November 6, 2012 10:46:14 PM
Vic Schaefer and his coaching staff are intent on building the Mississippi State University women's basketball program back into a regular in the NCAA tournament.
Schaefer's first recruiting class should take the Lady Bulldogs closer to that reality.
Last month, 6-foot-5 center Chinwe Okorie, of Nigeria, gave a verbal commitment to play for MSU. Her commitment is the fifth Schaefer and his coaching staff have received for the 2013-14 season. MSU loses only senior guard Darriel Gaynor from this season's team.
Okorie, who is a post-graduate student at Stoneleigh-Burnham Prep School in Greenfield, Mass., figures to join Breanna Richardson, a 6-2 forward from the state of Georgia, Ketara Chapel, a 6-1 forward from Texas, Dominique Dillingham, a 5-8 guard from Texas, and Kiandria Patterson, a 5-9 guard from Columbus High, in the next class.
Richardson (No. 81) and Chapel (No. 170) are ranked in the top 300 players in the Class of 2013, according to Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, a national scouting service.
Last week, Patterson was named to The Clarion-Ledger's Dandy Dozen team, which recognizes the state's top players.
Olson said Okorie has the potential to be a front-court player who can affect the game on both ends of the floor.
"She is a true low-post player with an upside," said Olson, who is a former college basketball coach. "There are not a lot of 6-4, 6-5 kids out there with fairly good mobility and a potential like this kid. It is good to get a commitment from this kid, who is a relative unknown, because she could emerge into a pretty good back-to-the basket player in that league."
Olson said Okorie's potential is so high because of her ability to get up and down the court. He said she also has a chance to be a defensive stopper in the paint, which would fit well with Schaefer's full-court defensive style of play.
"She may develop into a real force on the block," Olson said.
Jeff Conlon, the girls basketball coach/athletic director at Stoneleigh-Burnham, is looking forward to working with Okorie this season. He said Okorie arrived at the school late in the spring after graduating from high school in Nigeria. He said she participated in several basketball camps he held at the school, and also played Amateur Athletic Union basketball with the Connecticut Basketball Club.
"She is a solid 6-4 or 6-5 and 225 pounds. She is like an NFL linebacker, really," Conlon said. "She is amazing under the basket for her size. For her size, she has the ability to move unlike anyone I have seen.
"She has the ability to get up and down the floor, and her footwork is phenomenal. I think her best basketball is yet to come."
Conlon said Okorie visited MSU the Oct. 13 weekend and enjoyed her time on the campus. He said Okorie liked watching Schaefer and his coaches work with the Lady Bulldogs and felt that they could help her develop into a better player, which would allow her to realize a dream to play professional basketball.
"She is super excited about going to MSU," Conlon said. "She dealt with coach Schaefer and coach Harris a lot. ... She felt the style of the coaches would bring out the best in her. She described it as business on the floor and family off the floor. That really stuck with her. That's something she wanted to be a part of."
Okorie couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Verbal commitments are non-binding. Recruits can make their commitments official in the early signing period later this month.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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