Evina Westbrook, the No. 1 guard in the Class of 2017 picked Tennessee on Thursday, and five-star recruit could push the Lady Vols to the No. 1 class in the country.
Westbrook, a 6-0 guard from Salem, Oregon, announced her decision at South Salem High School. She chose the Lady Vols over Maryland, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Southern Cal and South Carolina. It was believed her final two, after a lengthy recruiting process, were Tennessee and Maryland.
Tennessee oach Holly Warlick and her staff had made Westbrook a top priority, even saying no to a few 2017 recruits in order to increase their chances with Westbrook. It was a gamble that paid off as Westbrook is the consensus No. 1 guard in the country and either No. 1 or No. 2 overall prospect, depending on the scouting service. She can play point or wing and is a versatile scorer, superb passer and playmaker.
Assistant coach Jolette Law was the lead recruiter for Westbrook, who visited Knoxville on Sept. 17. From there, it was a long wait for the Lady Vols — and a wait Tennessee was willing to make.
Tennessee also has commitments from 6-4 post player Kasiyahna “Kasi” Kushkituah of Alpharetta, Georgia, and 5-7 guard Anastasia Hayes of Murfreesboro. Hayes was the first to commit and made it clear she would play on or off the ball – an unselfish declaration that boosted the Lady Vols’ chances with Westbrook. The addition of the Oregon guard could elevate the Lady Vols to the No. 1 class in the country — and definitely the top three.
The Lady Vols have forged an Oregon trail with senior Jordan Reynolds, redshirt junior Mercedes Russell and junior Jaime Nared also hailing from the Beaver State. Westbrook had made it clear early that she was willing to play far from home, and the Lady Vols had to sway her away from Maryland. Westbrook talked to the Tennessee’s coaches on the phone for over an hour within the last several days, a conversation that seemed to tip the scales to Tennessee.
Hayes is signing Monday. Kushkituah signed Wednesday and has had her paperwork certified by Tennessee.
"We had an area on our team we really needed to bolster, and we felt that Kasi was the best post in this class,” Warlick said. "We are absolutely thrilled to have her joining our program. Excited would be an understatement.
“She comes from a great program and has had a fantastic coach. She possesses a tremendous work ethic and is going to provide great stability in the post for us. Kasi's obviously a terrific player already, but we believe she’s only scratched the surface on how great she can be.”
During the ceremony, Westbrook thanked the schools, which had been recruiting her since the eighth grade, and said she had had private conversations with all the programs leading up to her decision. She then placed the microphone down and unzipped a sweatshirt, revealing the Tennessee T-shirt underneath it. Despite being on the West Coast and having to say no to her father’s alma mater – James Westbrook played basketball for Oregon State – those in attendance in the gymnasium erupted in applause.
Westbrook enters her senior season with 1,465 points, 452 rebounds, 433 assists, 401 steals and 162 blocks. She signed her LOI during the commitment ceremony and once it is received and certified by Tennessee, Warlick can officially comment about Westbrook.