GLORY DAYS FOR THE VOLS
This is an article from the Nov. 26, 2007 issue
Each senior at the Webb School (Knoxville) is required to give a chapel talk about a significant life experience, and Glory Johnson, the reigning Gatorade state player of the year, chose her college recruitment. On Nov. 5 she dressed nine friends in T-shirts of the women's basketball powerhouses she had considered and had them stand behind her. Johnson, a 6'3" forward who hadn't publicly revealed her college choice, eliminated schools one by one, dismissing the likes of UConn, North Carolina and UCLA until only her friend in Tennessee orange was left.
The element of surprise was lost on anyone in the audience who turned around: Sitting near the back of the chapel was Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. For the second straight year, Summitt hauled in the top recruiting class, signing six players, including five ranked in hoopgurlz.com's top 20. The Vols saved the best for last in Johnson, whom they've watched since she was in middle school. Last season she averaged 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in leading Webb to a 29--4 record and the Tennessee Division II title, the first in school history. Johnson has played all five positions for the Spartans. "She's a tremendous athlete," says Webb coach Shelley Collier. "She's quick off the dribble and a state champion in the long jump and 200 meters."
And so Summitt sat in the Webb chapel, her eyes having seen the Glory.
WHO'LL MEASURE UP?
College recruiting may be adding a new tool. A test called SPARQ (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness), conducted by a Nike-affiliated company of the same name, measures athleticism in sport-specific skills. The SPARQ test for basketball consists of a vertical jump, 20-yard dash, 30-second endurance jump, power ball throw and agility cone drill. The testing, conducted by a traveling group of certified trainers, is free, but the company charges for gear to improve players' SPARQ scores. College coaches can obtain results on the official website.
Last month SPARQ tested seven of Rivals.com's dozen best basketball recruits. Al-Farouq Aminu, a 6'8" forward at Norcross (Ga.) and the 11th-ranked senior, had the highest score with 89.5; No. 1 recruit Greg Monroe (right), a 6'10" forward at Helen Cox (Harvey, La.), was third with an 83.14.
The data may prove more useful in evaluating lower-tier prospects, who don't receive the same exposure top recruits do in AAU tournaments. SPARQ is so new that at least three SEC coaching staffs admitted never having heard of it, and other top schools are tentative about the data. "The rules allow us a lot of opportunities to see kids with our own eyes rather than just reading something on paper," says Arizona assistant Josh Pastner.
Of course, the test can only predict so much: Golden State rookie Brandon Wright has the alltime record of 91.06, while the Sonics' Kevin Durant scored a meager 68.80.
Two of the nation's top recruits, seniors Tyreke Evans (right) and John Riek, have yet to choose a school. Evans, a point guard at American Christian (Aston, Pa.) who averaged 25.4 points last season, is rated the No. 6 prospect by Rivals.com; he's considering Louisville, Memphis and Texas. For Riek, a 7'2" center at The Winchendon (Mass.) School, the options are twofold. The No. 5 prospect immigrated to the U.S. from Sudan last January after graduating from high school in Ethiopia. He has offers from Duke, Georgetown, Florida and UConn, but Riek, who turned 18 on Nov. 1, is also old enough to be eligible for next June's NBA draft.