Heard: Lady Toppers add ‘impact’ players in 2014 signing class

LaRue County guard Ivy Brown shoots last season against Green County at LCHS. Brown officially signed with WKU on Wednesday. (Neal Cardin, Elizabethtown News-Enterprise/Special to the Daily News)

LaRue County guard Ivy Brown shoots last season against Green County at LCHS. Brown officially signed with WKU on Wednesday. (Neal Cardin, Elizabethtown News-Enterprise/Special to the Daily News)

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team officially announced its 2014 signing class Wednesday.

Four players – Shalika Smith, Ivy Brown, Jaiveonna Norris and Tashia Brown – have signed letters of intent on the first day of the November early signing period.

Smith and Ivy Brown are Kentucky natives, while Norris and Tashia Brown are from Illinois and Georgia, respectively.

“Lady Topper Basketball has always been at its best when we are able to recruit great players to come to the state of Kentucky and when we keep the best players from the state of Kentucky right here at home,” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said in a statement. “I am really excited that Ivy and Shalika saw that they can do big things right in their own backyard and glad that Tashia and Jaiveonna are making Kentucky their new, second home.

“With this signing class, we will continue to become more athletic, get bigger at the guard spot and add more depth to our post game. The group fills some of the needs that will help us compete for championships in Conference USA as we make the transition to the new league next season.”

Smith, a 6-foot-1 center from Glasgow High School, signed her letter of intent this morning at GHS. She averaged 14.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as a junior and shot 67.9 percent from the field, which ranked first in the state.

“Shalika Smith is a energetic, pure post player,” Heard said. “She is high energy all the time and has a great competitive drive. She doesn’t know how to slow down. She is a tremendous rebounder and will bring great intensity to practice everyday as our depth at the post position works to get better and compete for playing time on the court.”

Smith, who played AAU basketball for Kentucky Premier, also considered Illinois State, Coastal Carolina, Austin Peay, Norfolk State and Georgetown College. She’s the first Lady Scottie to play Division I basketball since the 1970s.

“I just loved the bond,” Smith said. “Coach Heard is an amazing coach. I just had that special bond with her. … She said she needs strong posts, and she likes the way I’m not afraid of contact and finish strong around the basket.”

Glasgow senior center Shalika Smith signs with the Western Kentucky women's basketball program this morning at GHS. (Zach Greenwell/Daily News)

Glasgow senior center Shalika Smith signs with the Western Kentucky women’s basketball program Wednesday at GHS. (Zach Greenwell/Daily News)

Ivy Brown, a 6-2 guard from LaRue County High School, averaged 22.9 points and 10 rebounds per game as a junior for the Lady Hawks, shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from 3-point range. She’s widely considered to be one of the front-runners for the 2014 Kentucky Miss Basketball Award.

Brown, who also played with Kentucky Premier, gave her verbal pledge to WKU over Middle Tennessee, Kentucky and Tennessee Tech.

“Ivy Brown was a major focus of our recruiting efforts from the first day we arrived on campus as a staff,” Heard said. “She can be an immediate impact player for us at WKU. She has an amazing skill set and has enjoyed great success, helping take her high school to the next level.”

Norris, a 6-foot forward from Homewood-Flossmoor (Ill.) High School, averaged 10.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a junior and was also recruited by Alabama A&M, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Stetson and Florida Atlantic. She played AAU for the Mac Irvin Lady Fire.

“Jaiveonna Norris is really versatile,” Heard said. “She can do a lot of different things in that she has a really good shooting range and can also put it on the floor and get to the basket. She has the body type and frame to become a great impact on the interior for us at WKU.”

Tashia Brown, a 6-1 forward from Lowndes (Ga.) High School, was the final verbal commit in WKU’s class.

She averaged 22 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks per game as a junior and played AAU for the Southeastern Lady Blazers. The left-handed wing also had interest from Auburn, Kennesaw State, Clemson, Florida State, Mercer, UAB and Louisiana Tech.

“Tashia Brown is a highly-gifted wing player,” Heard said. “She has incredible athletic ability and is extremely poised on the court. Like Ivy Brown, she is going to have a chance to make an immediate impact for us as she continues to work hard this season.”

All Star Girls Report rated WKU’s signing class 73rd-best in the nation Wednesday.

“Ivy Brown is a local kid who is coming off a great summer,” ASGR’s Bret McCormick wrote on the outlet’s site. “She has good size, and she could play a number of positions. Norris is an athletic wing who likes to post up, and she can put the ball on the floor. Smith is an athletic post with a strong body. She works hard and rebounds well. Tashia Brown is an athletic lefty who slashes to the basket and shoots the three.”

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