With college basketball season just under a month away, the Stanford women are training hard to build on a successful 2015-16 season which ended in a disappointing Elite Eight loss to Pac-12 rival Washington in last year's NCAA Tournament.
Still, head coach Tara VanDerveer continues to build momentum through top-tier commits from the 2017 and 2018 recruiting classes who will have the opportunity to come in and have an immediate impact. VanDerveer's recruiting efforts have finally begun to pay off in a big way, as the Cardinal have received commitments from six of the nation's top players.
The excitement began when Wagner High School (San Antonio, TX) five-star point guard Kiana Williams made her choice official on October 8. Williams selected the Cardinal over fellow Pac-12 member Oregon State and the top team in her home state, the Baylor Bears.
The number eight overall prospect in the 2017 class, Williams provides a scoring mentality as a slashing guard who has explosive speed off the dribble, her greatest strength among a list of many. Her mid-range game is superb, and her court awareness is off the charts.
A day after Williams made her decision, Estella Moschkau, a senior forward with a wicked perimeter game from Edgewood High School in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, also chose Stanford. The Cardinal won out over the in-state Badgers and the University of Oklahoma.
Standing at 6-foot-2, Moschkau is money from downtown (she shot 34.6% on three-point field goal attempts last season for the Crusaders), which makes it very hard to defend if you factor in her size. Although labelled by ESPN as the ninth-best wing player in the country (No. 44 overall), she brings mid-range accuracy and shifty post play to her game too. Her selflessness as a teammate feeds her knack for smart passing, and Edgewood coach Lora Staveness says Moschkau's number one goal is always "giving an assist."
A few days later, on October 11, the Cardinal got more good news, as 2017 Canadian forward Alyssa Jerome pledged her loyalty to Stanford.
Jerome is widely considered Canada's top young women's basketball star of the last decade. She became a FIBA U16 national champion in 2015 and FIBA U18 runner up to the US team this past summer, and was the team's leading scorer and rebounder in both international tournaments.
A relentless rebounder and impeccable spot-up shooter, Jerome is a 6-foot-2 forward with length and speed that makes her very dangerous in the open floor. Like Moschkau, the Toronto native's toughness all but ensures she is never one to shy away from contact, whether on offense or defense.
The last domino to fall in the 2017 class came last Tuesday, when Maya Dodson, the number 11 player in the country dubbed Palo Alto as her future home. Dodson announced her choice in this video, posted on Twitter.
Dodson, a 6-foot-3 wing for St. Francis High School, led her team to back-to-back Georgia state titles, averaging 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists in her junior season. Lost in her high offensive production is Maya's stifling defensive ability, averaging two steals and three blocks per game last season as well.
Though the fireworks have concluded for the 2017 class, VanDerveer hasn't taken her foot off the gas. The Cardinal have already picked up a pair of 2018 commits in twin sisters Lacie and Lexie Hull. The Hulls were wooed by the Stanford program last weekend and decided to commit early.
Freshman forward Nadia Fingall was quite excited about bringing Lexie and Lacie into the fold:
The pair are standouts at Washington's Central Valley High School, and both sisters were looking to fulfill a childhood dream of attending Stanford. And, after watching film of both, I firmly believe Lexie and Lacie could be for Coach VanDerveer what the Lopez twins were for Trent Johnson from 2006-2008: instant contributors.
All of this activity has the Stanford women trending upwards in a major way. Even though these new young pieces won't be all together until two years from now, there are a lot of reasons to be excited for the future of the Cardinal when the puzzle is finished.