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December 8, 2009

Youth movement continues as women's hoops adds five recruits

By: Matt Kovatch

Latorri Hines-Allen, a forward from Montclair, N.J., is one of three recently signed Tech recruits ranked among the nation's top 100 by ESPNU.

As fun as it’s been to watch this year’s five freshmen begin to inject new energy into the Virginia Tech women’s basketball program, next year could be even better. By signing five more talented youngsters – three of whom are ranked among the ESPNU Top 100 – to national letters-of-intent in November’s early signing period, the Hokies appear to be well stocked for the near future.

The 2010-11 rookie class will include: Nia Evans, a 6-foot forward from Decatur, Ga.; Latorri Hines-Allen, a 6-1 power forward from Montclair, N.J.; Brittni Montgomery, a 6-3 power forward from Ft. Pierce, Fla.; Monet Tellier, a 5-11 guard from Charlotte, N.C.; and Kyani White, a 5-6 point guard from Bristow, Va.

“I think this class is one of the most athletic classes we’ve ever signed,” Tech head coach Beth Dunkenberger said. “They’re winners. I like kids who have won at the high school level and who expect to win.”

One thing that sticks out about this class is not only the competitive schools that the players come from, but also that those schools are rather large, with Montgomery and Evans hailing from 5A schools and Tellier coming from a 4A school.

“Those schools are bigger and they usually are a little bit more competitive,” Dunkenberger said. “Those kids are ready when they go on to AAU ball. I think it definitely plays a factor in their level of preparedness because they’ve faced more college-like competition.”

Tech’s current freshmen have already shown that successful high school careers on competitive teams can pay dividends, and it should be no different a year from now when the newest crop begins play in Blacksburg.

Tellier is the highest ranked player of the five, rating 54th nationally and No. 14 among shooting guards. The three-time all-conference selection averaged 14 points, eight rebounds and four steals last season at East Mecklenburg High School, where she led the team to a 25-5 record and the quarterfinals of the 4A state playoffs. Tellier is closing in on the school’s all-time scoring record with 1,134 career points and was a member of the National Adidas Candace Parker team that traveled to Japan last summer.

“As a high school senior, Monet already has an upperclassmen-level college body,” Dunkenberger said. “She is strong and fast and she plays as hard anybody who will ever put on a Virginia Tech uniform. She is a competitor from the word ‘go’, and that is immediately recognized when she steps on the court.”

Evans plays for Redan High School and is rated the No. 97 prospect nationally and No. 19 among forwards. She averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks as a junior, while leading Redan (which was ranked in the top 20 nationally by USA Today) to a 27-0 record and the 5A Georgia state championship. Evans was a first-team all-region and a second-team all-state selection.

Hines-Allen plays for Montclair High School and is rated the No. 88 recruit in the nation and No. 16 among forwards. She averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds last season for a team that went 23-6 and won the North Jersey Section 1 state championship.

“Nia and Latorri are relentless on the boards and will help the Hokies lock down the paint on both ends of the court,” Dunkenberger said of the forwards. “Both of them are warriors in the paint, but both have the ability to step away from the basket. They are each great athletes, rebounders and scorers who find a way to get to the foul line.”

Montgomery averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds last season at Ft. Pierce Central High School for coach Sophia Witherspoon, who was a former star at the University of Florida. Witherspoon also had a long WNBA career, so Montgomery has the added value of learning from somebody who truly knows the game. Montgomery helped the team to the Florida 5A regional finals last year, and she is rated No. 31 among power forwards nationally.

“Brittni is a long, lean post player with great athleticism and a great skill set,” Dunkenberger said. “She runs, rebounds and blocks shots. I think her best basketball is definitely ahead of her.”

Despite her smallish stature, White has been a great overall player at Stonewall Jackson High School, where she is coached by her father, Nsonji. Because of that, Dunkenberger says White thinks like a coach.

“I like that because she understands the game,” Dunkenberger said. “She is a general on the court.”

White has averaged 18.4 points, 6.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 5.6 steals in her career, all while leading the team to a 69-9 record over three seasons. She has connected on a total of 142 3-point shots in 51 combined games the past two seasons, while accumulating 1,260 career points entering her senior season. White was a first-team all-region and all-state selection last year.

“Kyani is undoubtedly one of the best ball handlers I have ever seen,” Dunkenberger added. “People notice her ball-handling skills and her passing skills, but she is also an amazing defender. When she gets after it on defense, she’s a special player. She can also score, but what gets her pumped up is the perfect pass and setting people up.”