January 15, 2021 

A semester early: All the top prospects showing up to play now

UCLA, UConn, Arizona, Mississippi State recruits are hitting the court early

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A handful of players from the 2021 recruiting class have chosen to join their new teams a little early this year, including Dominique Darius (UCLA), KN’isha Godfrey (Mississippi State), Jess Finney (Washington), Saylor Poffenbarger (UConn), Madison Conner (Arizona) and a few more. Here’s what we know so far.

Dominique Darius, UCLA

Darius signed her national letter of intent to play for the Bruins on Nov. 13 and joined the active roster on Dec. 28.

“Dominique is the total package – athletic, versatile, great leader, competitive, driven, high character, and has a high basketball IQ,” said head coach Cori Close. “We are so fortunate to have her. She fills a huge need for our backcourt depth. Athletically, she is ready right now. It will just be a matter of how much she can take in with the crash course we are giving her from the mental side. She will do whatever it takes to adjust as quickly as possible. It is just a lot to ask of someone this time of year.”

Jacksonville, Fla. native is ranked 26th on ESPN’s 2021 HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings. She went to Blair Academy where she helped lead the Buccaneers to an NJISAA State title in 2020. In her junior year, she put up double-digit scoring performances in 26 games, including a season-high 30 points in the team’s win over Lincoln Prep (Canada) on Dec. 21.

Third top-30 recruit to sign with UCLA over the last three years. She has played in two games so far: Jan. 3 at Oregon and Jan. 10 at home against Utah, totaling 27 minutes, 10 points, and three assists on the court.

Saylor Poffenbarger, UConn

Guard Saylor Poffenbarger has officially enrolled in classes at UConn and will join her teammates on the court for the rest of the season. She is scheduled to arrive on campus this weekend and will first have to complete a medical quarantine before participating in team activities.

Poffenbarger was ranked as the No. 30 recruit by ESPN’s HoopGurlz rankings and is the 13th-ranked guard in the class. She won gold for USA Basketball at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, where she averaged 7.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists.

“I know Saylor’s really excited. This is an unprecedented event for us for a lot of reasons, but this is an unprecedented year,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “Opportunities have presented themselves that weren’t available for the past. I’m excited for Saylor and her family that they wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and I can’t wait to coach her in practice and have her as part of the team.”

Talia von Oelhoffen, Oregon State

Guard Talia von Oelhoffen is a five-star recruit and joins OSU as Collegiate Girls Basketball Report’s No. 14 rated player in the nation. She has also been deemed the No. 4 shooting guard in this year’s class. Oelhoffen is a three-time Adidas All-American and has earned Washington 2B Player of the Year honors.

She’s recorded over 2,000 points in just three seasons of high school basketball. 

ESPN calls von Oelhoffen an “agile perimeter prospect with versatility” and an “unselfish playmaker with skill set of a point-forward.”

While there are rumblings that von Oelhoffen will be joining the active roster early, Oregon State has not officially announced it.

KN’isha Godfrey, Mississippi State

Top-40 prospect in the class of 2021, guard KN’isha Godfrey joined the roster as a midyear enrollee in December. “KN’isha is a very versatile, dynamic combo guard,” said head coach Nikki McCray-Penson. “She reminds me a lot of myself. She plays hard on both ends of the floor. She is strong and physical. She can shoot the ball and defend. She understands what it takes to win. She hates to lose. I am really looking forward to what she will bring to the table.”

She was a three-time player of the year out of Tampa Bay Tech High School and signed with the Bulldogs on Nov. 13 as the eighth-ranked point guard in the country by espnW. As a junior, she averaged 12.1 points, 3.8 steals, 3.6 assists, and 2.1 rebounds per game. In her sophomore year, she helped lead her team to the Florida 8A title, the first-ever state championship for the program.

“I am extremely excited to be a part of this program,” said Godfrey. “I chose Mississippi State because of my connection with Nikki McCray-Penson and her staff. I would describe my style of play as a defensive-minded guard who enjoys pushing the tempo in transition and will do whatever is necessary to win.”

Madison Conner, Arizona

Phoenix-area point guard Madison Conner will move to Tucson to join the No. 11 Wildcats for the rest of the season. Conner was ranked No. 71 overall in her class and No. 29 in her position. Last weekend, she scored 33 points in the final game of her high school career. Now, she will be putting up points for an Arizona team that just beat No. 10 Oregon 57-41 on Thursday, its biggest win of the season.

Jess Finney, Washington

Jess Finney was part of Washington’s No. 16 rated recruiting class that signed in November. The guard graduated from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. in December. There, she established herself as the 39th-ranked guard in the country and 94th among all players in the espnW rankings.

In her junior year, Finney ranked fifth in Arizona with 21.8 points per game, averaging 4.1 assists, 6.4 rebounds, 3.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game. She also sank 96 threes, a state best.

“She fits right in with our team chemistry and has been a welcome addition,” head coach Jody Wynn said. “Jess gives us another ball-handler, decision-maker, and a deep-range shooter who can help us spread the floor. Her work ethic and desire to do what it takes to win will make this journey a fun one.”

Finney has played in two games as a Husky, on Jan. 1 against Colorado and on Jan. 3 against Utah. She totaled 27 minutes of play, two assists, and one steal.

Katie Borowicz, Minnesota

No. 19-ranked point guard Katie Borowicz signed a National Letter of Intent with Minnesota in November and joined the Golden Gophers program this month after graduating early from high school. Borowicz is a Minnesota native and went to Roseau High School, where she was a three-time all-state honoree. In her last season, she averaged 31.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.2 steals, and 6.0 assists per game. Borowicz was on the varsity team since seventh grade and put up over 2,000 points in her career. She also helped lead her team to a state title in 2017.

Borowicz was a four-star recruit according to ESPN and was the 98th-ranked player overall in the class.

“This year has presented all of us with very unique expectations and opportunities,” said head coach Lindsay Whalen. “That being said, we presented Katie with the opportunity to join our team this semester and she decided to take the opportunity to join us now. We know Katie has the ability to score and create assists at an elite level. We are looking forward to her providing depth in our backcourt.”

Borowicz has played in two games so far for the Golden Gophers, against Penn State on Jan. 10 and Maryland on Jan. 14. She has totaled 19 minutes of play so far and has put up 10 points, two steals, and three assists.

Elise Williams, Wake Forest

Elise Williams was rated the No. 43 guard nationally and earned three-star status from espnW. As a junior at Wakefield High, she averaged 19.9 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 5.3 steals, and 1.4 blocks. She was named the 2019-20 NAC VI Conference Player of the Year and an ESPN Top 100 player as a junior.

“Elise has an explosive, athletic game with the ability to score on all three levels,” said head coach Jen Hoover. “Her athleticism combined with her wiry length will allow her to play multiple positions on the perimeter. She also has the ability to knock down outside shots putting pressure on opposing defenses. Elise has also shown the ability to handle the ball, creating for herself and her teammates. She is a well-rounded young lady that is driven and focused on improving on and off the court each day.”

Written by Sydney Olmstead

Pac-12 and Las Vegas Aces reporter.

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