- Glenn Nelson, ESPNHS HoopGurlz
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In 2008, coach C. Vivian Stringer pulled off a signing class that would have Rutgers knocking on the door of Final Fours for a few years and possibly make Geno Auriemma and Connecticut hear the footsteps of real competition in the Big East. The class had a bit of everything – creativity galore, speed and size.
A year later, it would lose two of its top players. Brooklyn Pope would transfer closer to home at Baylor. Jasmine Dixon would do likewise, jumping to UCLA.
Rutgers has had some good recruiting gets the past two years, snapping up Erica Wheeler and Monique Oliver in 2009, but the Scarlet Knights may finally become whole again -- as a national-championship contender -- with the class Stringer just assembled.
The best news is that the class, almost certain to be ranked among the nation's 10 best, is all locally grown. But the fact that Briyona Canty, Syessence Davis, Shakena Richardson and Christa Evans all hail from the Garden State at least assures there will not be the same faraway pull that prompted Dixon and Pope to leave.
The centerpiece of this glittering class was the last piece added. Canty of Willingboro, N.J., the No. 6 overall prospect in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100, is signing on Wednesday, the last day of the early period. A 5-foot-9 guard, she has length and may be the most otherwordly athlete in the class, with rockets for legs, and a flair for dramatics.
With Canty comes two other fantastic backcourt pieces -- No. 18 Richardson and No. 51 Davis. Those two will bring the chemistry of having been teammates at nationally regarded Neptune (N.J.) High School as well as the club level, most recently Ring City. Richardson is a canon ball of a point guard with maybe the surest handle in the class, while Davis is a slinky, ultra-athletic guard.
The fourth member of the class, Christa Evans of Jackson, N.J., is a 6-foot-2 bruiser who brings some front-court depth behind Oliver and Chelsey Lee. The latter will be seniors next season, so Rutgers still has some work to do with its inside presence in the 2012 class.
Nevertheless, the three jewels of this class are the guard, and they're clearly "Vivian Stringer" type players -- fast and athletic, perfect for the up-and-down, pressure-defensive approach. Even better, they won't have to venture far to play that way.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the Parade All-American Selection Committee, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.