Three teams pull out of Las Vegas tourney after controversy
A similar tournament in November received heavy criticism.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.).
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A similar tournament in November received heavy criticism.
Fudd has had previous injury issues.
Tennessee, Louisville and Texas are all unranked for the first time since 1976.
The sophomore is learning to balance aggression and composure.
Get a rundown of the top highlights, stories, and events in women’s sports, including can’t-miss games and exclusive features.
20% off all JWS merch, now through December 18th.