Thursday, June 23, 2011

Merritt Hempe no longer Virginia-bound?

Stafford star Merritt Hempe, a class of 2012 forward who verbally committed to Virginia last fall, is telling her followers on Twitter that she is now headed to Georgia. As sources go, tweets hardly classify as take-it-to-the-bank solid. Still, we can't say we'd be stunned by such a development. We'd been hearing that Hempe's Virginia commitment was no longer firm so we suspect Cavs coach Joanne Boyle and her staff have known this score for quite a while, too. Last September, Hempe's father, Dave, cited the different personalities of Virginia's coaching staff and Debbie Ryan's "no-nonsense approach" as key factors in his daughter's decision to opt for the Cavaliers. Obviously, those factors are no longer in play. And Georgia was one of Hempe's original finalists.

UPDATE (June 29) - Hempe confirmed her verbal commitment with Georgia to ESPN.

"Originally I had committed to coach (Debbie) Ryan and her staff," Hempe said, "when she left I had opened it back up. Coach (Andy) Landers and UGA were in the mix the first time around. I was really excited to hear his plans for me in the future of Georgia basketball."

Hempe becomes the second Virginia recruit to change her mind after the coaching change along with Bria Smith, who actually signed a letter-of-intent with the Cavaliers but was granted a release after Ryan stepped down and has since signed with Louisville.

Virginia's other 2012 recruit under Ryan, guard Raeshaun Gaffney, has apparently re-affirmed her commitment to the Cavaliers after visiting with the new staff.

Losing players in this fashion is one of the potential costs when new staffs come in, but in our view this doesn't really reflect on Boyle and Co.'s recruiting abilities. We're going to evaluate the new staff not by how many of Ryan's recruits she can maintain but on the quality of recruits they lock up themselves. And more importantly, how well these recruits develop once they get there.
Besides, this second-thoughts-after-a-coaching-change business can cut both ways. Green Hope star Kristen Gaffney, who had pledged to Virginia Tech before Beth Dunkenberger stepped down, is now considering Virginia along with six other schools (none of which are Virginia Tech). Gaffney's other choices are Notre Dame, Miami, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Central Florida and Old Dominion.

Old Dominion? Guess Karen Barefoot wasn't kidding when she said she was going to aim high.

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