- Glenn Nelson, ESPNHS HoopGurlz
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When coaching changes occur, much of the focus is on the players who remain at the affected school. But what about the players yet to come?
Bria Smith is a senior at Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) but, as a college recruit, she essentially was orphaned when Debbie Ryan, a hall-of-fame coach at Virginia, unexpectedly resigned.
So now, after gaining a full release from her National Letter of Intent with Virginia, Smith will be the headline prospect during the spring signing period, April 13-May 18, 2011.
"I loved UVA because of the experience of playing for coach Ryan," Smith said. "I really, really wanted to play for her. She's an amazing coach and I was looking forward to learning all I could from her."
A member of the USA team that claimed gold at the FIBA U17 World Championships, Smith added that Ryan's resignation was "a huge shock. But then, I believe things always happen for a purpose."
The explosive, 5-foot-8 guard said it was too early to have a list of favorites. Smith only has taken an official visit to Virginia, so she has four left to take. Georgia and Louisville were her finalists when she committed to Virginia, and the Cavaliers will remain "inside the circle" of consideration, she said.
With Smith, Virginia had the No. 13 signing class, according to ESPN HoopGurlz. The Cavaliers also signed Sarah Imovbioh of Charlottesville, Va., the No. 56 prospect in 2011.
Ryan's presence at Virginia made her decision clear, Smith said, so this time around she will rely more on her parents and Christ the King coaches Bob Mackey and Jill Cook.
"This is like a second chance to do my recruiting process," she said.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, 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.
Bria Smith was released from her NLI following Debbie Ryan's resignation from Virginia.