THE JUNE DAUGHERTY ERA doesn't officially launch until next month, but the first-year coach's impact at WSU already is significant, says the scouting director for HoopGurlz.com, a national authority on prep girls' hoops and recruiting. With at least six verbals lined up so far for 2008, the class "is setting up to be a great one for WSU, the best I can remember," says HoopGurlz' Chris Hansen.
The early signing period starts Nov. 14 and Daugherty is expected to ink six high school seniors to national letters of intent -- and perhaps even more.
"They've really gone out hard to improve the talent the program has and this class really starts accomplishing that," Hansen says. "These kids are players who will improve the current team immediately. You've got two really exceptional guards in April Cook and Danielle Lenoir. Both are incredibly athletic."
The 5-foot-8 Cook, a 4-star prospect ranked No. 84 in HoopGurlz' Hot 100 for 2008, is from the top prep program in the country: Long Beach Poly. Besides the Cougars, she was courted by Fresno State, Long Beach State and San Diego State, among others. Her club coach says she's most comfortable in the two-guard slot, but can also play the point. Cook has great speed, one of the best vertical jumps in the region and is a standout on defense.
The 5-7 Lenoir, from Narbonne High near Long Beach, is strong, tough and a lockdown defender. She's also a natural leader. The younger sister of USC point guard Camille Lenior, she is a two-time All-Area point guard. Last season she averaged 8.7 points, 4.1 assists and 4.0 steals per game. Besides WSU, her suitors included Saint Mary's, USC and Colorado State.
There's another guard in the mix as well. While not rated a national top 200 prospect like Cook and Lenoir, 5-foot-8 Seattle-area product Katie Grad. of Auburn-Riverside High is athletic, battle tested and a leader (three-time team captain). She averaged 17.2 points per game as a junior in 2007 for the state's Class 3A champions. She was named co-league MVP of the South Puget Sound League and All-Area by the Seattle P-I and Tacoma News Tribune. She also maintains a 3.9 GPA.
In the frontcourt, Daugherty has received verbal pledges from Rosie Tarnowski, a 6-1 forward from Archbishop Wood High in Philadelphia; 6-foot-7 Jessica Oestricher of Liberty Christian High in Redding, Calif.; and 6-foot Lexie Pettersen of Spokane's Shadle Park High.
"Rosie is a kid who some may have forgotten about because she suffered an ACL tear last fall. Prior to that she showed she can play with and against top competition with her old club team Fencor. She has nice interior pivot moves, is very mobile for a power forward and has improved her range," Hansen says. "She's also fully recovered from the ACL injury."
He noted most people don't know what all Tarnowski went through shortly after she tore her ACL -- her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. "They've persevered and she's going to be a great addition for the Cougs."
Hansen says Oestricher -- who plays AAU ball with Pettersen on the Spokane Stars -- is a key pickup for the Cougs. "With UCLA having all their big young bodies inside, ASU being big and physical and Stanford having two McDonalds All Americans the next two years in the paint, having a big post who knows how to play is necessary for survival," says Hansen.
"The best part about the class is not the rankings or rating of these prospects but their ability to contribute right away and make the team better right away," he adds. "This is a great start for the new coaches taking over a team that finished last in the Pac-10 last season."
Pettersen averaged 15.8 points per game last season for Shadle and is on pace for third on the Greater Spokane League's all-time scoring list -- no easy feat in a league that is prolific in the amount of talent it sends to the college ranks.
Hansen says there two other prep seniors who still could be in the Cougar orbit: point guard Kristi Kingma of Henry Jackson High in Mill Creek, and All-State forward Kayla Standish of Ellensburg. Standish is believed to be a strong lean toward Gonzaga and Kingma is thought to be a heavy lean to Washington.
Whether Daugherty's 2008 class numbers six, seven or eight, one thing is certain: some players on the current roster will either have to leave or stay on without a scholarship next year.
The Cougars have 9 of their 11 players on scholarship pright now and none are seniors. The maximum number of scholarships allowed by the NCAA is 15. So if Daugherty brings in more than six recruits for 2008, a scholie or two will need to be opened up.
* The third annual Sterling Savings Bank Night with Cougar Basketball, featuring Tony Bennett and June Daugherty, will take place Friday, Oct. 19 at Bell Harbor International Conference Center (2211 Alaskan Way, Pier 66) in Seattle. Festivities begin at 5:45 p.m. with a social and silent auction; dinner and the evening's program begin at 6:45 p.m. Individual tickets are $100 for WSU Athletic Foundation members and $125 for non-Athletic Foundation members. To RSVP please contact Todd Thrasher at 206-448-1330 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Oct. 15.
* WSU's men's and women's basketball teams open the season Nov. 9 with a doubleheader in Pullman. The women tip-off their season versus Portland at 4 p.m. and the men follow against Eastern Washington.