COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M women’s basketball program landed one of the top recruiting classes in the nation with the signing of four top-rated high school players who will join the nationally-ranked Aggies for the 2009-10 season as announced by head coach Gary Blair on Wednesday.
“Last year, the road to the NCAA Elite Eight not only opened the eyes of the nation to Texas A&M women’s basketball, it opened up doors for us in nationwide recruiting,” Blair said. “We took full advantage of it with this year’s national recruiting class. The state of Texas will always be the lifeline of our recruiting base as 10 of our current players hail from the Lone Star State. This year, was an exception to the rule, as we filled it with one of the most versatile classes ever signed at A&M.”
Coming off a school-record 29-8 campaign which included the program’s first-ever Elite Eight appearance and Big 12 Tournament title, Blair and his coaching staff were successful in inking top talent outside of the Lone Star State in this year’s class which includes one Californian, one Oklahoman, one Louisianan and one Tennessean. The early signing period ends on Nov. 19 with one additional scholarship available.
“Associate head coach/recruiting coordinator Kelly Bond alongside assistant coach Johnnie Harris and associate head coach Vic Schaefer should be commended for a job well done,” Blair said. “Our signees all fit the style that reflects Aggie Basketball which is hard-nosed players who are versatile, athletic and come from good families and winning high school and AAU programs.”
A&M’s heralded recruiting class is comprised of six-foot combination guard/forward Cierra Windham from Corona, Calif., 6-foot-3 post player Diamond Ashmore from Midwest City, Okla., 6-foot-1 wing player Kristi Bellock from River Ridge, La., and 5-foot-7 point guard Adrienne Pratcher from Memphis, Tenn.
“The scouting services, who rate players, have a different opinion on which player is the headliner of this class,” Blair said. “I agree. I love all four of them and what they are going to bring to the table. Not only will our basketball team benefit from these four young ladies’ contributions, but the communications, pre-law, and business schools are receiving student-athletes who will excel in their departments.”
Rated the No. 20 overall prospect in the Class of 2009 by Michael White’s All-Star Girls Basketball Report and No. 30 by Dan Olson’s Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, Cierra Windham (pronounced SEE-air-uh) is a California product out of perennial power Norco High School outside of Riverside, Calif., who draws similar comparisons to current A&M player Danielle Gant.
Last year, Windham averaged 17.4 points per game and set the school single-season record for rebounds with 356 as a junior. She guided Norco High School to two state regional championships and was named Riverside County Player of the Year. Windham also played AAU ball and led her FBC Blue squad to the adidas national championship and was named tournament MVP this past July. She is looking toward a pre-law major at A&M with future aspirations of becoming a lawyer. Windham chose A&M over Cal, USC, Arizona State, UCLA and Northwestern.
“Cierra absolutely lit it up this summer for her nationally-ranked FBC summer club team,” Blair said. “She played at two different camps this summer including the inaugural adidas Womanhood Tournament held here at Texas A&M. Her team won both adidas-sponsored tournaments over the summer and we expect her to contribute and compete right away at the small forward and high-post position.”
Rated the No. 29 overall prospect by Michael White’s All-Star Girls Basketball Report and the No. 48 overall prospect by ESPN HoopGurlz 100, Diamond Ashmore is an Oklahoma product out of Midwest City High School. Last season, she averaged 10.4 points with a 58 percent field-goal percentage as a junior.
Ashmore led Midwest City High School to the Class 6A state semifinals and played AAU ball for Kansas City Select which also produced current A&M redshirt freshman Tyra White. She chose A&M over Kansas State and UNC Charlotte.
“Diamond is a player from the Oklahoma City area who will give us the size and the athleticism we are going to need when La Toya Micheaux graduates this year,” Blair said. “Diamond played high school ball at Midwest City High School and AAU ball for Kansas City Select. Our league continues to get bigger and better at the post position and we will need Diamond to contribute as a freshman.”
Rated the No. 29 overall prospect by ESPN HoopGurlz 100, Kristi Bellock (pronounced BELL-luck) is a New Orleans area product out of John Curtis Christian School. Named the 2008 Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Louisiana, she averaged 19.8 points and nine rebounds during her junior campaign. Bellock also led John Curtis to an impressive 30-9 record en route to the state 2A championship title.
She is a three-time all-state and all-district selection as well as a three-time All-Metro Player of the Year and District MVP. Bellock is looking to major in psychology or sport management at A&M. She chose A&M over Texas, Kansas State, Miami, Florida, Florida State and South Carolina.
“Kristi was a jewel we found late in the recruiting process,” Blair said. “She plays everywhere on the court for her high school team, whereas her AAU team, the Georgia-Carolina 76ers, played her primarily at the wing spot this past summer. We first recruited her when she played for the Kenner Angels. Kristi will remind you of another young lady from Louisiana that had a great career at Texas A&M, Morenike Atunrase, who is now playing in the WNBA with the San Antonio Silver Stars.”
Rated the No. 47 overall prospect by Dan Olson’s Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, the No. 53 overall prospect by Michael White’s All-Star Girls Basketball Report and the No. 60 overall prospect by ESPN HoopGurlz 100, Adrienne Pratcher (pronounced PRATT-chur) is a Tennessee product out of Memphis East High School. The No. 8-ranked point guard in the country, she averaged 16 points, six rebounds and eight assists per game as a junior and played AAU ball for the Memphis Bobcats.
Pratcher, who goes by the nickname “A-Game,” is currently ranked No. 1 in her senior class and in the running for class valedictorian. An honors student with an impressive 4.6 grade-point average, she is looking to major in broadcast journalism at A&M. Pratcher chose A&M over Louisville and Kentucky.
“The last piece of the puzzle might be the most important,” Blair said. “Adrienne is a true point guard out of Memphis East High School. With the ACL injury to Sydney Colson over the summer, we felt that the point guard position was a luxury that we could not afford to be without. Adrienne exemplifies what a point guard is all about. She makes people better and handles responsibility well. This summer, she played for the Memphis Bobcats who also competed in the adidas Womanhood Tournament here in College Station.”
The combination of Windham, Ashmore, Bellock and Pratcher has several scouting services rating A&M’s signing class as high as No. 4 in the country by Dan Olson’s Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and No. 5 by the All-Star Girls Basketball Report.
“We believe we are recruiting student-athletes that will keep Texas A&M competing to win a national championship every year,” Blair said.
2008-09 TEXAS A&M WOMEN’S BASKETBALL EARLY SIGNEES
Diamond Ashmore, 6-3, Post, Midwest City, Okla. (Midwest City HS)
Kristi Bellock, 6-1, Wing, River Ridge, La. (John Curtis Christian School)
Adrienne Pratcher, 5-7, Point Guard, Memphis, Tenn. (East HS)
Cierra Windham, 6-0, Guard/Forward, Corona, Calif. (Norco HS)