Wed. Jan 23rd, 2019

Five freshman make up top recruiting class

By Sam Draut–

Asia Durr, the nation’s top-rated recruit, headlined the 2015 recruiting class. Durr wasn’t the only big-name, however. Four other incoming freshmen contributed to head couch Jeff Walz’s top-ranked recruiting class in the country.

Here is a look at the four other members of Louisville’s best recruiting class in school history.

Taja Cole

The 5-foot-7 point guard was the first member of the 2015 recruiting class to commit to the Cardinals. Ranked 26th overall by ESPN and named a McDonald’s All-American, Cole wasn’t frightened when Durr committed, even though the two played the same position in high school. Cole held firm to her commitment to Louisville.

“I’ve played point guard all my life. I came here wanting to play the point, and I’ve got a lot of great teammates around me, so I’m looking forward to playing point,” Cole said.

Winning the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year award in Virginia, Cole averaged 19 points and won the co-MVP for the Jordan Brand Classic.

Cole’s style of play will help speed up the Cardinals’ pace of play while she continues to get comfortable playing collegiate basketball.

“Her athleticism and her quickness are something we’re going to rely on a lot,” Walz said. “She can help turn us into a little faster game than we’ve played in the last two years.”

“I just want to be the best point guard that I can be. My job is to defend the best player on the other team and make my teammates look great and make myself look good,” Cole said. “The point guard is a very tough role, and I just want to accept the challenge.”

Sam Fuehring

The 6-foot-3 forward adds versatility to the Cardinals power forward position.

“Sam Fuehring is one also that I think will really impress our fans,” Walz said. “She is very athletic at 6’3” and can shoot the threes, rebounds the ball well, has a very nice 10-12’ jump shot and going to be able to play inside out for us.”

She was a McDonalds All-American and ranked by ESPN as the 65th best player nationally in the 2015 recruiting class.

Coming to Louisville from Wanaque, New Jersey, Fuehring averaged 18.2 points and 7.6 rebounds as a senior in high school. But, she has noticed a stark difference from high school and college basketball after being on campus for a few months.

“It’s so much faster than high school basketball,” Fuehring said. “You have to step up your game and it’s challenging.”

Fuehring’s inside out threat will require her to bump bodies with ACC post players down low, so adjusting to the physicality of college basketball is critical. In her first few months on campus, Fuehring has worked on adding weight and strength.

“I can see the difference when I play with them,” Fuehring said. “Before going into them was hard, but by playing with them I can now go into them and finish. It’s all coming together.”

Brianna Jones

It is hard to picture a five-star recruit ranked 40th nationally by ESPN get lost in the shuffle, but when Asia Durr and Taja Cole make up a recruiting class, backcourt teammate Brianna Jones can slide in under the radar, even as a highly-touted player out of high school.

Louisville struggled shooting the ball from behind the arc last season, hitting just 30.7 percent of their three-pointers in 2014-15. The 5-foot-9 guard will help to aid the Cardinals pursuit of outside shooters this season.

“Brianna Jones, another freshman, is shooting the ball extremely well and is very good catch and shoot and is an extremely hard worker,” Walz said. “And she will continue to get better, but there is no doubt she will be able to give us some really good minutes at the 3 spot.”

Playing at North Babylon High School in New York, Jones earned all-State honors and was selected to the inaugural Jordan Brand Classic.

With a stellar group of freshman around her, Jones is excited about playing with such a talented group of young players.

“Being with freshmen and other great players is good. In AAU and high school you really don’t get that.  I love playing with players who are just as good or better,” Jones said. “I like that.  It makes me better and raises the game to the next level.  I love playing with Asia; I love playing with all of them.  I’m fortunate to be on a team so talented.”

Erin DeGrate

Standing at 6-foot-4, Erin DeGrate’s imposing strength, length and size is a presence whenever she is on the floor.

Ranked as the 16th best low post player by ESPN in the 2015 recruiting class, the Waco, Texas native brings an element of strength and size the Cardinals haven’t had in quite some time.

But the lefty’s size won’t be the only factor that contributes to her effectiveness as a college basketball player. Walz wants to see DeGrate run the floor well, rotate over to stop drives to the basket and get out to defend ball screens.

“When you’re 6-foot-5 in high school, they tell you just to stand in the middle of the paint with your arms straight up, but that’s not where it’s at Louisville,” Walz said.

DeGrate averaged 20.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in her senior year of high school and earned first team honors for the state of Texas.

Now with a more expanded role on the defensive end, DeGrate will adjust to the new style of coaching and playing.

“I want to contribute a lot to the team: rebound, run the floor, score when I need to and do things they want me to do,” DeGrate said. “In high school, I could run the floor, but now Coach Walz demands we run the floor and the different things.”

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