Nov. 9, 2011
Vanderbilt women's basketball coach Melanie Balcomb announced the signing of six student-athletes to National Letters of Intent to attend Vanderbilt University starting in 2012.
Morgan Batey, Heather Bowe, Kristen Gaffney, Jasmine Jenkins, Rayte'a Long and Kendall Shaw highlight a class that is ranked No. 17 in the nation by ESPN's Hoopgurlz and No. 11 by Collegiate Basketball Report.
The class is highlighted by a pair of Hoopgurlz Top-100 players in Batey (No. 54) and Jenkins (No. 86). In addition, Shaw is rated No. 109 by Blue Star Report.
Position wise, Batey is rated the No. 21 guard in the class by Hoopgurlz, while Jenkins is the No. 13 point guard. The class also features a pair of top-25 posts, with Hoopgurlz ranking Shaw No. 23 and Bowe No. 25.
"I am excited about all six of these young women, not only as players, but as people," said Balcomb. "They all posses great talent, but their character, work ethic and commitment are what I think can make them a special class. This is also a large class in number, but each player brings something unique and different to our team."
Batey is the highest ranked member of the class, slotted 54th overall by Hoopgurlz and the No. 21 guard. The 5-10 Atlanta native has played at Pace Academy (coached by Regina Tate), while playing the travel circuit with the AOT/Wallace Prather Celtics. A three-time team MVP, she averaged 17 points and eight rebounds per game as a freshman, 20 points and 10 rebounds per contest during her sophomore season and 19.5 points and 14.1 rebounds per contest as a junior. She reached the 1,000-point mark as a sophomore. During her junior season, she set the Georgia record for rebounds in a season (464), while grabbing the second-most rebounds in the state in one game (30) and helping her team to the state title game. Thanks to her junior campaign, she is the reigning Atlanta Journal Constitution Class A Player of the Year.
"The first thing you notice about Morgan is her athleticism, but her skill set and basketball IQ are just as impressive," explained Balcomb. "She is a complete player and will be a difference maker on both ends of the floor."
Jenkins is currently rated 86th overall by Hoopgurlz, while also being ranked the No. 13 point guard in the class. A native of Gainesville, Ga., Jenkins attends East Hall High School, playing for head coach Joey Rider, and has played travel ball with EOTO and the Georgia Ice. For her career, the 5-8 guard has averaged 15.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. She has been named All-Area by the Gainesville Times all three seasons, while twice earning Georgia High School Association All-State honors. She reached the 1,000 point mark as a junior and earned team MVP honors for the second-straight season. She followed up her junior season by scoring 23 points in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Juniors All-Star Game, as her North Team was edged by the South Team, 80-79, in overtime. Jenkins earned MVP honors for the North Team.
"Jasmine is a true floor general and an outstanding ball handler," said Balcomb. "Her passion and energy are contagious and she makes everyone around her better with the confidence and communication skills she brings to the floor."
Shaw is ranked No. 109 by Blue Star Report. The 6-4 center plays prep basketball at Barbers Hill High School for Kit Kyle-Martin and has been on the travel circuit with DFW Elite-Washington. She has been named All-District, as well as Academic All-District, all three years in high school, while helping her team to 25-plus-win seasons and a district championship each year. As a sophomore, she averaged 15.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game, earning Texas Association of Basketball Coaches All-Region honors. Her junior year, she posted 16.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game, picking up Texas Girls Coaches Association All-State honors. In addition, Shaw helped the DWF Elite T-Jack squad to win the national title at the Nike Nationals. She has already been named Preseason All-Texas by Texas Basketball for her senior season.
"At 6-4, Kendall will be a dominant presence in the paint," said Balcomb on Shaw. "She has the size and strength to score on the block, but also textbook skills to allow her to step away from the paint. She enjoys contact and understands how to use her body."
Bowe is a native of Eau Claire, Wis., and plays at Regis High School (coached by Cody Rumpel), while playing AAU ball for the Minnesota Stars. The 6-0 post player is ranked No. 25 at her position by Hoopgurlz and is the No. 1 ranked player in Wisconsin. She averaged 17.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this past season with Regis, while earning All-Conference honors for the third time in her prep career. She reached the 1,000 point mark as a junior, while helping her team to the Wisconsin Division 4 State Title. She was the leading scorer and rebounder in the 2011 Wisconsin State Tournament, among all divisions, and was named the Division 4 State Tournament MVP. She has helped them to regional championships all three years. Bowe is also an accomplished volleyball player, as a three-time All-Conference honoree who has reached the 1,000-dig mark for her career.
"I love Heather's versatility and work ethic," said Balcomb. "She is a player who can score off the dribble or knock down the 17-foot jumper. She will out-work opponents for every rebound and will defend with a passion. She is a winner in every sense."
Gaffney, who plays at North Carolina's Green Hope High School under Head Coach Mike Robinson, is a two-time District 5 Player of the Year and two-time All-State selection. She has registered 1,864 career points and is Green Hope's leader in nearly every statistical category. Her high school had not had a winning season until Gaffney arrived, but she has now helped them to records of 31-1 and 26-2 the last two seasons. During her sophomore campaign, in which their only loss was in the 4A title game, she set a record for points in a sophomore season, with her 831 besting a mark previously held by Connecticut stand-out Shea Ralph. That was good for an average of 29.2 points per game, which was in the top-25 in the nation. She upped her output her junior year, averaging 31.2 points per game, good for top-10 nationally.
"Kristen Gaffney is an exceptional scorer," Balcomb said. "She has the combination of size, strength and skill to allow her to play several positions and her ability to find ways to score is rare."
Long, a native of Dayton, Ohio, plays prep ball at Dayton Chaminade Julienne (coached by Mandy Myers). The 6-0 power forward has started all three years in high school, averaging 11.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a junior while leading her team to the Ohio Division II regional finals. Long has played AAU ball with the Ohio Glory in Columbus, Ohio.
"Rayte'a will be one of the most physical players we have had at Vanderbilt," said Balcomb about the post. "She loves to bang in the paint, but she also has the skill set to handle the ball and knock down the three-point shot."
The six student-athletes rank as the No. 17 class nationally on ESPN Hoopgurlz. Vanderbilt's class ranks as the third-highest among SEC institutions (fourth including 2012-13 arrival Texas A&M). It also ranks as the highest class Vanderbilt has had since the rankings began in 2008.
"We filled a number of needs with this class," concluded Balcomb. "I like the balance of athleticism, skill and size we will be adding to our team. We will return a talented and veteran group next season and I expect this class to play a significant role in our future success."
The 2011-12 team opens the regular season on Friday, November 11, when they host Alabama A&M. Tipoff is set for 6:00 p.m. at Memorial Gym.
Photos Courtsey (Clockwise): ESPN Hoopgurlz, Andy Mannis/Associated Press, Greg Mintel/Southwest Wake (N.C.) News, ESPN RISE, Barbara J. Perenic/Dayton Daily News, Jason Fochtman/The Dayton (Texas) News