JUNE DAUGHERTY'S first recruiting class, hailed as among the top 25 in the land, came together through a full-court press that featured Daugherty, her staff and players on the point, Jim Sterk and Tony Bennett on the wings, and none other than university president Elson Floyd anchoring the post.
"We're a family," explained Brian Holsinger, recruiting coordinator of the women's basketball team. "WSU is special and once you see it, you feel it. You know this place is something special.
"This is not just about the coaches. Our spouses and kids are around and involved. And the administration here is really behind us. Jim Sterk and President Floyd met with every girl who came in on an official visit. The family feel is crucial for girls and they really see it here."
He said strength and conditioning coach David Lang, as well as current players, also played a big part in the welcoming atmosphere.
The result of this widespread team effort is found in the class itself. Holsinger said they brought eight prospects to Pullman on official visits -- and they signed seven of them.
He said President Floyd told every parent who came to Pullman that their daughter would be taken care of at WSU. Floyd even gave his cell number to the parents with the assurance to call anytime they have a question or concern.
Holsinger said Bennett was particularly helpful in convincing the mother of Rosie Tarnowski, a 6-1 forward from Philadelphia, that Pullman was worth the cross-country trek. "He believes in WSU and told her that's why he stayed here. It made a big difference with Rosie's mom," Holsinger said.
Tarnowski is a multi-dimensional player with great court sense. She chose WSU over closer-to-home favorites such as Xavier and LaSalle.
The power of Pullman, though, was never more apparent than in the case of 5-8 April Cook, an uber-athletic (she can grab the rim), 4-star guard from California prep powerhouse Long Beach Poly. She tripped to Pullman the same weekend that Tarnowski did.
"April's dad Brian knew the Pac-10 -- he played football at USC -- and wanted April to check out WSU. He had to persuade her, force her, to come. She wanted to stay close to home. Halfway through her visit, at June's house, she pulls out a WSU sweatshirt and says this is it. She's going to be a Cougar," Holsinger said.
Cook, rated the No. 84 player in the country, is versatile and explosive, with the potential to develop into a "Kyle Weaver-type player," Holsinger said.
SO HOW DOES A SCHOOL with such a miserable a decade behind them manage to put together a recruiting class that is rated the 16th best in the nation by Blue Star Basketball and No. 25 by HoopGurlz.com?
"June is a big name and everyone knows her. She's been successful everywhere she's been. We have the expectation here of being successful," said Holsinger. "That attitude and enthusiasm carried over. We're focused on the new championship era of Cougar basketball, with a coach, June, who is proven. There's a new feel here."
He said all seven of the recruits, who will arrive in Pullman in August, should contribute immediately. He characterized them as athletic, hard working and among the most mentally tough recruits in the nation.
"These are all tough kids who know how to defend. Heck, Lexie Pettersen will just pop you in the face -- she's not afraid of anything," Holsinger said.
Pettersen, a Sporting News Honorable Mention All-American, is a 6-1 forward from Spokane’s Shadle Park High. She is one of two in-state players in the class. The other is Katie Grad, a 5-8 guard from powerhouse Auburn-Riverside High. She is also an honorable mention All-American performer.
The rest of the impressive class rounds out this way:
• Danielle Lenoir, a 5-6 point guard from Narbonne High in Los Angeles. A playmaker on offense, tenacious on defense.
• Jazmine Perkins, an elite guard and big-timer scorer from Berkeley. Rated the No. 112 player in the country by All Star Girls Report.
• Jessica Oestreicher, a 6-8 center from Redding, Calif., with an excellent touch. Received offers from some 40 schools.