Pullman a tough sell? No way says Daugherty

THE OLD REFRAIN that Pullman is a tough place to recruit to doesn't add up for June Daugherty. In her first year at the helm of Cougar women's basketball, she invited eight high school prospects to Pullman for official visits. Seven -- some of whom could be starters come November -- decided to attend Washington State. That's an unprecedented success rate not even Daugherty imagined possible.

"Wow, it was a fun process," she said, her unrestrained enthusiasm coloring every word at the recent King County Cougar Golf Classic co-sponsored by Cougfan.com.

"It was really exciting to sign seven kids of that caliber. We can't wait to get started."

Daugherty said the 2008 recruiting class, ranked as the 16th best in the nation by one publication, will make an immediate impact.

"There are a couple of those kids who could definitely start for us," Daugherty said. "It was obviously a marquee year for women's basketball on the high school level and we were fortunate we had the scholarships to give."

Many of the recruits will arrive on campus June 17 for summer school and to begin strength training.

"The biggest challenge is whether they get themselves physically ready because the Pac-10 is an unbelievable grind, both mentally and physically," Daugherty said. "It depends on how hard they work from the day they graduate from high school in the next couple of weeks, until we get them in August."

Daugherty won't predict a number of wins for next season, but expects a massive turnaround from last season's 5-25 transition season in her first campaign as a Coug.

"Last season was hard for all of us, but it made us better coaches," Daugherty said. "With the talent level we had, we had to go back to fundamentals. It's going to pay off in the long run.

"We have a chance to be a really special team next year," Daugherty added. "If our upper classmen keep improving and are good leaders for this young group, we have a chance to make a lot of noise in women's basketball nationally."

Daugherty said her biggest challenge is to blend eight returning players with seven talented newcomers.

"We need to become a unit that puts the team first and can compete at the highest level," Daugherty said. "We like to run, we like to press and pressure full-court. We weren't able to do that last year, but we certainly plan to do it next year."

Among the top recruits is Jessica Oestreicher, a 6-foot-8 center from Redding, Calif.

"She's an incredible young lady, very bright and very talented," Daugherty said. "She is the tallest player I've ever been around in the Pac-10 and is a very good, almost pure shooter. She's also athletic, has good timing for blocking shots. It's going to be a lot of fun to see her develop."

Oestreicher is the tallest recruit in WSU women's history and will be the tallest player in the Pac-10 this season.

The rest of the super class comes from Washington, California and Pennsylvania.

Katie Grad of Auburn and Lexie Pettersen of Spokane represent Washington; Rosie Tarnowski is from Philadelphia, and the other Californians are April Cook of Long Beach, Danielle LeNoir of Los Angeles and Jazmine Perkins of Berkeley.

TARNOWSKI, A 6-FOOT-1 FORWARD, brings a most interesting resume to Pullman. For starters, she was recognized this past season as the top senior girls' basketball player in the city of Philadelphia by the William Markward Memorial Basketball Club, becoming the first female to be honored in the 62-year history of the club. Previous winners of the award include such notables as Rasheed Wallance, Pooh Richardson, Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Bryant (Kobe's dad), Walt Hazzard, Andre McCarter and Gene Banks.

"Rosie has great court awareness - she always knows where her teammates are -- and her overall attitude toward teammates and coaches is just oustanding," Markward Award spokesman Dennis Hill told Cougfan.com. "In terms of skills, Rosie is an excellent rebounder, she sets screens, she blocks out and her passing is excellent. She does it all."

Tarnowski has an impressive genetic pedigree. Her father, Ray, was a 6-foot-9 rebounding machine for Division II powerhouse Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science in the 1970s. Ray played professionally in Europe for a year, and now is the president of a frozen foods storage company in Philly. His work in that arena -- he is friends with a WSU alum in the same industry -- is how Rosie came onto the Cougars' radar.

DAUGHERTY KNOWS HOW TO WIN: After one year at WSU, 11 at Washington and seven at Boise State, Daugherty has a whopping 319 career wins. She took the Huskies to the NCAA tournament seven times.

Daugherty nearly died from cardiac arrest in May 2007, but said it doesn't affect her coaching.

"I feel really fortunate that I've been given a second chance," Daugherty said. "Usually only one in 20 survive cardiac arrest. I feel really good. Hopefully we can get the message out that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the country."Although Daugherty takes heart medication, she still bikes and enjoys pilates and yoga. She was open about her health during the recruiting process.

"It comes up and there were some schools who tried to use it against us in recruiting," Daugherty said. "I think it's a valid question for parents to ask, but it obviously didn't hurt us in recruiting. I'll keep taking care of myself and we'll have the last laugh."

In recent months, Daugherty has become an eloquent spokesperson for the Bellevue-based Hope Heart Institute, a nationally renown non-profit organization dedicated to fighting heart disease through research and education.

In early August, Daugherty will be leading youth baskeball camps in the Seattle area for the Institute.

JESSICA OESTREICHER: The 6-8 center averaged 11.4 points, 6.7 rebound and 2.4 blocks per game in 2007-08, and was named honorable mention All-America by The Sporting News.

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