Most teams that are lucky enough to have two Division I recruits are sent into rebuilding mode when they graduate. Defending national and Division I girls basketball champion Phoenix St. Mary’s just reloads.
Cortnee Walton may have moved on to play for Louisville, and Shilpa Tummala has taken her talents to Harvard. Good thing St. Mary’s has six more players committed to Division I programs to rely on.
“No disrespect to anybody else,” coach Curtis Ekmark said, “but I love our team. I don’t know if there’s any other teams in the country with six Division I commits.”
Senior twins Dominique and Danielle Williams are committed to UCLA and Michigan, respectively, and senior forward Chantel Osahor will play for Washington next year. All three are Top 100 recruits as rated by ESPN.
Brandee Walton is committed to New Mexico State, and Chloe Johnson is headed to San Diego State. Ekmark’s daughter, junior post Courtney Ekmark, is a Top 10 recruit and has already given a verbal commitment to Connecticut.
And those are just the six carryovers from last year’s roster. New faces — like freshman Vanessa Murphy, who Ekmark said could possibly start — will surely make an impact for St. Mary’s as it looks for its third consecutive state title, not to mention the national one.
“Our kids want to do that again,” Ekmark said. “I think this group can play with anyone in the country, so our goal is to win the national championship again.”
Once again, St. Mary’s will have the hallmarks of a fast-paced offense and a stifling defense.
St. Mary’s outscored opponents 1,617-762 — or 60-25 per game — en route to a sterling 30-0 record last year.
The offense is fun, but Danielle Williams thinks defense is a ball, too.
“It’s fun when you’re defending people and they’re so scared,” she said, possibly sadistically.
“Fun” isn’t the word of choice to describe practices, though. Williams, in fact, has trouble finding words altogether.
Her stomach possibly turns at the sound of Single Digit Saturdays, the days on which St. Mary’s practices defense.
There’s a lot of sliding, cone drills, rebounding drills. Little scoring.
The idea is to hold teams to single-digit quarters. Carmelo Anthony would hate it.
But when the ball is tipped off during games, St. Mary’s lets loose.
“We have incredibly, incredibly competitive practices,” Ekmark said. “Our practices are frankly harder than our games, and when our games come, it’s finally fun for the kids.”
Just not for, you know, anyone else.