Friday, August 30, 2013

New-look VCU: Here comes the fury

VCU fans, you've had your "Havoc."

Are you ready to feel the "Fury?"

A re-tooled, new-look Rams women's basketball team seems determined to make sure you are. And if things go according to plan, VCU's new catchphrase - which was officially rolled out on Tuesday - may one day roll off tongues as smoothly - and with the same level of respect - as Shaka Smart's "Havoc" moniker does on the men's side.

Of course, "Havoc" really took off nationally when Shaka's Rams crashed the Final Four. For "Fury" to gain traction, at least beyond the confines of the Siegel Center, Marlene Stollings' Rams need to deliver a good bit more than the 11-19 record they signed for in 2012-13.

But this, too, is part of the plan. In makeup, playing style and attitude, everything about the program these days screams "these Rams ain't those Rams." In fact, while last season was her debut season with VCU, the new energy and the volume of fresh faces make this actually feels more like Year One of the Stollings Era.

So OK, bring on this "Fury."

Unlike "Havoc," which focuses on the Rams' relentless pressure defense, "Fury" will center on a pedal-to-the-medal, points-aplenty offensive attack, a style Stollings deployed with great success two years ago at Winthrop.

"We want to go up and down," Stollings said. "We want to score and play with speed and quickness. This is the first step toward that style of play."

Indeed, the Rams were ill-equipped to roll that way last season, when Stollings inherited a pared-down roster woefully thin on experienced Division I talent. The players were game, but the Rams simply didn't have enough weapons. When we checked out VCU at Old Dominion last November, the Rams managed just 51 points. Now, the Lady Monarchs are pesky defenders. But a Rams team that operates the way Stollings wants should be able to find 51 points in the seat cushions of the women's basketball office couch.

Fortunately for Rams fans, Stollings and her staff have been recruiting with fury since the day they set up shop in Richmond.

The result is a nine-player mega-recruiting class - fuel for full-fledged "Fury" - that seemingly has gotten larger by the week. Stollings said "several of them" are poised to make an immediate impact.

"It's virtually a whole new team," the Rams coach. "But it's exciting, because we get to mold them into our system from scratch."

The nucleus of the newbies is a six-player group of freshmen Blue Star rated among the Top 40 incoming classes in Division I, not to mention first among Atlantic 10 schools and second-best of the 13 programs in this here Commonwealth (trailing only Virginia).

In May, guard Chadarryl Clay, a former Top 100 recruit, transferred to the Rams from Auburn. Although Clay won't be eligible to play until 2014-15, she'll be fully immersed in VCU's system in practices throughout this season.

Earlier this month, junior college transfer Amber McCann completed her summer school work at Iowa Western Community College to become Rams newcomer No. 8. Stollings said the solidly-built McCann is a true center with the chops to contribute right away.

And then last week, the Rams officially added freshman Brittani Burgess, a springy, athletic performer from St. Mary's Ryken (Md.). Read more about Burgess here.

It sounds as though the Rams could field a fairly potent outfit with just the new faces alone. But VCU also has a small cadre of talented returners, and Stollings said these players attacked offseason workouts as though they're intent on not giving up their spots. For example, Robyn Parks, who transformed herself from bit player two years ago to a first-team All-Atlantic 10 pick and the league's leading scorer in 2012-13, seems poised to make yet another step forward.

Jessica Pellechio, primarily a 3-point shooter as a freshman (76 percent of her field goals were from distance), has added a couple more dimensions to her offensive arsenal. Ultra-athletic Adaeze "Daisy" Alaeze, meanwhile, has done the opposite and has set out to become more reliable from the perimeter. And then there's Zakia Williams, ,who didn't let a little something like a grueling, nine-week summer session with the Henrico County Sheriff's Department stop her from busting her tail on the hardwood, too.

"Where these players are now compared to where they were a year ago is like night and day," Stollings said.

It all adds up to enviable roster flexibility for Stollings, who no longer will be forced to dole out minutes by default. With players now having to compete for their spots, there should be plenty of "Fury" in Rams practices, too.

About that nickname. The Rams spent an entire year trying to come up with a catchy tag. Then one night, Stollings said the word "Fury" just popped into her head. The next day she spread that word among her staff and the school's marketing folks, and the response was like, "OK, yeah...."

So now the VCU women have their own catchphrase. The trick now is to develop into the kind of team capable of living up to it. Stollings and Co. can't wait to give it their best shot.

VCU adds Brittani Burgess to huge rookie class

Thanks to a neat bit of cooperation between rival coaches, VCU is celebrating the last-minute addition of another promising freshman.

Brittani Burgess, a first-team all-conference pick in the powerful Washington Catholic Athletic Conference who originally signed with Delaware, is now a Ram fully eligible for the 2013-14 season and beyond.

Burgess, a 5-11 guard, appeared all set to be part of the Blue Hens' post-Elena Delle Donne Era. But when she was unable to make it through Delaware's summer school session, she found herself in need of another scholarship offer.

Eager to help Burgess find a new school, Blue Hens coach Tina Martin called VCU's Marlene Stollings to see if there was a match. Stollings said the two coaches have a good rapport. It also helped that VCU and Delaware no longer share the same conference.

Turns out the Rams were already high on Burgess the player, and they soon became just as enamored with Burgess the person.

"We're excited to have Brittani," Stollings said. "She brings the ability to score, has a nice pull-up jumper, plus she's versatile and can get to the basket. Very athletic. Just a really nice player."

Burgess was joined on the 2012-13 All-WCAC first team by fellow VCU freshman Briana DuBose from Bishop McNamara. Burgess and DuBose are two of the seven freshmen in VCU's incoming class. Click here to read more about the new-look Rams.

The All-WCAC first team also included Paul VI's Marlena Tremba, now at William and Mary; Good Counsel's Amanda Fioravanti, now at Virginia; and Elizabeth Seton's Janelle Hubbard, now at Richmond.

Tweet, tweet, tweet: Meet Fun Fact Friday Cavalier creator Gerson

It's Friday, or more specifically, Fun Fact Friday for the Virginia Cavaliers, a weekly Twitter party organized by @ballinjew14  (that's the Twitter handle of senior Lexie Gerson).  The senior guard from Fort Washington, Pa., loves to rev up teammates and fans weekly with themed topics that bring out that Wahoo pride. Every week she chooses a different theme and invites all to chime in.

It all started with Gerson lying in bed one Saturday night and hence, the lightbulb moment "It just kind of grew and everybody loved it," she says.

(By the way, it was Gerson's birthday on Wednesday, a fun fact the Cavaliers tweeted out on a day they dubbed Fun Fact Wednesday in her honor.)

Today's theme: college football.

Some snippets from last week's themed Fun Fact Friday -- which was TV themed.

The character Lisa in Saved By the Bell was originally written as a "white Jewish Princess from Long Island who moved to Cali."

Big Bird's ac TV tual height is 8'2".

On Big Bang Theory: Most of the time Leonard has no glass in his glasses.

We even like how coach Joanne Boyle got into the act:

I so want to be a part of funfactfriday but I have no fun facts!!! :(:(:( sad day

Speaking of fun, Gerson -- an All-ACC Defensive team selection two seasons ago -- is jacked to get back on the court after missing all of last season following hip surgery.

"It was really hard to sit and watch, but it was a really good experience as far as putting things in perspective," she says. "It's good to sit back and watch. There's some things I saw this year that I wouldn't of if I was playing. It was a like a coaching perspective, which is what I eventually want to do.

She likes this group of Cavaliers, boosted by a terrific recruiting class (Breyana Mason, Tiffany Suarez, Sydney Umeri and Amanda Fioravanti.

"I have very high expectations for our team this year," Gerson says. "Our four freshmen are really talented. Awesome girls, too. We're going to be special this year. I haven't played with anyone who is on this team except Kelsey (Wolfe) and Frankie (Ataira Franklin). S.B. (Sarah Beth Barnette) is a transfer and sat out the last year I played, and so did S.I. (Sarah Imovbioh)."

Speaking of a Fun Friday fact about Gerson -- and UVa diehards likely know this -- Gerson is on that short list that said no thanks to Geno back when she was in high school.

While UConn was among her top five schools, she says, "It actually came down to Duke and Virginia. UConn wasn't a good fit for me. I always wanted to play in the ACC, and UConn was the only school I looked at that wasn't in the ACC. It wasn't the place for me."

She loves Charlottesville, on the other hand. Coaching is already on her mind, though she also want to play overseas, ideally in Israel given how important her Jewish heritage is to her. (She's also hoping to earn dual citizenship.) She's not shy about sharing her Jewish background; note the necklace in the pic.

"It's part of who I am," she says. "There's not that many known Jewish players out there."

Gerson has her bachelor's already, majoring in Women, Gender & Sexuality and is in graduate school studying college athletic administration. She's a sports nut -- she played everything in high school but decided on basketball because of her love of team sports.

"The joke right now is at the end of our season Kelse and I are going to play doubles for the tennis team," she says. "We'd break down all the stereotypes and chest bump and get really loud and things you're not supposed to do in tennis."

But the other courts is her real racket, and watch out for those Cavaliers, who she affectionately refers to as a bunch of goofballs.

Promises Gerson, "We're the team that's not going to go away."

Now that's a fun fact!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ciao from Italy: W&M's Correal blogs about her new start in Italy

William and Mary graduate Emily Correal is preparing to play her first season of international basketball in Italy with Fila San Martino. LadySwish is thrilled that Emily has agreed to blog about the experience. This is her first post.

Make sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Ciao from Italy!!

I have just finished my first week in Italy!!! It has been everything and more that I imagined it would be. Every single person I have met has been incredibly nice and welcoming; I haven’t met someone I did not like. The food is the best food I’ve ever had. And the scenery is beautiful. I spent my first few days in Gaeta, a town near Rome, with my agent’s family. I stayed there to relax, get rid of the jet lag and work on getting my Italian citizenship. While I was in Gaeta, I went to the beautiful beach and explored the old city, with my agent, his wife, their 6-year old daughter and 2-year old son. They were wonderful people to be around.

After a few days in Gaeta, my agent and his wife drove me to San Martino (The town where I will be playing and living for this year). My first impression has been a good one. I love my teammates, the coach, and everyone involved with the team. It is a small town, so everyone is family. I have not paid for a meal yet! I have been invited over to so many different families’ houses and have been treated like a princess! I have to mention again that the food is amazing!!! I also love my house and I just think it is so beautiful here. 
A collage of pics from Emily's new house.

When I’m not enjoying the company of the families of the town/teammates or relaxing at the house, I am in the gym working out and shooting. Monday I have my medical exam, and on Tuesday, we start two-a-days! I am so excited for basketball to start up, and I am especially excited to play Stanford on Sept. 3rd, when they take a tour of Italy and play my team along with two other Italian teams. 

I forgot to talk about the language! It has been somewhat difficult not being able to understand or speak Italian, but I am learning more and more every day. There are a few people who work with the team and some of my teammates speak English, so when I’m with them it is not a problem. I am just so thankful for this opportunity. I am learning so much and am really enjoying myself. 

God Bless!



Adios, Jericka! Hampton's Jenkins heading overseas

You knew Jericka Jenkins was too good a player not to get a shot at international ball.

The 5-4 point guard, who led Hampton to the NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012, leaves her home near Dallas for Puerto Rico in two days. Her new team is Ponce L, one of the former teams to graduated Lady Monarch Jessica Canady.

Since leaving HU, Jenkins has been working out with a trainer and working at Nordstrom Rack (we envy that; great shoe deals....).

Bigs are valued overseas, and Jenkins didn't get picked up her first year out of college.

"I did get to go to a combine at the Final Four in April," she said. "I got a new agent, and he found me the team in Puerto Rico. The owner likes me and wants me to play like I played at Hampton."

We can see why. Jenkins scored 1,376 points in her career at HU, leading the Pirates in points and assists (her 7.2 apg were also fifth in the NCAA) her senior season. As a junior, Jenkins was AP honorable mention, the first Lady Pirate athlete to be recognized by AP.

Jenkins hasn't been to Puerto Rico, though has chatted with current HU volleyball player Sheileen Pagan, whose hometown is Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. She will live in Ponce, Puerto Rico's most populated city beside St. Juan.

"I'm definitely excited to go," Jenkins said. "I miss basketball. Not playing makes watching hard. I went and visited Hampton in January and went to a game. I missed it."

Besides basketball, "I do want to go to the beach and maybe go out on a boat and swim with the dolphins!"

The season starts in early September and runs only into November. "The plan is to go to Europe after that if I can find a team," Jenkins said.

We'll keep you posted on her inaugural season of overseas basketball!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mikayla Sayle: From Hampton to Hampton

Hampton didn't have to travel far for its latest recruiting prize.

Mikayla Sayle, a 6-0 Class of 2014 power forward from Hampton High and the Boo Williams Norfolk Xpress, has verbally committed to the Lady Pirates. Sayle revealed her choice via Twitter Friday morning:
"Mikayla has a good, strong body and is very physical, not afraid of contact," Norfolk Xpress coach Morris Smith said. "She rebounds and defends well and has worked hard on knocking down jumpers from the elbow and putting it on the floor and attacking with one or two dribbles.

"If she was a couple of inches taller, I think everybody in the country would have wanted her."

Even so, there was no shortage of college choices for Sayle, who attracted scholarship offers from programs in the CAA, NEC and Patriot League in addition to a few others in the MEAC. Naturally, Hampton's hometown advantage and strong recent pedigree - four straight MEAC titles/NCAA Tournament bids - provided strong incentives. But it's not as though Hampton took anything for granted. In fact, evidently the Lady Pirates have been laying out their case to Sayle for an extremely long time.

"Hampton's been talking to her since seventh grade," Smith said.

Of course, Hampton High is especially familiar turf for Lady Pirates coach David Six, who enjoyed a wildly successful 12-year stint guiding the Lady Crabbers, a run that included national rankings and a pair of state titles. Current Hampton University star Alyssa Bennett, the reigning MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, also played for Six on the Lady Crabbers' 2007 state championship team.

"I told Mikayla if she works hard, she has the potential to be an All-MEAC player," Smith said.

Sayle provided Norfolk Xpress its second 2014 verbal commitment in as many weeks. Earlier, Braysia Hicks, a 5-11 forward from Hampton Roads Academy, pledged to sign with Towson.

Click here for more verbal commitments for the Division I schools in Virginia.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dispatch from Down Under: CNU's Schweers in playoffs after 42-point game

Former Christopher Newport University legend Chelsie Schweers, who will coach Hickory High girls basketball this winter, is blogging for LadySwish during her season in Australia with the Toowoomba Mountaineers.

The Toowoomba Mountaineers secured their place in the QBL play-offs on Saturday (August 17th)! The Mountaineers took the win, defeating the Gold Coast Rollers 95-89. Gold Coast was fired up coming into the game since they needed to get the win by at least 22 points for a spot in the playoffs. We played some of our best basketball, and while we led for the majority of the game, the Rollers kept coming back. We had to keep notching it up to stay ahead and we did! With 2:30 left in the 4th quarter, it was a tie game, but I nailed two 3-pointers in the final minutes, and the Mountaineers went on to take a six-point victory! This is the first time in eight years that the Toowoomba women have qualified for the playoffs. I am so excited to be a part of this team and to have contributed to our spot in the playoffs. 

Week 15 was a very special week for me as I was named the QBL Player of the Week for the second time this season. I scored a season-high 42 points, shooting 7-10 from the three-point line, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds.  I also finished the regular season leading the league in average points per game (28.4), overall points scored (455), and 3-pointers made (65).  I am so thankful for having been given this opportunity to play in the QBL. I can't thank my teammates and coaches enough for always looking out for me on the court (and sometimes off the court!). 

On Saturday (August 24th) we go up against the Brisbane Capitals in Brisbane who we have lost to twice in the regular season. So needless to say, we have got to show up with our game on! We are playing better as a team, and with the right attitude we can take the win. Now that we are entering the playoffs, it is single elimination, so we have to play hard right up until the final buzzer. Let's go Neers!

Wish us luck…
Until next time,

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Verbal commitments! We've got 'em. Find out who's going where in Virginia

W&M bound Ashley DeLeonibus

Who's going where? Feast your eyes on our list -- a school-by-school rundown of the 2014 verbal commitments from the Virginia schools so far (at least the ones we know of). Drop us a note at if you know of someone we've missed.


If the term "Maryland Pride" wasn't already taken, it would be a fitting moniker for the team George Mason is putting together.

The Patriots have bagged verbals from three members of Tony Gorham's Maryland Pride AAU squad - point guard Cydni Cole, scoring guard Qierra Murray and forward/center Casey Davis. And to think, we were worried about how new Patriots coach Nyla Milleson, whose career had been rooted in the Midwest, would fare in local recruiting (take a bow, Tajama Ngongba).

In addition to the Maryland trio, the Patriots also secured a commitment from forward/center Tayler Dodson, who played AAU with Washington-based Team Takeover and anchored a Group AA, Division 3 state championship team at Spotswood (14 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists in the title game). Dodson is already quite familiar with her soon-to-be college teammates, as she played AAU ball with Cole and Murray prior to this season.

"They're all going to mesh well with each other," Gorham said.

Not to mention be easy for local fans to root for. Come the 2014-15 season, the Patriots could be comprised of six natives of the Old Line State - Davis, Cole, Murray, Potomac's Brittany Jackson, Silver Spring's Christine Weithman and Bowie's Taylor Brown (a Georgetown transfer) - and a seventh player, Jasmine Jackson, who is also a former Hoya.
Qierra Murray

Maryland pride, indeed.

Qierra Murray, 5-9 G, Milford Mill Academy (Md.)
AAU: Maryland Pride
Smooth scoring guard - 1,007 career points in high school - who already has a unique chemistry with her AAU backcourt running mate Cole. "They're the best of friends, like sisters, and when they're on the court, it's like one mind controls the both of them," Gorham said. Not surprisingly, it took them virtually no time to agree on choosing the same school."They went on their visit together and on the way home, Qierra said, 'I'm committing," Gorham said. "Cydni goes, 'I'm coming with you.'" Gorham added that Murray comes with a quiet sense of humor and considerable intelligence. The word on the street is she's also pretty good at making shots from halfcourt.

Casey Davis, 6-3 F/C, Elizabeth Seton (Md.)
AAU: Maryland Pride
Post player who can operate in the low box or step out on the perimeter. Earned honorable mention all-conference honors in the rugged WCAC. Described by Gorham as "very, very outgoing. "Casey has a very good sense of humor, kind of silly at times, but overall just a great personality."

Tayler Dodson, 6-0 F, Spotswood (Va.).
AAU: Team Takeover
A high school low-post player who projects to play the 3 in college. Team Takeover coach Ron James has worked with Dodson for four years and says she displays a nice jump shot, an ability to handle the ball on the break and enough mobility to defend multiple positions on the perimeter. Dodson's father, Chris, was the head coach of the Spotswood state championship team.

Cydni Cole, 5-7 PG, Indian Creek High (Md.)
AAU: Maryland Pride
The "ultimate point guard" said Gorham, as Cole can score, pass and run a team with equal facility. "She's quiet and hard-working, a real student of the game," the coach said. As we noted before, she's already completely in sync with the rest of this group, particularly Murray.


Last week, new Radford coach Mike McGuire told us how pleased he was with the positive reception the Highlanders staff has received on the recruiting trail, and, so far, Jordan Toohey and Brittany Allen have been the most receptive. In both cases, McGuire's vision for the program was identified as a key part of his winning pitch.

Brittany Allen, 5-8 G, Richlands High (Va.)
AAU: Knoxville Lady Panthers
Apparently Highlanders assistant Fran Recchia started recruiting Allen when the Richlands star was in eighth grade. So when Allen de-committed from an early pledge to Winthrop, Recchia got back on the case. After a July visit, Allen decided to return the Highlanders' love. "She felt really wanted there," Knoxville Lady Panthers coach Don Brown said. Brown added that Allen comes with a solid assortment of basketball skills, but what really sets her apart is her intensity. "I call her the Tazmanian Devil, because she's everywhere out there on the floor," he said. "She takes a lot of charges, is a tough defender. ... Sometimes, I'll tell her, 'Hey, Brittany, can you dial it down to about a nine? It doesn't have to be a 10 all the time.' But that's how she is -- very serious, very mature and doesn't mess around, on the court or in the classroom. And if you don't get up to her speed, she's going to run right through you."

Jordan Toohey
Jordan Toohey, 5-10 F, Pickerington North High (Ohio)
AAU: Ohio Lady Jayhawks.
Preparing for her third season as a starter for Pickerington, which annually plays one of the toughest schedules in Ohio. Plays the 3 and the 4 in high school - and excels at interior defense - but definitely projects as a 3 in college, where she'll look to take advantage of her quickness and abilities to run the floor and finish in transition. May have an adjustment period learning to play exclusively on the perimeter. Then again, doesn't every high school player have to make adjustments upon reaching the next level? Also brings strong academics.


This program is one of the reasons we don't pay a ton of attention to recruiting rankings. We've lost track of how many times, on signing day, we've asked "Who?" regarding a JMU recruit, and then a year or two later, we're like "Oh, OK...." So while we're not sure where any of these players will rank by the time they get to JMU, odds are they'll be a whole lot better by the time they leave.  

Carley Brew, 6-0 F, Wilson High (Spring Township, Pa.)
AAU: Philadelphia Belles.
JMU fans, if you like physical, pedal-to-the-metal players, you're going to love Carley. "The best way to describe Carley is she plays more like a football player," AAU coach Sean Costello said. "She was on a loaded team with some really good players - UConn commit Sadie Edwards among them - and Carley played harder than any of them. Super, super aggressive, and can jump out of the gym. A rebounding machine. Costello said Brew also has the type of personality to should allow her to smoothly assume a leadership role as she becomes an upperclassman. Finally, Brew was part of a remarkable AAU postseason during which because of injuries and attrition the Belles had to take the court of the Nike Nationals Sliver Bracket semifinals with just six players. Then one player left the game with an injury that made it difficult for her to walk, and another fouled out. So the Belles had to put the injured kid back in with instructions to just stand there while the rest of the group played four on five. Somehow, the Belles lost by only two. I'm telling you, they ought to make a movie about it.

Hailee Barron, 5-9 PG, Rice High (Vermont)
AAU: Lone Wolf Athletics
Although one might not think of Vermont as a recruiting hotbed, Wayne Lafley has established a quality, nationally competitive club program in the Green Mountain State. And of course, few people figure to be as plugged in to this fact as JMU assistant and Vermont native Sean O'Regan (Go Red Sox!). In Barron, the Dukes will be getting a big point guard - and occasional 2-guard - who can beat teams with her head as well as her skills. "She just really understands how to play the game, how to get people the ball, how to run stuff, how to run a team," Lafley said of Barron, who is the daughter of a basketball coach. "She just doesn't get sped up. She made people play at our pace." Lafley added that while he always believed Barron was a Division I prospect, she really upped her stock - and got the Dukes really excited - with several sterling performances during the just-concluded AAU season. "She outplayed kids with lot bigger reps," he said. Personality-wise, Barron is "very outgoing, a happy-go-lucky kid who's kind of a goofball but loves to make people laugh," Lafley said.

Beverly Ogunrinde
Beverly Ogunrinde, 6-1 F, Vincent Pallotti High (Md.)
AAU: DC Heat Black.
"Upside" is the key word when it comes to Ogunrinde, a relative late-comer to basketball who brings athleticism, rebounding/shotblocking and a the promise of so much more, says AAU coach Jay Nolan. "She didn't start playing until her last year of middle school, so she's sort of raw," Nolan said. "But she just has so much potential, and she really wants to be good. And her best attribute may be her will to win. She just hates to lose." A low-block player in high school, Ogunrinde is working on the skills to make her effective on the wing as well, Nolan said.


Despite getting a late start, new Tribe coach Ed Swanson has already scored nicely in 2014 talent by using the same recruiting blueprint that led to such great success at Sacred Heart. Not surprisingly, the word "smart" comes up often when describing future Tribe players.

Jenna Green, 5-7 G, Centreville High (Va.)
AAU: Western Fairfax Basketball Club (WFBC)
"One of the smartest all-around basketball players I've ever coached," AAU coach John Giannelli, a 27-year coaching veteran, said of Green. "She's definitely what they call a floor general. Usually, I didn't have to call out a play. She could just see what the defense is running and call the play herself." More of a pass-first point guard early in her career, Green has developed into a capable scorer. Giannelli said she needs to get stronger - don't they all when making this jump? - and feeding the low post. Chose W&M for its academic chops, the fact it's not too far away and because of a belief in the new coaching staff. "Everything just fit perfectly," Giannelli said.

Abigail "Abby" Rendle, 6-4 C, South Lakes High (Va.)
AAU: Boo Williams Richmond
Green committed to the Tribe on Aug. 9. The following day, Rendle did likewise. "This is a girl who loves running the court," Giannelli said. "She's block a shot and sprint down to the other end. Will just run and run and run." Just don't expect a big vocal presence. "She's like a silent assassin," Giannelli said. "Actually, she's exactly like Jenna, a very quiet girl, very smart, another one with the high GPA and the AP classes. But when they get on the court, they're like whole different girls. You don't want to get in their way."

Ashley DeLeonibus, 6-3 F/C, The Bullis School
AAU: Germantown Lady Panthers.
Played for the same club team as two incoming Tribe freshmen, Marlena Tremba and Kasey Curtis. An athletic, finesse-style big who enjoys running rim to rim, according to AAU coach Milton Kimbrough. He added that DeLeonibus is working hard on developing her low-post game. Chose William and Mary because of the academics and the vision of the new coaching staff, Kimbrough said.


The Lancers landed one of the more intriguing early pledges in Autumn Childress, a one-time basketball prodigy who, if she can continue developing after two serious knee injuries, could turn out to be one of the steals of this recruiting class.

Autumn Childress, 5-10 G, Midlothian High (Va.)
AAU: Boo Williams-Richmond
Autumn Childress
We haven't been able to confirm this, but the story is so good we're passing it along anyway. According to Boo Williams-Richmond's Mike Davis, Childress was ranked among the top five players her age in the nation coming out of middle school. "They had a rule - no freshmen on the varsity - when she got to Midlothian, so in her first JV game, she scored 45," Davis said. "The next game, she was on varsity." Unfortunately, Childress was felled by torn meniscus in her left knee during the subsequent AAU season. Then, in her first game for Midlothian as a sophomore, Davis tore her left ACL and was sidelined again. "She's basically missed two and a half AAU seasons, and didn't really get a chance to develop," Davis said. While Childress has come a long way, Davis acknowledges she's still working to regain her old explosiveness. But the advanced skills are still there, and Childress has even added a solid perimeter shot to an arsenal that already included a talent for attacking the basket and craftiness in finishing in the paint. In short, Childress sounds like a player who can help the Lancers even without her old speed and power. But if she's able to get those weapons back - and Davis is confident she can - look out.


We've been blown away by the quality and quantity of talent being developed by the folks at Boo Williams Richmond. Apparently, so has Spiders coach Michael Shafer, who didn't have to look far to find his program's future generation.

Micaela Parson, 5-6 PG, Monacan High (Va.)
AAU: Boo Williams Richmond
Slasher-style point guard who is continuing to improve her shooting ability. "An incredibly hard-working kid who has really put the hours in," said Mike Davis, the lead trainer for Boo Williams Richmond and Three Point Line Sports. Parson displayed her work ethic after suffering a torn ACL at the end of her high school season. She had surgery in March, was back in the gym by July and has already resumed lateral movements. In addition, point guard Parson doesn't just make her teammates better; she also makes 'em laugh. "She's a comedian," Davis said. "She's hilarious. Spend some time with her and she'll make you laugh like you wouldn't believe.

Alicia Hudalla, 6-1 G/F, Glen Allen High (Va.)
AAU: Boo Williams Richmond
Lefty Rennie Harrison
We spoke to Hudalla's father, Jeff, and he told us all about the great job Mike Davis was doing and how well the players were developing. Never mentioned that his own daughter was one of those players. Talk about humble. Fortunately, Davis was happy to fill us in on Alicia: "She'd been a post player all of her life because she was 5-10, 5-11 in 7th and 8th grade. By 10th grade, she was playing the point for her high school team. Now she's playing on the wing, with range out to the 3-point line. Just an absolutely phenomenally skilled player. And (Hudalla and Parson) are the best of friends. She'll be the one shooting with Micaela passing her the ball." Another extremely hard worker who has rebounded well from an ACL injury in 2012.

Rennie Harrison, 6-4 C, Episcopal (Va.)
AAU: Team Takeover.
Big, aggressive lefthanded post player - not too many of those out there, right? - who according to coach Ron James has a good work ethic and strong desire to become a better player. Could develop into a real low-post anchor, particularly defensively.


Say this for Joanne Boyle - the woman sure can recruit. The Cavaliers coach put together a string of star-stuffed classes during her days at Cal - every member of the Golden Bears team that advanced to the 2013 Final Four was a Boyle recruit. Her 2013 class at Virginia - Amanda Fioravanti, Sydney Umeri, Tiffany Suarez and Breyana Mason - is comprised entirely of Top-100 performers (Blue Star). And more elite talent is on the way for 2014. Now, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that in the ultra-competitive ACC, a lot of schools recruit like this, and have been doing so for a longer period of time. But thanks to Boyle (and obviously an extremely capable staff), at least the Cavaliers once again have a seat at the big girls recruiting table. 

Mikayla Venson
Mikayla Venson, 5-7 G, Yorktown (Va.)
AAU: Team Takeover
That Venson (ranked 16th on's Top 50) turned down Tennessee and Duke, among others, to sign with the Cavaliers speaks volumes about how coveted she was. Injuries, including a concussion suffered during her sophomore year, have limited Venson's actual game count. But she works out like a demon, and proved during a brief stint in AAU last spring that she clearly belongs to be ranked among the nation's best. Check out our story for more on Venson.

Aliyah Huland El, 6-1 F, Randolph High (N.J.)
AAU: Ring City
Talk about versatile - Huland El plays three sports (volleyball, track) and spent time at all five positions for her high school hoops team. She is ranked No. 18 on ESPN's Super 60 2014 performers. Click here for more on Huland El.

Lauren Moses, 6-2 F, Rancocas Valley Regional (N.J.)
AAU: Philly Triple Threat
Comes from the same high school as DeMya Walker, one of the greatest players in Cavaliers history. Chose Virginia over Louisville, Michigan and Virginia Tech. Another high school post player who will be transitioning to the wing in college. Her brother, Dezman, started six games at outside linebacker as a rookie for the Green Bay Packers last season and recorded four sacks.


Some scrappy but vertically-challenged Lady Monarchs squads have had to play small-ball the past two seasons, but coach Karen Barefoot reeled in a few bigs in her 2013 class and has more size pledged for 2014. It will be interesting to see what ODU can do when it can combine its energy with some low-post scoring options and ability to hold its own on the boards.

Keyana Brown, 5-11 G/F, Williamsburg Christian (Va.)
AAU: Boo Williams
Prolific shooter and scorer - she already has 2,001 career points in high school - whose  trophy case is already overflowing with honors in the independent schools circuit. For more on Brown, click here to check out our story.
Maia Lee

Maia Lee, 6-3 C, McLean High (Va.)
AAU: Team Takeover
Long, athletic presence who runs the floor extremely well and can finish around the basketball with either hand, says AAU coach Ron James, who added that Lee is working on developing her face-up game.


After looking to upgrade the talent level with massive recruiting classes the past two years, the Hokies may not be looking for volume in 2014. But there's always room for the right player, and Tech has been sweet on Brielle Blair for a long time.
Brielle Blaire

Brielle Blaire, 6-2 F, Salisbury High (N.C.)
AAU: FBC Southeast Elite
Former Tech coach Beth Dunkenberger served up the first scholarship offer when Blaire was an eighth-grader, and current coach Dennis Wolff maintain that interest in a player both and Blue Star rank among the top 60 players nationally in the 2014 class. For more on Blaire, click here to check out our story.

2015 verbals


Keturah "KK" Barbour, 6-0 F, Albemarle High (Va.)
AAU: Virginia Blue Star United

Stephanie Patton, 5-9 G, Towns County High (Ga.)
AAU: Deep South Elite


Chanette Hicks, 5-5 G, Maury High (Va.)
AAU: Norfolk Xpress

Strictly Division III: One sport isn't enough for Ferrum's Kylene Culler

We call Kylene Culler the Becca Wann of Division III. LadySwish regulars know that Wann is that rare Division I kid who plays two sports (soccer and basketball for Richmond), excelling at both. Culler is also accomplished in a pair of sports (basketball and softball); the rising junior became the first Ferrum female athlete to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in two sports when she did so her freshman  year (last season the Panther basketball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament; softball lost in the USA South Conference championship game).

We caught up with Kylene during that rare moment when she wasn't on the field or the hardwood. Here's what she had to say:

On playing two sports in college ...

I was thinking about giving up softball because I like basketball better, but I had trouble trying to decide. I was going to go to Ferrum to play basketball, but the coach talked to me because my sister (Kaitlyn, USA South Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2013) actually played there (she was a junior when Kylene was a freshman). The softball coach said she'd work with my schedule and the basketball coach agreed. One of my deciding factors for Ferrum was that I got to play both of them.

I grew up in a small town (Stuart, about 45 minutes away), and the small town feel is what I'm used to and what I know. I love having people know me. I love the feel, and the atmosphere is great. We have great support for athletics, and the academics is good, too.

But doesn't it ever get hectic?

They overlap a lot. I go into Ferrum playing softball -- we have a fall tournament. I go in practicing softball and try to condition with basketball as much as I can, but I mostly focus on softball for the first month. After the tournament, I go right into basketball. I usually miss about the first 10 games of softball because of basketball because we've been to the tournament both times.

I'm used to it. I played three sports in high school (volleyball was the other). I did a dual enrollment program and actually got my associate degree while I was in high school. I love being busy and having something to do all the time. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I had to come home after school. It does get hectic with schoolwork. I pull a lot of late nighters.

Will you graduate early?

If I would have went in knowing what I want to major in, I probably could have graduated this year, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. I'm doing health and human performance, which is going to lead into occupational therapy. I wanted to help people and went in thinking social work. But there were so many negatives. It wasn't for me.

I want to be able to work with kids. I'm a big kid myself, so it fits.

You were always an athlete?

I started basketball in kindergarten. I started softball at 9. They're totally different games. One is more fast paced; that's the reason I probably like basketball more because of the pace. But I like softball, too.

On the grind of D-III ...

Even though we're not together over the summer, we work individually and it shows when we get back together. A lot of girls spend extra time -- we work after practice. A lot of us stay and shoot after practice or run plays after practice.

On the travel and those lengthy bus rides ...

We do a lot of driving. There are a lot of long bus rides. For basketball, we had these movies that we watched over and over again, and we loved them. We'd sit and watch them together, and we'd be quoting them word for word. The "Pitch Perfect" movie that came out this past year; we all knew the songs and we would sing them all the time. We have some really long bus rides, and it was just ridiculous to have to sit on a bus for nine hours. We went to a tournament in Huntington, Ala. We have some five-hour ones, too. We have three teams from Georgia now in our conference.

But school always comes first ....

Kylene and her graduated sis Kaitlyn
There's no exception for missing class. Our coaches tell us when we get off the bus at 2 o'clock in the morning, 'We expect you in class at 8 a.m.' And we usually try to get the early classes so we won't miss them in the afternoon when we leave.

During softball season when it comes time time for exams, we're going into the conference tournament.
It's really hard to get your exams in. A lot of us had to take our exams on the road. For basketball for midterm, we had to take exams on the road, and our coach would have to come in and watch us. I remember I had to take four exams on the road, and it was really hard because I had to sit up in the hotel room while everybody is eating pizza or something.

On fan support ...

I would love for people to recognize D-III. Some people think D-III is the very bottom, but most of the schools we play against in Virginia -- they're probably D-II players who play D-III because there's not a D-II school around here. We have some really talented athletes in our conference. We get respect from the people who care. We have fans who travel with us. Most of them are parents, but some of the men's basketball teams and the other teams at the school support us at home games. We usually have a packed gym at a women's basketball game. That means a lot to have our school behind us.

Looking ahead

For basketball we're going to be really strong. We have a chance to go further than we did last year. We definitely have a bright future. For softball, too. We lost a few of our starters in both sports, but some of the freshmen and recruits we have coming in have big shoes to fill, but they have a lot of potential and I think we will do great.

If you had time for a third sport in college, what would it be?

My roommate who graduated this year, she picked up lacrosse her last year at Ferrum. I played a little bit with her and I thought that was a really interesting sport. It has a lot of running in it and seems fun to do.

Are you a Division III basketball player with a good story? Email us the details at lady

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dispatch from Down Under: CNU's Schweers will come home as coach at Hickory High

Former Christopher Newport University legend Chelsie Schweers is blogging for LadySwish during her season in Australia with the Toowoomba Mountaineers. She's also recently been named varsity coach of the Hickory High girls basketball team in Chesapeake. Hickory is her alma mater. We'll let her tell you the rest.

 Australia . . . I landed here in April and it has been a most memorable experience. The Queensland Basketball League (QBL), the Toowoomba Mountaineers' coaching staff, my teammates, and my suite-mate, Kisha, all came together to make my transition from Chesapeake to the land down under practically an overnight success. Playing basketball in the QBL has given me the opportunity to play against some of the QBL's finest as well as a few American standouts. I have also had the opportunity to participate in various events sponsored by Toowoomba Basketball aimed at getting kids involved in sports. Every time I step out on the court with the kids who come out to participate, it has been an uplifting and rewarding experience. While I have spent much of my time in the gym and on the court, there has also been time set aside for taking in some of what makes Australia a dream destination. I often start my day and end my day thinking, "I love this place!" 

Returning Home . . . While my season with the Mountaineers has not come to an end just yet, I know these next few weeks are going to fly by, and I will soon have to say goodbye to my new friends. However, during the past several weeks, another opportunity has opened up for me that will not allow much time for me to sit around sulking and missing my friends and teammates in Toowoomba.  A few friends and family back home told me about an opening at my high school alma mater and encouraged me to apply. After some thought, I decided to go for it and went online and completed the application process. Late one night in Toowoomba, I went down to the gym so I could hook-up on SKYPE with the athletic director and principal of Hickory High School for a 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time interview. I am excited to announce that I will be the 2013-2014 varsity girls head basketball coach at Hickory High School! I will have to hit the ground running when I get back home since the school year starts in early September, and the basketball season gets started shortly thereafter. I have always thought about coaching and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to return to Hickory HS as "Coach Schweers." I have received so many congratulations and encouraging words from friends and family, and the community. I am so excited to have been given this opportunity and look forward to sharing my love of the game with my team! GO HAWKS!

PLAYOFFS . . . For the next few weeks my primary focus will be on getting through the playoffs and playing my best game. That will mean working out at the gym, practicing, watching film, and hopefully celebrating a few more wins!
I am so very blessed!

Until next time,

Radford women's basketball: new coach, new staff, new vibe, too

Expect big thing from Foy.
We were almost afraid to make the call.

See, we were looking for positive stuff about the 2013-14 edition of Radford women's basketball, but at least from a distance, good news was hard to find. Six seniors have moved on from the 2012-13 squad, including the Highlanders' top four scorers. No returner averaged as many as eight points per game. Everyone raves about new head coach Mike McGuire, but let's face it. He's leading a Division I program for the first time. We're high on his new staff, too. But by the time it was assembled, the Highlanders had already been lapped by the field in recruiting.

As much as we love the staff's makeup and potential long term, what about 2013-14?

Then on Tuesday, Radford's schedule came out, and it featured this early-season, five-game road gauntlet - at Old Dominion, at Wake Forest, at Clemson, at Campbell (a Big South heavyweight), at Liberty (THE Big South heavyweight). These Highlanders are going to get smacked around pretty good, right?

Well, we called McGuire anyway. And while he freely acknowledged all the challenges, he did offer  several reasons why Radford fans may be pleasantly surprised by how the 2013-14 Highlanders come together.

For starters, these Highlanders seem to really want to come together. The entire group was on campus for the five-week summer second session, and thanks to the new access rules, McGuire and company was able to begin putting the new system in place.

"I think we got off to the right start," McGuire said. "When they left campus I felt pretty good about where they were."

One of the standouts over the summer was guard Aisha Foy, a two-time Big South Freshman of the Week a year ago. Foy was on hand for both summer sessions and according to McGuire has "completely bought in." The former Princess Anne High star averaged just over nine minutes per game on the senior-dominated Highlanders last season. She may be positioning herself to at least triple that this season.

"I think she's going to have a great year," McGuire said.

Also, while post players are difficult to find at any level, McGuire believes he's inherited a promising on in 6-2 sophomore La-She' Walker.

"She can really give us a presence inside," the coach said.

Then there's sophomore Diani Mason, a dynamic performer who knows how to get hers (kind of what you'd expect from someone who's honed her skills against guys in Queens, N.Y.). With a greater focus on areas including conditioning, McGuire thinks Mason can be as good as she wants to be.

"We'll see how big of an impact she wants to make," he said. "She definitely has the ability."

At some point during the season, the Highlanders will also have the services of 6-1 junior forward Jordynn Gaymon, who displayed great promises in limited action (14.3 minutes per game) a year ago. McGuire said Gaymon will miss the start of the campaign while tending to a personal issue but should be back no later than the start of the second semester.

Finally, it should help that this year's Big South is filled with teams in transition, squads either having to replace one or two key performers or in full-scale retooling mode. Radford's not going to be anyone's pick to win the league, or maybe even to finish in the top half. But if the Highlanders just put their heads down and play - sort of the way Longwood did last season - they seem to have enough to cause plenty of problems in this wide-open conference.

As for the schedule, McGuire deserves neither credit nor blame for its contents as it was pretty much in place before he settled in. But while we got the impression it would probably look a bit different if he'd started from scratch with this year's team in mind, he likes the message it sends to potential future Highlanders.

"It shows we're going to play at a high level in good environments against the top programs," he said.

McGuire is particularly excited about Radford's three-game series with Virginia Tech (the Highlanders will host the Hokies this season before playing in Blacksburg in each of the next two years) and hopes it can develop into an annual southwest Virginia showdown. Women's basketball is thin on rivalries; let's hope this becomes one.

But perhaps the best development in McGuire's brief tenure to date has been the positive vibes he and his staff have received from AAU and high school coaches, players and parents on the recruiting trail.

"I was really concerned about that with us starting late and all," he said. "But the reception we've gotten from everyone, including the people in the community, has been really exciting."

Then again, we figured Radford's future would be in capable hands with this group. But there's still the 2013-14 season to navigate. We'll admit we were kind of pessimistic for a while. But after talking to the coach, color us cautiously optimistic.

Good thing we made that call.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Richmond's Amber Nichols on her Redskins internship, her NBA cuz and Spider basketball, too

There's internships and then there's really cool internships, and if we say so ourselves, Richmond's Amber Nichols landed herself a dream summer. Nichols, a senior guard with the Spiders, is an intern for the Washington Redskins during training camp. We talked with her about that, her really cool cuz John Wall and got around to some Spiders basketball, too.

On interning with the 'Skins...

Every day I get to coordinate and create the NFL play zone area for kids, and I get to run them through NFL drills. It's designed to keep kids active and to promote a healthy environment for kids. I also get to work with VIP sponsors and monitor kids club signups. I get to help out with the VIP tents. We also had a kids press conference where kids were allowed to interview some of the players. I was able to coordinate that. I also get to work the kids zone area when the players actually come over and sign autographs. That's when I first encountered RG3.

No doubt RG3 is the signature everybody wants. Is there a second most popular autograph?

It's overwhelmingly RG3. He gets the most cheers. At camp, the kids rush to him. Santana Moss is another big name. Brian Orakpo. Ryan Kerrigan and DeAngelo Hall.

So what's the Redskins QB really like?

He's cool. He's very humble. He loves the fans. Every afternoon he sprints down the sidelines to give the fans high fives. He just got cleared to play, and he risks all that to give the fans what they want. He sparks their moods up because they're in the heat all day. He really likes kids. He'll pick a couple of kids to walk down the field with him every day. The funniest part was when I was talking to him when he was signing autographs he wasn't aware that his mother had been signing autographs at camp, too. I handed him a ball and he saw a signature that said, 'RG3 mom,' and he asked, 'Who's signing RG3 mom?' and I told him, 'Your mom!'

Were you a Redskins fan before?

My dad has been a Redskins fan for years. I was born the year they won the SuperBowl (1992).  There's a jacket my dad has from that SuperBowl. I bought my dad a jersey and I got RG3 to sign it.

Does the internship relate to your major?
Her cuz at high school graduation.

I'm a sociology major. I want to go to grad school for sports management. The ultimate goal is to work
in marketing in the NBA. I love basketball. I know it like the back of my hand. I could talk basketball all day. Coach (Michael) Shafer tells me that all the time. Hopefully, I can get a job as a marketing manager or a CEO of marketing of one of the teams.

Speaking of the NBA, your cousin is John Wall (Washington Wizards). How close are you guys?

We're close. We've been close since middle school. He was at high school (Needham Broughton in Raleigh, N.C.) with me my ninth grade year and he was a sophomore and he got cut from the team, so he went to a private school (Word of God Christian Academy). I went to the draft when he got drafted. I went to Kentucky probably three times when he played there. I've been to 10 or 15 Wizards games so far since he's been playing. I sit courtside.

You never know who you'll meet at a Kentucky game.
I got to meet LeBron at a Kentucky game John was playing in. I think it was Kentucky vs. Arkansas and LeBron showed up to the game. After the game, he came back to the locker rooms toward the media area and I got to take a picture with LeBron.

We're guessing your cousin is your favorite player?

He's my favorite. Him and Dwyane Wade.

You root for the Wizards?

I'm a Miami fan.

You must have loved Game 6.

When Ray Allen hit that shot in the corner, I think I might have celebrated like I was on the team.

Since you're so into marketing, any ideas for the women's game?

I think we should have certain things that the men don't have. I think there should be more televised games and there should be more women's Big Blue madness events. I know Richmond doesn't have one. Maybe having a college all-star game for women might work.

Talk about Richmond basketball and the upcoming season.

I'm very excited. I think my teammates have untapped potential. We re-evaluated ourselves individually and as a team at the end of last year, and we reinvested to this one sort of concept, and it's called purpose. That means we're playing for each other and for our coaches instead of ourselves. We have a lot of pieces. We're going to be more athletic than we've been in the past. Becca (Wann) is going to be great, of course. Kris (King) is coming back, too. She's going to have a great senior year. Gen (Okoro) is practicing and working out and looks great. Our freshmen are good, too. We have Liv Healy and Janelle Hubbard. Those two are really good.

Prediction on the Redskins season?

I think they're going to go deep in the playoffs. I don't know whether they'll win a Super Bowl or not, but from what I see, they're going to be pretty good.