Nov. 10, 2004
BERKELEY, Calif. - California has signed five players who comprise the sixth-best recruiting class in the country and the best on the West Coast, according to Blue Star Index, Golden Bears' head coach Caren Horstmeyer announced Wednesday on the first day of the early signing period. Oakland's Devanei Hampton and Alexis Gray-Lawson, El Cerrito's Shantrell Sneed, San Francisco's Jené Morris and Modesto's Ashley Walker have inked letters of intent to play basketball at Cal beginning with the 2005-06 season. The quintet are rated among the top seven athletes in Northern California.
"Our talented class is great for Cal and for the Pac-10," said Horstmeyer, the 2004 Pac-10 Coach of the Year. "My staff has done an incredible job. We know that our program has grown. To keep some of the top players on the national scene home is key. Northern California had some of the best players in the nation this year. It's exciting. There are a lot of people who want to watch these kids play. We knew when they were freshmen that we wanted to have them at Cal. They want to be a big part of elevating Cal to national prominence."
Hampton, Gray-Lawson and Walker are ranked among the Top 50 players nationally in this year's high school senior class by either Blue Star and/or Mike White's All-Star Girls Report. Blue Star has Hampton tabbed No. 10 and Gray-Lawson No. 17, while All-Star Girls Report lists Hampton at No. 15, Gray-Lawson at No. 25 and Walker at No. 48. The NorCal Scouting Report, which ranks players in Northern California, lists Hampton at No. 3, Walker at No. 4, Gray-Lawson at No. 5, Sneed at No. 6 and Morris at No. 7.
Hampton, a 6-3 post, and Gray-Lawson, a 5-8 point guard, teamed as juniors to lead Oakland Tech to a 2004 state championship, a No. 10 national ranking by USA Today and a 26-4 record. Hampton set a new state regional final rebounding mark with 27 boards. As a junior, Hampton averaged 22.5 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 4.0 bpg and 3.3 apg to earn Street & Smith second team All-America, USA Today All-America and first team Cal-Hi Sports all-state honors. She also received USA Today All-America recognition as a freshman and was picked to the first team all-area squad as a junior. Additionally, Hampton played for the 2004 USA Youth Development Festival West Team, along with Gray-Lawson. Only 48 athletes were invited to the prestigious event.
"Hampton can play inside and outside," said Horstmeyer. "She has a scoring mentality. She rebounds and is tenacious. She's extremely talented in being able to play with her back to the basket or facing the basket."
"I was gone for a period of time in July," said Hampton. "I missed my mom and called her every day. My little sister is only 13 months and was nine months at the time. Being independent was kind of scary. By me being at Cal, I know that I can always go home because it's 10 minutes away. Cal was the first school to be interested in me before any other school noticed me. Over the years, I've gotten closer to the coaches. A degree from Cal is better than from any other college in America."
Gray-Lawson received Street & Smith All-America accolades as a junior after averaging 15 points, eight assists and six steals per game. Also in 2003-04, Gray-Lawson was selected first team All-Bay Area and all-metro and was MVP of the state championships. As a sophomore, she averaged 20 points, seven assists and five steals per game, earning first team All-Bay Area and second team all-metro kudos. The Oakland product also received 2004 league MVP honors in softball. At age 14, Gray-Lawson's East Bay Xplosion AAU basketball team became the first one in Northern California to win a national title.
"Alexis is a strong, physical point guard, which I have always liked," said Horstmeyer. "She's a scoring point guard. I've always had a scoring point guard. I love that about Alexis. She also has great vision and an ability to pass the ball."
"Cal is close to home," said Gray-Lawson, who spent last summer travelling with an all-star team with Hampton. "You don't have to be away from your family. Everyone can come support you and see you. I like being at home. The coaching staff looks after the players like they're their own children."
Walker, a 6-0 forward from Davis High School, averaged 21.5 points and 16 rebounds per game as a junior and earned her second Street & Smith honorable mention All-America pick. Also in 2003-04, Walker was chosen to the third team Cal-Hi Sports all-state team, earned a spot on the all-state junior team and received her second straight Metro Player of the Year Award. She was chosen first team All-Central California Conference and Modesto Bee's Player of the Year for the second consecutive season as a junior. Walker also has excelled in volleyball - garnering two all-conference honors - and track and field, winning the 2004 conference high jump title.
"Ashley is a prolific scorer," said Horstmeyer. "She is a little bit of an undersized post, but she can score over bigger posts. She's one of the best shot blockers that I've ever seen."
"The players and coaches impressed me," said Walker. "It felt right. I felt I could play there. I was looking for a family and a good academic school. I know I can talk to the coaches any time or any place even if I have problems not related to basketball. By the time I graduate, I know we can be in the Final Four. We have a great class coming in. I know we are all going to work really hard because that's where I want to be, and I know that's where all the other girls want to be."
Sneed, a 6-0 forward from Berkeley's St. Mary's High School, was named an adidas All-American for the second consecutive season as a junior, averaging 17.8 ppg, 15.6 rpg, 5.4 spg and 2.9 apg. Other honors Sneed garnered last year included all-state, all-league, first team All-Bay Area and first team All-ANG Newspapers. Off the court, Sneed has garnered the 2002 and 2003 BSAL Scholar-Athlete Award. She teamed with Gray-Lawson to win the AAU national title in 2002.
"Shantrell was the first player to show her confidence in Cal by committing to us before the summer," said Horstmeyer. "Shantrell is a 3-4 player, who exerts her physical presence on the court. She's a smart basketball player with an inside-outside game. She's a great rebounder and has a very good high-low game."
"Cal was the first school I ever came in contact with," said Sneed. "It's been the most persistent school recruiting me. Even through injuries, a couple schools fell off, but Cal was always right there. That meant a lot to me. That was one of the main reasons I chose Cal, along with the atmosphere. It's a program I want to be apart of. I'm so excited. My class is bringing in so much talent and that combined with the talent that's already at Cal, we can't go anywhere but up."
"Shantrell works hard, leads by example and is good student," said St. Mary's High School head coach Nathan Fripp. "She's a tenacious rebounder. She comes up big in big games. Against good competition, she likes to show what she's got."
Morris propelled Urban High School to a Bay Counties League title, a North Coast Section championship and to the NorCal semifinals as a junior, averaging 21.6 ppg, 9.3 apg and 9.0 spg. The year prior to Morris' arrival, Urban was 0-18, and now the school is coming off a 31-2 season. For her efforts, the 5-9 guard was recognized as the San Francisco Chronicle's San Francisco Player of the Year. Morris has earned three first team all-league and Coaches Award selections. During her sophomore 2002-03 campaign, Morris contributed 22.5 ppg, 9.0 apg and 8.5 spg.
"I'm passionate about Jené," said Horstmeyer. "She reminds me a lot of Courtney Johnson (first team All-Pac-10 player, lettered at Cal 1998-01). She sees the floor and passes the ball in the open court. She is going to complement Alexis Gray-Lawson so well because she feeds the ball, can score and is a great defender. She's lively and exciting to watch. She's going to surprise a lot of people."
"From the beginning, I didn't want to leave the Bay Area," said Morris. "I wanted to find a school where my mom and family could see me play. I took my visit to Cal and really liked the team and coaching staff. Once Shantrell (Sneed) committed (verbally), I wanted to join the bandwagon. I knew Cal had a lot of potential. By my senior year, I expect us to be competing for a national title."