2016 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Media Day: Recruiting profile on the rise for Pac-12 women's hoops
SAN FRANCISCO – The Pac-12 had a banner year for women’s basketball in 2015-16, sending five teams to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season and getting two in the Final Four for the first time in conference history. With the best conference RPI in the nation, there was no denying that from top to bottom, the Pac-12 was the league to set the standard.
That success carried over to the recruiting landscape, as five Pac-12 teams hauled in top-20 recruiting classes according to ESPN HoopGurlz – No. 3 Oregon, No. 9 Stanford, No. 10 Arizona State, No. 12 USC and No. 16 Oregon State. This is the best conference haul for the Pac-12 over the last five years at least, and no other conference in the nation this year has five teams in the top 16 of the ESPN recruiting rankings.
“That’s no surprise to me because the Pac-12, we do a fantastic job of, one, supporting each other and, two, going out on the recruiting trail and really competing against the other conferences for the top talent in the nation,” USC head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said at Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day Thursday in San Francisco.
Excuse the pat on the back (real capital J journalism here), but Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne credits the Pac-12 Network with the uptick in recruiting around the conference due to the increased spotlight it shines on women’s basketball.
“The Pac-12 Network, I say this all the time… It has been invaluable for our programs in terms of national rankings, exposure, for recruiting. We recruit a lot out of the Pac-12 footprint. We go to the Midwest, and we’ve got two kids from Minnesota,” Turner Thorne said. “We’ve always been good, but nobody knew it. Now we’re even better and people know it.”
With the No. 3 class in the country, Oregon takes home the honors of Pac-12 recruiting champs, though if you ask head coach Kelly Graves, he thinks his class is better than bronze.
“I think it’s the No. 1 recruiting class in the country because those are the ones that we wanted, know what I mean?” said Graves, whose class is buoyed by No. 4 overall recruit Sabrina Ionescu, a 5-10 guard out of Walnut Creek, Calif. “I love our new players, there’s no doubt about it. We have recruited a lot of versatility.”
Overall, Graves and other coaches think that more and more West Coast kids are figuring out that they don’t need to travel across the country to play for a team that’s going to contend on the national stage.
“There is great coaching, there’s great schools, great universities out West, and I think we’re now beginning to keep the local talent home, the West Coast talent, and for years they were migrating to other parts of the country,” Graves said. “I’m glad they’re staying. I’m glad the conference is getting better because we’re all rising because of it, and it’s going to make for great TV, going to make for great battles, both recruiting battles and on the court.”