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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two top Texas phenoms high on UConn's recruiting wish list

There are no lack of entertainment options when you arrive in Texas where the natives boast that everything is bigger here (including the wait for the elevators in the hotel).

If you are a Connecticut women's basketball beat writer and two of UConn's top recruiting targets in the Class of 2014 happen to be playing in tournaments within a half hour of where you are staying, the itinerary includes seeing them in action. So that is exactly what Rich Elliott of the Connecticut Post, Carl Adamec of the Manchester Journal Inquirer and I did yesterday.

We were able to catch the fourth quarter of the Fort Bend ISD tournament semifinal where Recee' Caldwell led her San Antonio Johnson High School team to an easy victory. After interviewing the effervescent Caldwell and making a quick stop for lunch, we headed to the prestigious McDonald's Invitational Tournament to see Brianna Turner power her Manvel (Tex.) team to victory in the third-place game in the Silver Division.

Not so long ago, the state of Texas seemed to be off limits to those entrusted with keeping the UConn women's basketball program's talent quotient among the best - if not the best - in the nation.

Last year the Huskies swooped into the Dallas area and enticed the nation's top-ranked high school point guard to leave the comfort of the Longhorn state.

Could Moriah Jefferson, the first Texas native to suit up for the Huskies, soon have some company.
It is too early to predict whether Caldwell and Turner will follow Jefferson's lead by heading North but it would hardly be a stunning turn of events to see the two top 10 Class of 2014 recruits signing national letter of intents with UConn a year from now.

UConn is certainly practicing its due diligence. UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma was at Turner's game in the McDonald's Invitational Tournament Saturday morning and the UConn coaching staff made their presence known at the Fort Bend ISD Tournament final featuring Caldwell Saturday evening.
Both players have already taken unofficial visits to UConn and each time word is that they returned home even more impressed with everything UConn had to offer than they were before they ventured into New England for one of the first time in their lives.

Caldwell was downright giddy when recalling her initial visit to Storrs, Connecticut late last month.

"It was a really nice visit," Caldwell said after the Fort Bend ISD semifinal win over Hightower. "It wasn't as cold as everybody said it was going to be. It was a really good visit. I talked to Coach Auriemma, I talked to the whole coaching staff, the girls were really cool.

"At official (visits) they can roll out the red carpet for you so you get to see all the great things about it but just an unofficial is just how every day is. I saw practice, I got to see how girls interacted with each other. It was just a regular day; the red carpet wasn't rolled out for me. They didn't have (an itinerary), it was just a regular day.. It was very normal, it was a great practice. I wasn't surprised at the practice, that is what i thought it was going to be but all the girls were chill off the court. I thought it was going to be, you know how UConn is but it was very chill."

Trust me when I tell you that being "very chill" is a very good thing.

Caldwell was beaming from ear to ear when talking about her UConn visit.

Caldwell, however, is not planning to make a commitment before she is 100 percent certain. She made the mistake once when she committed to Baylor only to change her mind and reopen her commitment. Now she is among the prominent names on UConn's wish list for the next recruiting cycle.

Caldwell said she would like to narrow her list to five by the middle of next month before making a decision.
Caldwell has already visited Duke, UCLA, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Christian and nearby Texas-San Antonio as well as UConn. She was also planning to be in attendance at today's UConn/Texas A&M game.

"We are getting closer, we are getting there," Caldwell said. "After my first commitment with Baylor, we are taking it slowly we are not making any mistakes any more. We are kind of there but we are not sure yet, we are open.

"Me and my family have been talking about committing after the high school season so probably mid-December we'll have my list and then we will make our decision after that."
Caldwell said that decommitting from defending national champion Baylor was not as heart wrenching as some might surmise.

"It wasn't that hard," Caldwell said. "I realized I was young, it was my sophomore year and I just came back from Mexico and I thought I already had everything I wanted but you realize, you make mistakes and you move on. In this process you have to be selfish because it is where you are going to be for four years and you have to be in great positions after the one."

Caldwell is a dynamic combo guard with playmaking ability but also tremendous range on her jumper.

So does she prefer playing point guard or being a shooting guard?

"It doesn't matter." Caldwell said. "I think I could score from both positions but I like to pass. I thought my role this game was to get everybody involved."

In this day and age of social media overload, Caldwell is a refreshing throwback. She does not have a Facebook page and only created a Twitter account so coaches can follow her. Caldwell had to hesitate for a moment before recalling her twitter handle.

She is also somebody who quickly mentioned the importance of meeting a big wig from UConn's School of Business during her visit since she intends to be a business major in college.

Turner, who took an unofficial visit to UConn in Match, is another highly-touted prospect who does not appear to be caught up in her own hype.

"I don't like the attention," Turner said after leading her Manvel team to a third-place finish in the McDonald's Silver Bracket. "I would rather stay on the sideline and play my game."

Turner was a member of the U.S. team which won the gold medal at the FIBA U-17 World Championships and returned for her junior season of high school as perhaps the most highly sought after player in her class.
Manvel coach Bryan Harris estimated that between 35-40 Division I programs have come in to check out the multi-faceted 6-foot-3 Turner.

"To be honest with you it has been a circus but I guess it would be better than the alternative," Harris said. "There are a lot of expectations that comes with that and we are trying to fight through those things."
Turner does a little bit of everything for Manvel. She is able to score both inside and out, is a rebounding force, blocks shots at will and even inbounds the ball and helped to bring the ball up the court.

"I just do anything I can to help my team be as successful as we can be whether it is running the floor, posting up, dribbling the ball, getting rebounds," Turner said.

Turner got close to many of the top players in the Class of 2013, many of whom recently made verbal commitments, since they were here teammates on the U.S. U-17 squad. Seeing her teammates and friends make their college decision has made Turner realize how little time there is for her to pick her college.

"That will be me in a year," Turner said. "I will be announcing my verbal (announcement) so I am (thinking) 'oh it is only a year away.' It seems like it was so far but now it is coming up quick. All of my USA team members already have all committed. I just played with these girls two months ago and now they know where they are going for the next four years."

Turner said she isn't likely to commit until after the summer AAU season is over. Turner's father Howard said that his daughter will likely name a top three on Nov. 26.

Brianna Turner is on board with that way of doing business as she said "I am going to take at least three visits."

Harris believes whoever lands Turner will be getting an impact player on the court and a first-class citizen off of it.

"She is the ultimate teammate," Harris said. "I am convinced you are only as good as you make your (teammates), the other four kids and how they respond. Sometimes she feels like she has to take over and she can take over but she makes everybody else around her better. That is what makes her a great teammate, she is very supportive. She is never negative on anything you don't ever see her get frustrated like her coach and some others.

"She is a great kid that does everything. She is a stat producer in everything she does. She is a hard guard, she can play the 1 (point guard) or the 5 (center) and any position. She's a great student, great kid, (has a) great personality, has no enemies and the best thing about her is she has no idea she is that good she is. "

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Blogger James Kerwin said...

They sound like UConn kind of recruits--people who are team players and those that don't like the spot light. "I like passing". A Uconn kid. Sign right here, on the dotted line and you are a Husky. A highly thought of Student and Basketball player. 1,000,000 or more Uconn fans will love you. Your job future is secure.

8:15 PM 

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