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Recruiting class rankings: LSU women’s hoops comes out on top

LSU coach Kim Mulkey put together the No. 1 recruiting class in the early NCAA signing period. (Andrew Wevers/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Another NCAA early signing period has come to a close, and with it, a handful of women’s basketball programs stood above the rest in their pursuit of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2023.

Just Women’s Sports has compiled its list of the 15 best recruiting hauls from this year’s cycle. Click here to learn more about these individual signees, with our most recent list of the top 25 players in the Class of 2023.

1. LSU

Kim Mulkey’s name will forever be remembered among the game’s most successful coaches, and for good reason. Her capacity to not only develop but also recruit elite players has made her programs perennially relevant.

Last year — the first season in Mulkey’s tenure in Baton Rouge — LSU managed to have one of the most popular student sections in women’s college hoops. The community is fired up about the Tigers, a bonus for any potential commit.

With the Class of 2023, Mulkey brings in four more players to be excited about, including two in our top four: No. 1 overall recruit Mikaylah Williams, a 6-foot-1 guard, and No. 4 recruit Aalyah Del Rosario, a 6-foot-6 post player. Quick wing Janae Kent (Ill.) and 5-7 point guard Angelica Velez, a teammate of Del Rosario at The Webb School, round out what is truly the most impressive signing class in the country.

2. Arizona

Wildcats coach Adia Barnes has managed to sign three five-star recruits, all of whom eagerly await their opportunity to bring Arizona to the top of the PAC-12 and raise a banner or two.

Next fall, the Wildcats will welcome La Jolla Country Day’s Breya Cunningham, a 6-4 forward from California, 5-8 point guard Jada Williams (Calif.) and Montaya Dew, a 6-2 forward from Nevada. The West Coast consistently promises high-level talent, and Barnes bringing in a few of the region’s best bodes well for Arizona’s future.

3. South Carolina

Four little birdies have flown into the nest, and South Carolina keeps on rolling. After 2022’s national championship season, during which the Gamecocks held on to the top spot in the AP Top 25 from start to finish, it’s no surprise that South Carolina has cleaned up on the recruiting trail.

Coach Dawn Staley, whose ability to reload a roster has transformed the program over the last decade, doesn’t promise immediate minutes. In her transparency, she attracts players who understand and accept the Gamecocks’ culture — a five-star recruit may have to wait her turn at first but will eventually earn the opportunity to make an impact.

No. 11 overall recruit Chloe Kitts, a 6-2 forward from Florida, in-state point guard Milaysia Fulwiley, 5-10 guard Tessa Johnson (Minn.) and 6-1 wing Sahnya Jah (Fla.) are next up for South Carolina.


4. Notre Dame

If anyone understands the winning pride and tradition of Notre Dame women’s basketball, it’s coach Niele Ivey. A player on the 2001 national champion team and the associate head coach for the 2018 title team, Ivey understands how to elevate the Fighting Irish from every angle.

Look no further than a quick glance at the 2023 signing class, which boasts 5-7 point guard Hannah Hidalgo (N.J.), Canadian sensation Cassandre Prosper, a 6-2 forward, and dynamic guard Emma Risch (Fla.).

5. Duke

The Kara Lawson era of Duke women’s basketball is gaining steam. Coach Lawson secured the highest-ranked Duke signee in the modern recruiting era in Sidwell Friends’ Jadyn Donovan, a 6-foot guard from Washington, D.C. Donovan, who’s used to sharing the court with stars like Kiki Rice and Kendall Dudley, is the type of commitment the Blue Devils need to eventually make the waves in the ACC and beyond.

Add in 6-2 forward Delaney Thomas (D.C.) and 5-9 guard Oluchi Okananwa (Mass.), and Duke has put together an impressive recruiting class.

6. UConn

Playing for coach Geno Auriemma at UConn isn’t exactly a hard sell. His all-time record of 1,149 wins and 150 losses speaks for itself, with 22 Final Fours and 11 national championships over the course of 36 seasons. Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart are among the alumni that Auriemma has produced, and his current roster includes names like Aaliyah Edwards, Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd.

So who’s next? Look no further than this year’s crop of 2023 signees — 5-10 point guard KK Arnold (Wis.), 5-10 guard Ashlynn Shade (Ind.) and 6-2 forward Qadence Samuels (Md.).

7. Stanford

Coach Tara VanDerveer has perfectly curated the Stanford standard, with players who lead the way both on the court and in the classroom and are bursting with basketball IQ and exhibit relentless work ethic. It’s a system that allows willing players to grow and thrive, evolving to reach their fullest potential.

Both 5-11 wing Courtney Ogden (Ga.) and 5-11 guard Sunaja Agara (Minn.) committed to the Cardinal in 2021. They were joined by Chloe Clardy, a 5-9 guard from Arkansas who gave her verbal commitment this year. In picking up three of the most intriguing players in the 2023 cycle, VanDerveer continues the long line of Stanford commits ready to raise the bar.

8. North Carolina

Coach Courtney Banghart appears to be exactly who the Tar Heels needed to lead the charge on their path to return to the Final Four, with three winning seasons under her belt already. North Carolina’s 2023 signing class reflects a continued desire to reach the top.

Ciera Toomey, a 6-3 post from Pennsylvania, and 5-5 point guard Reniya Kelly (Ala.) could prove to be a top-tier duo, thanks to Toomey’s graceful post navigation and Kelly’s court vision. Also joining the signing class are 6-3 post Rylee Grays (Tex.) and 6-1 forward Laila Hull (Ind.).

9. Maryland

Coach Brenda Frese recruited three creative, difficult-to-guard playmakers to join the Terrapin family. Each of the signees — 6-foot guard Amiyah Reynolds (Ind.), 6-foot wing Riley Nelson (Md.) and 6-1 wing Emily Fisher (Ill.) — can take care of the ball and find a way to score, even in high-pressure situations.

The Maryland faithful need some stability in what has become an uncertain period for the program. The signings of Reynolds, Nelson and Fisher should soothe some worries and reassure fans that, even in an increasingly competitive Big Ten, Maryland still looms large.

10. NC State

NC State coach Wes Moore doesn’t have a single freshman on the 2022-23 roster, so the Wolfpack were due for another impressive recruiting cycle. After four consecutive Sweet 16s, NC State fell just short in last season’s Elite Eight, falling to UConn in double overtime. While fans were surely disappointed, the positives were clear as day — there’s momentum in Raleigh.

Moore built upon that with a dynamic, four-piece signing class that possesses a high ceiling. The Wolfpack won big with signings from 6-3 post Mallory Collier (Tenn.), 5-11 guard Laci Steele (Okla.) and 6-2 forward Maddie Cox (Tex.). But few recruits in the Class of 2023 have stock rising as quickly as Zoe Brooks, a 5-10 guard from New Jersey. Her well-rounded skill set would provide efficiency to any roster, and NC State will be all the better with her contributions.

11. USC

The Trojans have never successfully recruited a player as highly touted as Sierra Canyon’s Juju Watkins (Calif.), the No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2023. Just as a player like A’ja Wilson contributed to the now-red hot recruiting trail of South Carolina, Watkins’ talent has the potential to return USC to the juggernaut it once was.

Coach Lindsay Gottlieb, now in her second season, appears to be steering the Trojans in the right direction. Also committed to USC is 5-6 point guard Malia Samuels, the top recruit in the state of Washington.

12. Texas

In his first two seasons with the Longhorns, coach Vic Schaefer has delivered Texas to its first back-to-back Elite Eight appearances since the 1980s. A proven recruiter from his time with Texas A&M (2003-12) and Mississippi State (2012-20), Schaefer now bears the weight of taking Texas to the next level and adding another National Championship to the trophy case. What has not been accomplished since Jody Conradt’s 1985-86 roster seems within reach.

By signing in-state guards Madison Booker and Gisella Maul and bolstering the post with another in-state prospect in Abbie Boutilier — the tallest player in Texas women’s basketball history at 6-9 — Schaefer keeps his eyes on the prize.

13. Iowa State

After last year’s Sweet Sixteen run, Iowa State continues to rear its head as a contender for the Big 12 title. Longtime coach Bill Fennelly can rest easy knowing the future is bright in Ames, Iowa as he embarks on his 26th season with the Cyclones.

Iowa State picked up signings from outstanding passer Addy Brown, a 6-2 wing from Kansas, 6-2 forward Jalynn Bristow (Texas) and 6-3 post Audi Crooks (Iowa) — all three of whom are fierce competitors fresh off impressive summers on the AAU circuit.

14. Oregon

There’s something special about Oregon women’s basketball — coach Kelly Graves finds big personalities with even bigger talent and allows them to shine together in Eugene.

Once again, the Ducks have plenty to look forward to in this year’s group of signees. In-state product Sofia Bell, a 6-1 wing, Sammie Wagner (Texas), another 6-1 wing who flipped from Texas, and 6-3 forward Sarah Rambus round out the 2023 recruiting class.

15. Alabama

Crimson Tide coach Kristy Curry is building something unprecedented in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Last season, the Crimson Tide made their first NCAA tournament appearance — and subsequent Round of 32 — of the century.

Her 2022-23 roster is made up almost entirely of upperclassmen and graduate transfers, so Alabama needed a few signees to continue recent upward momentum. In this 2023 cycle, Curry secured reliable frontcourt depth in 6-3 post Essence Cody (Ga.) and in-state product Naomi Jones, while also bringing in 6-foot guard Reychel Douglas (N.C.) to solidify the backcourt.

Caroline Makauskas is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also covers a variety of sports on her TikTok @cmakauskas. Follow her on Twitter @cmakauskas.

Caitlin Clark stuns in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports. It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation and shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing him a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her best line of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns start NWSL season winless, in uncharted territory

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage and remaining winless through its first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before. Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, answers need to be had from head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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