Back To The Future: A Look At Syracuse WBB Recruiting

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse's incoming recruiting class is ranked No. 10 by Hoopgurlz, making it the second consecutive season for Orange in the top ten. With SU's top three scorers graduating, the freshman will likely play a central role once again next season. I caught up with SU's recruiting coordinator Kelley Gibson to find out how the team has been able to bring in top talent and to learn about the incoming players.

Syracuse Orange assistant coach, Kelley Gibson may think back to what brought her to Syracuse University in 2010 when she goes on recruiting trips. Gibson loved the campus and the athletic facilities.

And Q, was well, Q.

"Coach (Quentin Hillsman) is a great guy," she said. "It's funny, our interview was just how Coach Q is, with his personality."

Syracuse's always-animated coach will make almost any expression or gesture during games, if you watch closely enough. It was his personality that made Gibson feel comfortable at Syracuse.

"I think the biggest thing with recruiting is relationships," Gibson said. "You build relationships with the people around (recruits), you build relationships with the players, and you sell what we have here."

Between a college career at Maryland, a WNBA championship in Houston, and experience abroad in Russia and Israel, Gibson didn't have much familiarity with the central New York area. When Gibson became acquainted with the staff and recognized the opportunity to compete in a major conference, Syracuse started to feel more like home.

High school athletes are similar. They often commit to a local school because it is a comfortable and easy transition. But if a recruit gets acclimated with Syracuse and the coaches, the player's home state matters less. This is how SU has been able to recruit into places like Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia, Gibson says.

"I think players from the south would want to come north," she said. "If you get in early enough, build that relationship and bring them here, this is a great, great university. Syracuse offers so much: a great academic school...our facilities, and then you talk about the conference. The biggest part is getting them here and once they’re here, our kids do a great job of sealing the deal."

The coaches assimilate recruits by pairing them with current members of the team. For Lacie Hall, one of the reasons she came to Syracuse was because of her mentor, Erica Morrow.

Next year, SU will add four players: 6-foot-4 twins Briana and Bria Day, 5-foot-6 guard Alexis Peterson, and 6-foot-1 guard/wing Tasia Butler.

Briana Day, of Millbrook H.S. in Raleigh, is the No. 16 forward and No. 57 overall, according to ESPN.com. She is the highest rated incoming Syracuse freshman. Here is ESPN's evaluation:

Long, lean and athletic. She moves well both in the halfcourt and running the floor. Has the ability to put it on the floor from the high post or one dribble drives off the baseline.

Her sister Bria Day is a three star recruit, ranked No. 36 at the forward position. She was one of North Carolina's best track stars in the 400 meters before switching to basketball in middle school.

Gibson is excited to finally see the Day sisters play in the Carrier Dome next year.

"They’re characters," she said. "You guys are going to have a lot of fun with them. They’re very athletic, they’re going to run the floor, they’re going to be great in our pressing situations, and they’re going to give us some depth at that post position."

With a 94 rating, Briana Day is the crown jewel of the class. She will most likely split time with Shakeya Leary in the middle, and have the tough task of replacing outgoing senior Kayla Alexander. When asked if Day, the four star recruit, is the next Alexander, Gibson paused, then said, "Those are big shoes to fill."

But the Days are not the only pair of sisters for Syracuse. Tasia Butler will join current redshirt-sophomore Tiara next season.

Alexis Peterson rounds out the Class of 2017. The 5-foot-6 combo guard from Ohio is ranked No. 92 overall in the class and No. 26 among guards.

"You’re going see some dynamic players (next year) and it’s going be exciting," Gibson said.

Building relationships between coaches is another important aspect to recruiting.

"Recruiting, I always think of as a team effort," Gibson said. It’s a collective effort. (It's important to) have communication in terms of what players you want to fit your system. I think we did a good job at finding the right players to fit our style of play for this year."

"She's been awesome," Hillsman said. "Kelley is a great recruiter and Kelley is a great evaluator of talent and understands now what I want. She’s making my life easier because we're not now weeding through. We're actually recruiting the players we want, recruiting the players that we need that can help us win."

Because Syracuse started three freshman this year, recruits will see Syracuse as place to get playing time early on, Lacie Hall said.

And, of course, winning makes the sales pitch much easier.

"The recruits recognize that we’re a growing team, an up-and-coming team, and they want to be a part of something like this."

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