Some might say that Stanford recruiting is operating with Swiss precision these days. Not only are the Cardinal and Tara VanDerveer closing on their top targets, landing a barrel full of star power in successive classes, but Stanford this summer is also notching commitments with the turn of each calendar page. As May turned to June, the Cardinal hauled in five-star sensation Kayla Pedersen. On the first of July, it was super-sized shooter Ashley Cimino, followed just three days later by four-star do-everything guard Jeanette Pohlen.
Come the first of August, the Card collected another bounty, this time earning a pledge from four-star Atascadero (Calif.) guard Hannah Donaghe. The 5'11" wing woke up Tuesday morning with the blissful knowledge that the July evaluation period chock full of travel and basketball had ended. Some rest and relaxation were in store, with a sleepy and quiet morning. Or so she thought.
"I woke up and went to eat breakfast," the recruit relates. "I saw that there was a message on the machine. I thought, 'Ooh, maybe I'll find out!'"
During her action-packed July, Donaghe had her mental cup overflowing with strategy and opponents in Oregon City (End of the Trail), Chicago (Nike Summer Showcase) and San Diego (San Diego Classic), playing countless games on the AAU circuit with her West Coast Elite Central Cal team. Also ever-present was the waiting game, with the standout student-athlete awaiting an answer on her Stanford admissions application.
"I remember getting the application just before I finished my junior year. It took quite a long time to finish," she laughs. "I probably spent more time on the application than on my homework for about two or three weeks."
Donaghe submitted the application before she embarked on her July travels. More than a month of time passed before the flashing light greeted the Atascadero senior Tuesday morning.
"I was really nervous when I first sent it in. Then I talked with Coach Tara. She said that everything looked good, and that gave me some confidence," Donaghe describes. "I called her [Tuesday], and she said that I got in. I was on top of the world. I was so excited."
While an admissions acceptance is a necessary requirement for a prospective student-athlete to firmly commit and subsequently sign with Stanford, the acceptance does not necessarily precede a pledge. However, that is often the case, and that Swiss watch would have barely had a chance to mark the time that elapsed between VanDerveer's news and Donaghe's commitment.
"It took me maybe five seconds," Donaghe admits with a laugh. "She asked me if I needed time to think about what I wanted to do, and I immediately said, 'Yeah, I want to go to Stanford.'"
While the Atascadero athlete cannot take any official visits until the fall, per NCAA rules, she had several unofficial excursions to Stanford's campus already under her belt. The first such foray on The Farm came not this spring, or even during her junior season. Donaghe first engaged with the Cardinal on campus the summer before her junior year - in 2005.
"It was really cool," the recruit remembers. "I got to meet the coaches and got to know the players. That's when I first had an actual serious interest in the school. Before I thought it would be cool, but I didn't know what the chances were of it possibly happening."
Donaghe followed with her family for an unofficial visit in December to watch the Cardinal collide with Tennessee at Maples Pavilion. Then in May, she trekked to Stanford for a third time to check out the program and campus.
"I talked with the coaches and met the team and actually played some pickup. That was really cool," Donaghe describes. "That was when the coaches said the application would be sent to me in a couple weeks, and the ball got rolling."
After such extensive interactions and opportunities to become close with the Cardinal, it is no surprise that Donaghe hailed Stanford as her dream school. Her 4.3 weighted GPA and unblemished transcript of all A's in high school (including a pair of AP classes), coupled with a 1950 SAT that featured a 700 score on the reading section, bolstered her confidence that she could gain acceptance to the school. However, Donaghe pursued parallel opportunities with other Division I schools. While interest came nationwide from suitors, she favored five, all of whom extended scholarships for her services: Pepperdine, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Washington and UC Davis. Believe it or not, the Aggies were a serious consideration.
"I have known the coaches for a really long time. My sister goes there and plays there," she says of Davis. "I was also interested in the Ivies because of the academics. I looked at Princeton and Columbia, but in the end, they were too far away."
Geography has been an asset to Stanford's recruiting these past two classes, netting thus far three of their four 2007 commitments from the West Coast. Last year, the Cardinal collected three of their four '06 signees from the West.
Atascadero (Calif.) however is not an obvious hotbed of hoops talent for Stanford and other schools to have scouted. North on Highway 101 from San Luis Obispo, this central California locale is miles from both the Bay Area and Los Angeles. While the Cardinal were on her case early, dating back to their camp last summer, much of Donaghe's raves, ratings and attention came only when she played in the high exposure opportunities with her AAU team on the travel circuit.
"I had some attention before, but this summer is when it really turned up," the recruit relates. "It's kind of cool going into these games as an unknown and surprising people."
Those who watched Donaghe in high school were not surprised by her success this spring and summer. Despite missing the first eight games of her junior season with an ankle injury, the 5'11" guard had a monster campaign. She averaged 21.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.6 steals, 3.4 blocks and 1.3 assists. The only thing Donaghe didn't do for Atascadero High School this past winter was operate the scoreboard.
"Sometimes I had to play a little bit of point [guard], but I was primarily a wing. My role was to shoot and find other people with the ball," Donaghe describes. "The pull-up jump shot is my favorite, but I would get some points driving or shooting from outside."
A defining characteristic for Donaghe is her athleticism. She is light on her feet, both a glider and explosive operator. She has that "springy" quality to leap into action, both taking off on a drive and elevating into the air. Donaghe is a demonstrated performer, with her stuffed stat sheets in high school and AAU action, as well as an exciting athlete. That does not mean, however, that she is without areas for improvement. One of the obvious to any onlooker is her strength. Weighing a paltry 130 pounds, Donaghe does not look physically ready to play in the Pac-10 today. Cognizant if the work ahead of her in the weight room, the physical disparity hit home hard for Donaghe when she played some pick-up basketball with the Stanford women while visiting in May.
"It was a lot quicker, and everyone was so strong," she says of the experience. "That's something I need to work on - my upper body and my legs. I'll probably take off a week here in August, but then my dad is going to help me start on a weight program."
Donaghe also started this summer to address two other areas of needed improvement in her game.
"My high school coach has worked with me a lot on defense - be lower and use my hands a lot," she details. "I didn't shoot that much from the outside for my high school team, so I can work on shooting more... Coach Tara said that I would fit in pretty much at the 'two' as a shooting guard, so that is one of the reasons I am working on my shot."
"I think I've gotten a lot more confident in my shooting outside, and I'm getting better at defense," Donaghe reports. "Though I do up pop up sometimes."
This attractive athlete with ball skills and moxie has her pluses and minuses at this stage in her development, but she says that her greatest asset she brings to her team and will carry to the Cardinal is something not measured in a camp or a box score.
"I give 100 percent all the time, and I'm a hard worker," Donaghe declares. "I'm so excited to have the opportunity to play at Stanford, and to do everything I can to help them win."
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!