October 15, 2013 10:52:49 PM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
Vic Schaefer and the Mississippi State women's basketball program have made a statement on the recruiting trail.
As the final pieces of the Class of 2014 come together, Schaefer and the Bulldogs hope they have done everything they can to convince Shakayla Thomas to join them in building a championship program.
Thomas, a 6-foot small forward from Sylacauga (Ala.) High School, is rated the No. 12 player in the Class of 2014 according to Dan Olson's College Girls Basketball Report and espnW's HoopGurlz. She was in Starkville last weekend on an official visit with Scott Central High standout Victoria Vivians, a recent verbal commitment to MSU, and Blair Schaefer, the daughter of Vic Schaefer and another verbal commitment to MSU.
In addition to Vivians, the No. 24 player in the Class of 2014, and Schaefer, MSU also has received verbal commitments from Morgan William, a 5-4 guard from Shades Valley, Ala., and Kayla Nevitt, a 5-9 guard from Houston, Texas. Olson has William rated the No. 138 and Nevitt No. 187 in his national recruiting rankings.
Doug Bush, Thomas' Amateur Athletic Union coach with the Alabama Southern Starz, said Thomas had a "very good visit" and a "great experience" in Starkville. Even though he wasn't with Thomas on her visit, he said all of the information that came from her visit said it was a success.
Whether that means Thomas will commit to MSU remains to be seen. Bush said Thomas visited Florida State in September and plans to visit South Carolina the weekend of Nov. 2. He also said she could visit Alabama this weekend or the weekend after she visits South Carolina. That timetable would push Thomas close to Nov. 13, the first day of the early signing period.
Bush said Thomas hasn't told him when she expects to give a verbal commitment to the school of her choice, but he believes it will close to or on Nov. 13.
"(The recruiting process) has kind of worn on her," said Bush, who also coached Blair Schaefer on the Alabama Southern Starz. "I think as she has narrowed down the schools the number of distractions from different places has lessened, but then the schools in the running if you will, have kind of heightened their communications."
If Thomas chooses MSU, it would make the Bulldogs only the second program (Tennessee is the other) to have two top-50 recruits in the Class of 2014, according to Olson's rankings. Coming on the heels of the Class of 2013 that included junior college guard Savannah Carter and freshmen Ketara Chapel, Dominique Dillingham, Chinwe Okorie, and Breanna Richardson, the Bulldogs would have assembled two of the best recruiting classes in program history.
"Thomas is explosively athletic and is a perimeter performer with a pro-frame who elevates and delivers in the midrange game," Olson said. "She attacks the rim, defends in extended pressure, plays at the top of extended pressure, and exploits mismatches."
Bush said Thomas had offers from Baylor, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisville, and even more programs, but he said she narrowed down her selections because she has a set of criteria she is looking to match. He said Thomas wants to graduate from college and earn a degree, to go to a program that can compete for a national championship, and to get better so she can play professional basketball.
That's a solid wish list the remaining schools will try to satisfy. But after watching Thomas and the Alabama Southern Starz win the 11th-grade AAU National Championship in July in Orlando, Fla., Bush knows the schools that are still in the hunt will do everything they can to convince her their city is the best destination.
Thomas is one of nine in the top 50 of Olson's rankings who hasn't given a verbal commitment to a school.
"She is very unique," Bush said. "She is very talented. When she puts her mind to it, she can guard anybody. She guarded some of the top players in the nation this summer. In those matchups she dominated the offensive player.
"(Offensively), she is very comfortable playing with her back to the basket and facing the basket. She is excellent in transition. She can do some things that a lot of players just cannot do due to her athleticism and her explosiveness and her strength. Her ability to get her shot off whenever she wants to is a very unique skill set."
The early signing period runs through Nov. 20. Verbal commitments are non-binding. College coaches can't comment on recruits until they have received a signed National Letter of Intent from the player.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.