2013 WKU target Mitchell strongly considering Lady Toppers

I talked today with 2013 recruit Grace Mitchell, a 6-foot-1 forward from Plano Senior (Texas) High School.

Mitchell has been offered a scholarship by Western Kentucky and visited the school last weekend. She was one of three recruits the Lady Toppers had in town, along with Bria Gaines, who committed to WKU on Sunday, and Simone Brown from Florida.

“I liked it a lot,” Mitchell said. “I liked the people there. It was a homey feeling, and the campus was really pretty.”

Mitchell said academics are important to her in her decision, because she plans to get on a pre-med track. She was first recruited by WKU assistant Margaret Richards in April.

“Our relationship is really good, and it’s like I know her now, and coach Heard also,” Mitchell said. “It was good to actually meet them in person after talking on the phone for such a long time.”

Like Gaines, a 6-2 center, Mitchell would provide some much-needed size to the Lady Toppers.

“I’ll give it my all,” she said. “I go 110 percent every game. I’m aggressive, and I come out with the mentality to win every game. I want to be sure at the end of the game that I gave it everything I had.”

Mitchell said her decision is between WKU and Missouri-Kansas City. She’ll visit UMKC the weekend of Sept. 14, she said, and plans to announce her verbal commitment directly after that visit.

As of now, she’ll officially sign with the school she chooses during the November early signing period, she said.

Bria Gaines’ HS/AAU coach discusses Lady Tops’ latest commit

I spoke today with Ron Newquist, Bria Gaines’ high school coach at Bloom Township (Ill.) and AAU coach with the Illinois Wolverines.

Gaines, a 6-foot-2 center, verbally committed Sunday to Western Kentucky after visiting the school over the weekend.

Newquist hasn’t talked to Gaines directly since her visit, he said, but felt comfortable confirming that she has verbally committed.

Newquist said he was a little surprised that Gaines went ahead and gave her verbal commitment because she was scheduled to take a few other visits, but on the other hand, he said he wasn’t that surprised because of the relationship Gaines has with WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard.

His full comments are below:

Ron Newquist

What kind of player is Bria Gaines?

“She’s got a great personality. She’s a relentless worker. She has a great attitude and good leadership qualities. She’s really a coach’s dream, because no matter how hard you push her – and I need to be clear, I’m not an easy coach to play for because I push my players to the limits. Bria has always answered the call.”

On Gaines’ progress. The center averaged eight points and four rebounds as a sophomore, then 27 points and 16 rebounds as a junior:

“The summer after that, we worked relentlessly in the gym, and as a junior she averaged 27 points and 16 rebounds a game. It all came together for her. They’re really getting a good player. They’re getting a diamond in the rough.”

On what WKU told Gaines about team’s need for post players. Newquist said the Lady Toppers and Eastern Michigan both pitched immediate playing time:

“They both said, ‘Look, we have small teams. We need a back-to-the-basket player. We need someone that can score inside. We need someone that can make a layup, for Christ’s sake – someone that can really finish.’  They let her know there’s a wide-open opportunity and she was a main target for them at that position, and I know that carried a lot of weight with her, because what kid doesn’t want to be told that?”

On what Newquist found through his own research about current state of WKU team:

“I look at rosters, I see who they’re recruiting, I talk to other coaches. But Western Kentucky really does need a back-to-the-basket player. The door is wide open, and they’ve told her she can be a major contributor if that’s what she’s able to come in and do.”

On impressions of Heard. Newquist said he first met Heard last year while she was recruiting another of his players:

“I always liked her and her demeanor the floor. She’s got a great personality. She’s very easy talking to me about things, and I know Bria had told me she hit it off with her right off the bat. With all the coaches she had talked to, she felt most comfortable talking to coach Heard. For girls, that’s huge. It doesn’t always resonate with the guys, but typically for girls, that huge in the recruitment.”

Lady Toppers land 2013 post player

My plan is to have more on all these players tomorrow, but I wanted to provide a quick update on some 2013 post targets the Lady Toppers had in town this weekend – including one big commitment.

Bria Gaines, a 6-foot-2 center from Bloom Township (Ill.) High School in Glenwood, Ill., verbally committed Sunday to Western Kentucky, according to Bret McCormick of the All-Star Girls Report.

There’s some slight discrepancies in reports of Gaines’ stats as a junior, but they’re all eye-popping regardless. The most consistent numbers I can find say she averaged 27.3 points, 16.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks last season for Bloom.

“Wow huge morning for Lady Toppers!” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard posted on Twitter on Sunday morning. “Welcome to our newest commitment .. On the Rise Baby!!”

Gaines’ commitment is a huge get for Heard and a big boost to the Lady Toppers’ future post game.

It’s no secret that WKU will be a very small team this season with a slew of guards, and if this weekend is any indication, Heard and her staff are focusing on shoring up the inside game.

The Lady Toppers already have a verbal commitment in the 2013 class from Paul Laurence Dunbar guard Kierra Muhammad. Including Gaines’ pledge, WKU has two scholarships left for next season.

WKU also had two other post players in town this weekend on confirmed visits – Grace Mitchell, a 6-foot-1 forward from Plano (Texas), and Simone Brown, a 5-foot-11 forward that was at Land O’ Lakes (Fla.) High School before transferring midway through her junior season.

If anything else comes up with these three players or any other recruits, I’ll be sure to pass it along.