an outside shot to move up to the elite level.  Grade: B-

9. North Carolina State:  Nikitta Gartrell (#18), a fine all-around guard, heads this class, but the Wolfpack also landed a couple more topflight guards in Sharnise Beal (#47) and Amber White.  White, though, had a difficult summer, and will have to prove some skeptics wrong to shine at the ACC level.  Grade: B-

10. Texas:  Brittainey Raven (#3) is an all-around 6-0 wing in the mold of Sheryl Swoopes, and all by herself, is a very good recruiting class.  Niqky Hughes is the best of three other pretty good Texans who should have Longhorn fans smiling over the next few seasons.  Grade: B-

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