Sta­ley says her new No. 1 re­cruit­ing class ‘has been brew­ing for a long time’

The State (Sunday) - - Sports - BY GREG HADLEY [email protected]­

With the news Wed­nes­day that Ha­ley Jones, the No. 1-ranked re­cruit in the 2019 class, has signed with Stan­ford, South Carolina women’s bas­ket­ball se­cured a dif­fer­ent No. 1.

While Jones did go with the Car­di­nal over the Game­cocks, her choice wasn’t enough to leapfrog Stan­ford over USC in ESPN’S class rank­ings, and with no other ma­jor prospects left un­com­mit­ted, Carolina ap­pears locked in to claim its first ever top spot.

Dawn Sta­ley did so by get­ting the sig­na­tures of four of ESPN’S top 13 play­ers — for­ward Aliyah Bos­ton, guard Zia Cooke, for­ward Laeti­cia Ami­here and wing Brea Beal, along with a three-star walk-on in lo­cal guard Olivia Thomp­son.

But when asked about the achieve­ment Wed­nes­day night af­ter the Game­cocks de­feated Day­ton, Sta­ley cred­ited it to her sup­port staff.

“They’re the ones that make this train go, ob­vi­ously, and then when fam­i­lies come on our cam­pus, it’s an en­tire pro­duc­tion. Mary Woo­ley, who’s our di­rec­tor of re­cruit­ing, runs a tight ship. We know ex­actly who has who, when, where and why. Our as­sis­tant coaches do a great job be­fore they hit cam­pus, they’re talk­ing to them, they’re talk­ing to every sin­gle per­son that’s in­volved in their lives, and they put me in the po­si­tion where I just have to pick up the phone and call or text,” Sta­ley said.

With the ad­di­tion of as­sis­tant coach and ace re­cruiter Jo­lette Law last year, ob­servers might be quick to give her the lion’s share of credit for the 2019 class. But Sta­ley re­minded peo­ple that this re­cruit­ing suc­cess be­gan years ago when play­ers were first be­ing of­fered, and it took work­ing through a num­ber of other prospects to get to the four that are com­ing to Columbia.

“This is some­thing that has been brew­ing for a long time. In this re­cruit­ing cy­cle, we went af­ter six kids re­ally, re­ally hard, and you re­al­is­ti­cally think you’re gonna get about three or four. But to be in the door for all six that we wanted, and they’re all top six kids,” is great, Sta­ley said.

Also of im­por­tance to Sta­ley was the fact that the four signees made their de­ci­sions in­di­vid­u­ally — Cooke and Bos­ton made their of­fi­cial vis­its with other top re­cruits but ended up be­ing the only ones from those groups that came to USC.

“They in­di­vid­u­ally made de­ci­sions based on what was best for them, and I’m happy about that. I’m truly happy that they did that, be­cause they had some great schools that we’ve heard (other re­cruits) say no to South Carolina and go to those schools. But this is a pretty spe­cial class that they de­cided to do some­thing dif­fer­ent in­di­vid­u­ally, not col­lec­tively. And that’s the beauty of it,” Sta­ley said.

But don’t count on Sta­ley and her staff rest­ing on their lau­rels, even with all four play­ers hav­ing signed Na­tional Let­ters of In­tent.

”We can smile to­day, for sure, but we gotta keep them here too. The trans­fer rate is high,” Sta­ley smiled.

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