Walvius Inks Five in Early Signing
Nov. 15, 2007
COLUMBIA - South Carolina head women's basketball coach Susan Walvius announced the addition of five players in the fall signing period, headlined by four stars from Georgia and one of the top players in Pennsylvania. All five have signed National Letters of Intent to attend the University and play basketball for the Gamecocks, beginning their four years of eligibility with the 2008-09 academic year.
"I am thrilled to announce that we have signed what will be one of the top recruiting classes in the nation," Walvius said. "Michelle Marciniak and Ronald Hughey worked extremely hard to identify and recruit players with both the ability and the mentality to help our program compete at the highest level in the Southeastern Conference. All of our signees are competitors with the ability to score and defend. This will be our second-consecutive nationally-ranked recruiting class, which is exactly what we need to compete in the best league in women's college basketball. This class of recruits is accustomed to competing for and winning championships. We are thrilled."
Charenee Stephens (Decatur, Ga./Southwest DeKalb) (pronounced SHAR-nay) headlines the quartet out of Georgia. Ranked the fifth-best forward in the nation by Scout.com, the 6-foot-1 Stephens was a first-team Class AAAA all-state selection last season and will vie for player of the year honors as a senior. Averaging 18 ppg and 11.6 rpg for the Panthers last season, she is tabbed the nation's 33rd-best player in the class of 2008 by Hoopgurlz.com. Stephens also played on the Georgia Metros team that included current Gamecocks Ashlie Billingslea and Courtney Newton and won the AAU national championship last season.
"We were able to sign four of the top players out of Georgia, including probable player of the year Charenee Stephens," Walvius said. "She is extremely explosive and very skilled. She plays with a swagger, and our fans will absolutely love watching her play. Charenee and another of our signees, Taylor Dalrymple, played on the same national championship AAU team with two of our current players, so they already have a bond and chemistry."
"I chose South Carolina both for the basketball and academic opportunities there," Stephens said. "Education is an important part of my future success. I really enjoy the coaching staff, and I'm looking forward to playing with so many of my Georgia Metros teammates that are at Carolina, too."
A 5-foot-11 guard, Becky Burke (Clarks Summit, Pa./Abington Heights) was the only underclassman on the 2006-07 Pennsylvania AAAA all-state first team. She posted 20 or more points in 17 of her 25 games last season en route to her second-straight Scranton Times-Tribune Player of the Year award. A three-time all-region selection, Burke enters her senior season already ranked fifth on the Abington Heights High all-time scoring list with 1,463 career points. She led the Lady Comets to a 23-3 record in 2006-07, including a perfect 14-0 league mark, with 21 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. With a Lackawanna League Division I championship last season, Abington Heights fell just short of a district title for the second-straight year, losing to Scranton in the championship game.
"Becky committed to us a year ago, so it feels as if she should already be here," Walvius said. "She was a first-team all-state selection last season and is the frontrunner for player of the year in Pennsylvania this year. Becky can hit the long range 3-point shot and score off the dribble. She is a special scorer and has toughness in her style of play."
"I signed with South Carolina because they are putting together a great team that has a good chance to win championships," Burke said. "Coach [Michelle] Marciniak is from Pennsylvania, and I'm excited to work with her and Coach Walvius."
Taylor Dalrymple (Atlanta, Ga./Collins Hill) is a 6-foot-2 forward who was a standout at Collins Hill High School before transferring to Patterson School in North Carolina for her senior season. A former teammate of current Gamecock Jordan Jones, Dalrymple was part of the nation's top-ranked high school team, according to USA Today. She helped the Lady Eagles to their third-consecutive Georgia Class AAAAA state championship. No stranger to championship basketball or current Gamecocks, Dalrymple joined fellow-signee Stephens on the AAU national champion Georgia Metros. She was a first-team all-region selection in 2006 and was rated as high as the No. 11 power forward in the nation by Hoopgurlz.com.
"Taylor is a strong, scrappy small forward," Walvius said. "She can shoot the three or play with her back to the basket."
Out of nearby Gainesville, Ga., Sada Wheeler (Gainesville, Ga./East Hall) (pronounced shaw-DAY) was the 2007 Gainesville Times Area Player of the Year after leading the Lady Vikings to the Georgia Class AAA state championship. The 6-foot-4 center averaged 13 points and seven rebounds last season and was an all-state honorable mention. East Hall was 31-1 last season and ended the season on a 13-game winning streak.
"At 6-foot-4, Sada Wheeler will help fill our need for size," Walvius said. "She has the physical presence that we need to help attack and defend in the SEC."
Considered among the top players in Middle Georgia, 6-foot-1 guard Tonia Williams (Warner Robbins, Ga./Houston County) (pronounced tuh-NEE-uh) averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds en route to Class AAAAA first-team all-state honors from the Georgia Writers Association. In the Georgia State AAAAA playoffs, she netted 37 points against highly-regarded Stephenson High.
"Tonia handles the ball well enough to play the point guard and can score from anywhere on the floor," Walvius said. This class will help fill the void left by three seniors - Ilona Burgrova, Ebony Jones and Lakesha Tolliver - set to depart at the end of the 2007-08 campaign.
The Gamecocks are off to a 1-0 start this season, which continues on Thu., Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. when South Carolina hosts Virginia at 7 p.m. at the Colonial Center.