Purdue had a lot of excitement over the 2015 recruiting class with 3 top 50 recruits. It was ranked as the #7 recruiting class in the country by Hoopgurlz. However, Lamina Cooper did not enroll at Purdue in the Fall and did not play the 2015-16 season, due to undisclosed reasons. This was a big disappointment. Perhaps part of it was a serious injury late in her senior year of high school. But that is just speculation on my part, and we have to respect her privacy on this issue. Coach Versyp has mentioned in the past that her offer to Cooper was a standing offer that could still be taken after the one year hiatus. Coach V has also mentioned post NCAA tournament that we had 4 new players ready to join the team next season. This led me to hope that Cooper might make a come back but I wondered if a junior college transfer was in the works.
Now that it is official that Cooper is joining our other 3 recruits, things are really looking up. Consider this. Before this past season, I don't remember any top 50 recruits coming in during the Coach Versyp era. Most of our good players were in the 50 to 200 Hoopgurlz ranked players. These are talented players with a lot of potential and upside. However, for women's college basketball recruiting, you need to get top 50 players, which are all high impact recruits. To get to the Final Four or national championship level, you need at least one top 10 player. I'm still hoping for a top 10 super recruit to commit to Purdue sometime in the next few years. However, we are headed in the right direction. The haves seem to get and the have-nots do not. But on the other hand, momentum and results in the recruiting wars and post season play make the program more desirable to top recruits.
Consider this: Our 2016-17 team will have 4 freshman and sophomores ranked in the top 50: Ae'Rianna Harris is the highest so far at number 20 and she will be making a quick impact as a true freshman. Recruiting analysts have been saying that she has a college ready game since her sophomore season of high school. She is a dynamic 6'1" power forward with some serious hops who can dunk it. Dominique McBryde came in the 2015 class at number 30 and just continued to improve her freshman season, especially making her mark in B1G conference play into the post season. Tiara Murphy came in at number 31 and made some solid contributions backing up April Wilson at the point. She is fast, smart, athletic, and a great shooter. It will be a tall order to replace the graduated Wilson, but Murphy has the tools to step right in to running the point.
I've already mentioned Harris coming in at number 20, the highest ranked recruit of the Coach Versyp era. Now we can add Lamina Cooper, who sat out a year after rating 5 stars and ranked number 44. Yes all 4 will be freshmen or sophomores, but in the modern era of AAU ball, players are coming in with more readiness to get significant playing time their freshman season. I really hope that Cooper doesn't redshirt, although that could happen after a year off. We need to replace Wilson and Hamby at the guard position and could really use Cooper's skill set. She seems to be a very skilled and versatile player. Think a younger version of Andreona Keys as an overall utility player that can answer the call no matter what is needed. Known as a tenacious defensive stopper, Cooper also brings a power game on offense being able to get to the rim as a strong left-handed 3 guard. A versatile, talented and tough player, Cooper should fit right in with a defensive minded team.
Also we can't forget about two other athletic and versatile recruits coming into the guard position in Miracle Gray and Dominique Oden to round out the upcoming freshman class.
With a solid set of core upperclassmen, prospects are really looking up for next season. This team will still be a young team, but I fully expect another NCAA tournament bid next season. Hopefully this team will be able to get at least a couple of wins in the big dance next year, but first things first. Last season's team came into the season in good physical shape, and that trend should continue next season. The importance of good conditioning and getting in the weight room will be in the works from now until the next season begins, at least for the returning players. I'm not sure when the incoming freshmen can begin official team sponsored conditioning, but certainly we are going into the season with a lot of raw talent and plenty of upper class experience.
I'll follow this post up with more details on the team and individual prospects for the 2016-17 season in a later post. For now, in the era of a ho-hum Spring football camp done and a men's basketball team that melted down in the first round of the NCAA tournament, it is nice to hear some good news. Fans have been clamoring for our women's basketball team to return to prominence and national relevance, and news such as this can only help us to head back into that direction.