AUSTIN, Texas -- University of Texas women's basketball head coach Jody Conradt announced Wednesday the signing of six nationally ranked high school players to National Letters of Intent for the upcoming 2005-06 academic year. This heralded class of six signees has been ranked the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation by the All-Star Girls Report (ASGR) recruiting service, while Conradt's signees are ranked as the second-best by Blue Star Report's service.
Wednesday is the first day of the November early signing period, which runs through Wednesday, Nov. 17. With these six commitments, Texas has concluded its early signings.
All signees are headlined by the nation's No. 1 ranked recruit, consensus All-American and 5-10 point guard/shooting guard Erika Arriaran (Norco, Calif./Norco HS). Arriaran (pronounced "ah-REE-ah-rahn") is the nation's top recruit according to the All-Star Girls Report, Full Court Press and Breakdown recruiting services.
Scholastic All-American Crystal Boyd (Little Rock, Ark./Parkview High School), a 6-0 guard ranked No. 16 nationally by ASGR and All-America 6-3 post Aubry Cook (Houston, Texas/Cy Fair HS), the No. 22 ranked player nationally and a top 10 rated post, also signed with the Longhorns on Wednesday.
This trio will join with three other All-Americans on the 2005-06 Texas roster: 5-7 point guard Carla Cortijo-Sanchez (Bellaire, Texas/Bellaire HS), rated the nation's top point guard by ASGR and the No. 10 player overall; 6-3 post Mariana Mergerson (Duncanville, Texas/Duncanville HS), a top 25 recruit in all national rankings who stands No. 8 in the ASGR ratings; and 6-0 forward Earnesia Williams (Sapulpa, Okla./Sapulpa HS), rated No. 36 nationally by ASGR.
Coach Conradt Quotes
Her general thoughts ...
"I never spent so much time watching a fax machine as I did today! We knew when all of them were coming our way, however. We didn't have any nervous moments. This has been a class of players who have been good to their word.
It's a class we've worked very very hard to sign. It's important, because we have six seniors who have had a tremendous impact on our program, and this new group comes in with an opportunity to continue that. They will have to step in and play early. I don't remember another time at Texas when we had more playing time available to a freshman class than the time which will available to this one. That was our thought in recruiting these six - what happens if we have to depend on this group next year? And, right now, I feel confident that they'll come ready to play at this level.
In talking about the potential of these six players ...
"The class has a lot of versatility and depth. I think this has the potential to be one of the finest classes we've had here at Texas. Our needs were to sign guards, and we signed two of the absolute best points guards in the country in Erika Arriaran and Carla Cortijo-Sanchez. We needed to sign post players and we signed two Texas players who are nationally recognized - Aubrey Cook and Mariana Mergerson - because of their ability as block players and who can be part of a really strong front line. And then, we signed two players who are in the same tradition of the many versatile players we've had here at Texas, who can play the two and the three, any maybe the four. Both Crystal Boyd and Earnesia Williams can run the floor, can shoot the ball very well, and they will be tremendous defensive players for us."
On this Texas class being ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 by all the national recruiting services ...
"Well, you always want to be recognized. It's nice to be recognized and have that respect. What makes me really happy about this recognition is that it shows the dedication and commitment that our coaching staff has, particularly (associate head coach/recruiting coordinator) Karen Aston. Along with Travis Mays and Kathy Harston, these three did an admirable job in bringing in this class. Recruiting is so hard and so intense now and this is a testament to their hard work."
On signing the nation's top recruit in 5-10 PG/SG Erika Arriaran ...
"When you bring in someone who is arguably the best player in the country in Erika Arriaran, I think that is something you take a great deal of pride in. We've watched Erika for a long time. When we talked to her today after we receiving her letter, we asked her, 'It's official - did you wear orange and white today and dress in Longhorn colors?' She said, "Coach, I've been a Longhorn for seven years!".
It's been almost that long that we've been watching her play. Erika was invited to an All-Star camp entering the fifth grade to play against high school players. That shows you what kind of skills she has. She is tremendous all-around talent. Erika has the same kind of court mentality as Jamie Carey has. She is all about business, all about getting everyone involved with the attitude of 'let's win'. So, that reminds me of Jamie. She is an excellent shooter, but her first thought is to distribute the ball. She easily could play the two-guard as well because she does shoot so well."
Talking about Carla Cortijo-Sanchez and what this new backcourt brings to the Longhorns lineup ...
"On the other hand, Carla is a player who is in that same category as Erika, but she spent the early part of her high school career in Puerto Rico. As a result, she is not that widely known nationally like Erika. Carla can pass the ball, and she will grab the attention of our fans with the way she passes and distributes the ball.
The contrast between Carla and Erika is that Carla thinks "pass first", while Ericka is pretty diverse in what she can do with the basketball. I don't think that there will be a lot of teams pressing us when those two get on campus."
Thoughts on 6-0 guard Crystal Boyd ...
"As I said before, I love the versatility of Crytal and Earnesia (Williams). I can talk about these two for quite a while as well. Crystal Boyd is the best player in the state of Arkansas. We've never had an Arkansas player in our program, so that's a first with Crystal. She is a tremendous 3-point shooter, is as fast as anyone we've ever had in our program, and has played at a high level on her high school state championship team."
Thoughts on 6-3 post Aubrey Cook ...
"Aubrey is one of the two post players who are nationally recognized. She is from the Houston area, playing at Cy Fair, and has had tremendous national experience and was invited to the USA Basketball Youth Development program last summer. Aubrey is one of the best shooting post players I've seen in a long, long time."
Her direct thoughts on 6-3 post Mariana Mergerson ...
"Mariana is a player we've watched closely throughout the year. She has played here at the Erwin Center the last few years in the state tournament for Duncanville. Like Aubrey, she is going to give us a strong presence down low. Mariana is extremely versatile and can play inside-out."
Assessing 6-0 forward Earnesia Williams ...
"The player we waited the longest to get a verbal commitment from is the best player in Oklahoma - Earnesia Williams. We saw her play so much this summer, and the more we watched her, the more she climbed up the list of players we really wanted to sign. Earnesia is so versatile and can do so many things on both ends of the court."
Texas Signing Class of Fall 2004
5-10 PG/SG, Norco, Calif./Norco HS
· No. 1 national recruit (as rated by All-Star Girls Report, Full Court Press, Breakdown)
· Member of US Jr. National Team (2004)
· Naismith HS Player of the Year Finalist (2004)
· consensus All-America: Nike All-American (2002-03-04); Street & Smith All-American (2004); Parade All-American (2nd team 2004, 5th team 2003); USA Today Super 25 (2003); Student Sports All-America Second Team (2004)
· 2004 USA Youth Development Festival West Team: Gold Medalist, 2004
· Los Angeles Times All-Star Team (2004)
· Area Player of Year (2004), Regional Player of Year (2004). League Player of the Year (2004)
· as a junior at Norco HS, averaged 17 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists/game
· CIF-SS 2AA All-State First Team (2002, 2004)
6-0 G, Little Rock, Ark./Parkview High School
· rated No. 16 nationally (by AGSR)
· USA Development Festival South Team (2004)
· adidas Top Ten All-American and All-Star (2003, 2004)
· 17-under AAU All-American 17-Under Team (2004)
· Orlando Sentinel All-South Team (2003-04)
· Arkansas Miss Basketball (2003-04)
· Arkansas HS 5A All-State First Team (2003-04)
· led Parkview HS to Arkansas State Championship in 2001-02 and 2003-04
· averaged 21 ppg, 11 rebounds per game as a junior
6-3 P, Houston, Texas/Cy Fair HS
· rated #22 nationally by ASGR overall and a top 10 post player coming out of HS
· USA Youth Development Festival South Team (2004)
· adidas Top Ten All-American and All-Star (2003 and 2004)
· Street & Smith All-American (2004)
· TABC All-State (2003 and 2004)
· All-Region, All-Metro and All-District (2004) and District MVP (2004)
· as a junior: averaged 17 ppg, 9 rpg, 2 blocks/game
5-7 G, Bellaire, Texas/Bellaire HS
· ranked No. 10 overall nationally and the nation's Top point guard (by ASGR)
· rated in the top 20 nationally in other recruiting services
· adidas All-American and All-Star (2003 and 2004)
· Street & Smith All-American (2004)
· TABC All-Region, All-Metro and All-District First Team (2003-04)
· as a junior: averaged 17 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds/game
· in Puerto Rico, led her Maria Auxiliadoro HS to 3 straight State Championships with a 3-year record of 72-0; MVP of the Puerto Rico McDonald High Tournament
· member of the Puerto Rico National Team- Silver Medalist at the Pan American Games in 2002;
· Named Top HS Basketball Player in Puerto Rico in 2002
6-3 P, Duncanville, Texas/Duncanville HS
· rated as the No. 8 player in the nation (by ASGR) and in the Top 25 in all other recruiting services
· tore her ACL at the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in June where she was participating with the South Team
· adidas Top Ten All-American (2003)
· key member of Duncanville HS's 5A State Championship team her sophomore year [along with current UT sophomore F Tiffany Jackson] ... last year, led DHS to the 2004 State Tournament finals
· UIL All-State (2003 and 2004) ... TABC All-State (2003 and 2004)
· Dallas Morning News All Metro Team in 2003-04; Avg. 15ppg, 9 reb's, 2 blocks, and 3 assists.
6-0 F Sapulpa, Okla./Sapulpa HS
· Rated as the No. 36 player nationally (by ASGR)
· Late-comer on the national summer scene due to and injury her sophomore year in HS
· member of the 16-under AAU National Championship Team and named MVP & All-American (2003)
· Nike All-American (2004), Street & Smith All-American (2003, 2004)
· Sunday Oklahoman Super 5 (2004)
· Tulsa World All-State, Daily Oklahoman First Team All-State, All-Conference, All-Metro (2003-04)
· averaged 18 ppg