October 27, 2013 1:48:42 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mississippi State women's basketball team's recruiting class continues to get bigger.
As it expands, it also climbs the national rankings.
On Thursday night, LaKaris Salter, a 6-foot-1 forward from Tallahassee, Fla., gave a verbal commitment to play for coach Vic Schaefer. Salters' commitment gives MSU five players -- Kayla Nevitt, Victoria Vivians, Starkville High School guard Blair Schaefer, who is Vic Schaefer's daughter, and Morgan William -- for the Class of 2014. It also moves MSU up in the national rankings from No. 20, where they were at the beginning of last week, to No. 17 according to Dan Olson, director of Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and espnW HoopGurlz. Vivians, of Scott Central High, is 24th in the class, Salter is 90th, William is 139th, and Nevitt is 187th.
"She might have the best hands of a lot of kids I have seen," said Olson, who has watched Salter play since she was in the seventh or eighth grade. "She is pretty good. I am a fan."
Olson compared Salter to former Texas A&M standout Danielle Adams, who went on to play in the WNBA. Schaefer and current MSU associate head coach Johnnie Harris were members of coach Gary Blair's coaching staff when Adams was at Texas A&M and helped lead the program to the national title in 2011.
"This kid is magic," Olson said. "She has hands that are so soft that she just catches it and she shoots and pop, it goes in. She is very deceptive."
Salter has played a key role in leading the Florida A&M Developmental Research School to Class 2A state titles the past two seasons. In 2011-12, she took the inbounds pass and drove the length of the floor to hit the game-winning 3-pointer against Hollywood Christian. Last season, she was named to the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches Class 2A Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Salter, who visited Starkville the weekend of Oct. 12, welcomes comparisons to Adams. She said Adams is a player she used to watch all of the time, and that her maturation as a player under Schaefer and Harris at Texas A&M is something that sold her on MSU.
"Looking at what she did (at Texas A&M), the fact that they took her as a junior college player and seeing her grow in two years helped me look at it and think if she grew that much in two years imagine how much I can grow in four years," Salter said.
Salter describes herself as a player who can dribble, pass, and shoot. She said if opponents try to limit her to one thing she will do another, or whatever the team needs her to do to contribute. Salter said she is particularly proud of her passing ability, and that she doesn't mind of she gets zero points and 10 rebounds or zero points and 10 assists as long as she is helping the team. At MSU, she anticipates playing small (three position) and power forward (four position), but probably more as a four.
"The atmosphere of the school (helped me pick MSU)," Salter said. "Everybody supported everybody and it was like a family. If you are me and you're going to be away from home, you need another family around you.
"They were just themselves. They didn't try to do anything different to impress me. They just represented themselves and told me this is what they do on a daily basis. They are cool and fun, but when it is time to work it is time to work. I saw what they are trying to build and the future of the team. They are bringing in some great players in the Class of 2014. Coach Schaefer is not the typical coach. He wants to make his presence known and elevate and go higher. I see myself fitting in well there."
Kim Davis Powell coached Salter this past summer with the Essence Amateur Athletic Union program. She watched Salter play in seven or eight tournaments and feels Salter compares well to Adams. In fact, she said she showed Salter tapes of Adams in an effort to see how a player can impact a game in so many ways.
"I think Lakaris is a better passer," Davis Powell said. "She can go inside and outside and she is light on her feet. At the same time, she can pass the ball. When you get a post player who can pass the ball like that you have something special."
In addition to being a facilitator, Davis Powell said Salter is a good ballhandler.
"She plays like she is 6-2 or 6-3," Davis Powell said. "What I love about her game is she can pull you out and shoot the 3-pointer consistently and then she can come down and bang on the block. She is so versatile, and she is a hard matchup offensively."
Davis Powell also considers herself to be a coach who stresses defense, much like Vic Schaefer, whose nickname is the "Secretary of Defense." Davis Powell said Salter struggled with her at first adjusting to her defensive principles, but she is confident Salter will be able to make the transition to Schaefer's style of play.
"She is a very smart player and she is able to get it," Davis Powell said.
Davis Powell said Salter visited West Virginia and Miami and turned down offers from Florida, Indiana, and Virginia Tech.
Salter didn't return a text message or an email. Florida A&M DRS girls basketball coach Ahmed Aliyy didn't return multiple phone messages.
The class comes on the heels of a 2013 recruiting class that includes Dominique Dillingham, an All-State player from Texas, Chinwe Okorie, a center from Stoneleigh-Burnham (Mass.) School, Breanna Richardson, an All-State player from Georgia, Kiki Patterson, an All-State player from Columbus High, Ketara Chapel, an All-State player from Texas, and Savannah Carter, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College. New Albany High standout Jazmine Spears also signed with MSU but didn't qualify academically and is at Trinity Valley C.C. Patterson is no longer with the team.
Olson ranked the class of seven players No. 35 in his ratings. Richardson, who is No. 77 in Olson's individual rankings, is the highest-rated player in the class. Carter is the 27th-best junior college player, according to Olson.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.