LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The University of Louisville women’s basketball program achieved a historic milestone this week, when head coach Jeff Walz and the coaching staff announced the No. 1-ranked signing class.
Five five-star high school products each signed and submitted their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday to continue their basketball careers at Louisville, giving the Cardinals the most decorated class in program history and the top-rated class according to espnW HoopGurlz and Prospects Nation.
The coaching staff traveled the country for the nation’s elite, receiving commitments from student-athletes from five different states. The highly acclaimed group consists of Asia Durr, a 5-foot-10 point guard from St. Pius X Catholic High in Douglasville, Ga; Taja Cole, a 5-foot-7 point guard from Lloyd C. Bird High in Richmond, Va.; Erin DeGrate, a 6-foot-4 post from La Vega High in Waco, Texas; Samantha Fuehring, a 6-foot-3 forward from Immaculate Conception High in Wanaque, N.J.; and, Brianna Jones, a 5-foot-9 guard from North Babylon High in North Babylon, N.Y.
Walz has a proven track record for identifying talent, having signed multiple top-10 recruiting classes in his tenure at Louisville. He inked the program’s highest-rated group in 2010 that ranked fifth by ESPN. The next year’s class featured a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans and the Cardinals added two more in the 2014 class for the eighth-ranked class in the country.
“When talking about firsts in recruiting, I would be remiss not to take a look back and thank our first recruiting class in 2008 that included the likes of Monique Reid and Becky Burke,” Walz said. “They believed in this program, its possibilities, and our vision of success. It is those young women who set the table for what is a truly remarkable achievement today, as we announce what many have deemed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
“My staff and I have worked tirelessly to bring together a group of young women that embodies all that we stand for. They are prepared to carry the torch of excellence as we move toward our ultimate goal. I am grateful for each and every individual, their families, and coaches for entrusting us in the development of these special women both on and off the court.”
Statement from national recruiting service:
“Louisville signed five impact prospects that add to both the frontcourt and the backcourt. The class edged Connecticut and Duke and has the star power to impact the program immediately,” Dan Olson, owner and director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and director of espnW Hoopgurlz, said. “The elite prospect in their class is arguably the elite prospect in the nation, Asia Durr (5-10 PG/2 Atlanta, GA/St. Pius X). Durr is a game changer in the backcourt, has the ability to score in spurts, bunches, and has a real understanding of the game.”
Taja Cole, 5-7, Point Guard, Richmond, Va. (Lloyd C. Bird)
Taja Cole, the first commitment in this year’s class, is a five-star prospect from Richmond, Va. She is ranked as the 12th overall player by Prospects Nation and 29th overall player by espnW, ninth at the guard position in this year’s class.
A left-handed player, she averaged 24.4 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals as a junior at Lloyd C. Bird High. That season, she was named to the USA Today all-Virginia second team in addition to being named the Conference 12 Player of the Year and a member on the Group 5A all-state team.
Cole, entering her senior campaign with 987 points, 406 assists, and 210 steals in 71 career games, guided her school to the Dominion district tournament championship in 2012.
During her time at the prep level, she was invited to the 2013 U.S. U-16 National Team Trials and played AAU basketball for Boo Williams.
The 5-foot-7 point guard chose Louisville over Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), NC State, VCU, and West Virginia.
What they’re saying about Taja Cole
“Taja will have a great impact on the Louisville women’s basketball team because of her leadership skills and athletic ability.” – Boo Williams, Boo Williams AAU Basketball
“I am extremely proud of Taja. I know she will do well in the next chapter of her life at Louisville and represent the Skyhawks to the fullest.” – Chevette Waller, Lloyd C. Bird High School Coach
“(She’s) an explosive floor leader with great speed, athleticism, and tough to contain.” – Dan Olson, owner and director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and director of espnW Hoopgurlz
“Taja is a consummate point guard with a flair for hustle and dynamic play. She has tremendous leadership capabilities and has worked tirelessly to expand her perimeter game. Known as one of the best at attacking transition, she is also relentless defender and will no doubt bring big energy to our backcourt.” – Jeff Walz, Louisville Head Coach
Erin DeGrate, 6-4, Post, Waco, Texas (La Vega)
The top post player in the state of Texas, according to espnW, Erin DeGrate is ranked as the 36th overall player by Prospects Nation and 41st overall player in the HoopGurlz Class of 2015 rankings. She is No. 4 at her position according to ESPN.
A Texas Association of Basketball Coaches 3A all-state selection in 2014, she guided La Vega to a 35-0 record that year and the school’s first state title. DeGrate was awarded District 17-3A co-MVP honors, and La Vega finished 25th in the final espnW 25 Power Rankings.
A left-handed post player, DeGrate has totaled 1,418 points, 1,032 rebounds, and 276 blocks in three seasons. In her junior year, she led in the team in scoring (18.7), rebounding (9.5), and blocked shots (3.4) per game.
In 2014, she was selected to the UIL 3A Girls Basketball All-Tournament Team and later that year was invited to the 2014 U.S. U-17 National Team Trials.
The 6-foot-4 post, who plays AAU basketball for United Elite, chose Louisville over Baylor, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech.
What they’re saying about Erin DeGrate
“I’m very excited for Erin to further her career on to the University of Louisville. It makes it so much more special knowing the fact that she came to her decision on her own. For Erin, I believe it’s the best overall fit for both her academic and basketball career – being a part of such a prestigious program and team, along with a great coaching staff and great players who have paved the way, and not to mention the incredible signing class, has all the writing on the wall of Cardinals success.” – Jamarius Byrd, United Elite Head Coach
“I am very happy for Erin taking her game to the next level and becoming a member of the Louisville Cardinals. She is highly qualified and will be very successful. The sky is the limit for this young lady and I will always support and uplift her. I am very blessed to have been on this journey with her. I would like to say to Erin to always keep God first and know that he is the source of your strength. You can do anything you put your mind to. I look forward to watching you take your game to the next level.” – Amy Gillum, La Vega High Head Coach
“The sleeper of the five-player class may be No. 41 Erin DeGrate. DeGrate has made an upward climb in ability each year and has a high ceiling for development.” – Dan Olson, owner and director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and director of espnW Hoopgurlz
“Having a dominant low post presence was a key for this class, and Erin fills a huge void left by the graduation of three veteran low block players. She is highly skilled and understands how to use her strength and hold off her opponent. She is also tremendously agile and can run and finish in transition. She is an excellent rebounder who plays physically on both ends. Every year, Erin continues to evolve and expand her game. There is no doubt she will continue to work when she arrives on campus this summer.” – Jeff Walz, Louisville Head Coach
Asia Durr, 5-10, Point Guard, Douglasville, Ga. (St. Pius X Catholic)
Asia Durr is arguably the highest-rated recruit to sign with Louisville. Tabbed as the No. 1 overall player by Full Court and Prospects Nation, she is listed as the No. 2 overall player in the espnW 2015 class.
A 5-foot-10 guard from Douglasville, Ga., she has played on two USA Basketball teams that won gold medals (2013 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship, 2014 FIBA U-17 World Championship), and she was named the MVP of the 2013 event. At the 2014 World Championship, she recorded a team high with 24 assists while averaging 13.4 points per game on 50-percent shooting.
In the high school ranks, she has totaled 1,835 points, 1,003 rebounds, 193 assists, 220 steals, and 59 blocks through three seasons at St. Pius X Catholic. She is entering her fourth season at the varsity level, where she has started 72 of 94 career games. In 2014, she was named Georgia’s Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 24.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists as a junior in leading her team to the 3A state championship. She helped the school also capture the state championship as a sophomore while averaging 21 points on 52 percent shooting and 6.8 rebounds.
Durr already has earned numerous state and national accolades. She was tabbed a USA Today all-USA first team in 2014. The year prior, Durr was selected to the USA Today all-USA Georgia first team in addition to being named state player of the year by both the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Georgia Region 6.
The No.1-rated player Durr chose Louisville over Maryland, Duke, Baylor, Tennessee, and Notre Dame.
What they’re saying about Asia Durr
“Louisville has proven to be a place where talented guards play can thrive. Angel McCoughtry and Shoni Schimmel had banner careers playing under Jeff Walz and while both are special players, neither was a No. 1 overall recruit in their respective classes. Durr would have the potential to play four years with a large part of the core of her team in place. Next year, Louisville could have as many as 11 players on the roster in the sophomore or freshman class.” – Lanny Martin, Georgia Pistols
“In Asia, Louisville is getting a tireless worker both on the court and in the classroom. She’s a student-athlete with an acute attention to detail relative to her approach to practice and games and as a humble a person as I have had the opportunity to coach.” – Kyle Snipes, St. Pius X Catholic High Head Coach
“Arguably the highest rated player to ink with us, Asia has a passion and work ethic that is unsurpassed in her generation. Her combination of scoring from the perimeter and ability to take her defender off the bounce has positioned her to be the top guard in the country. She has an uncanny ability to play with power and finesse, which ultimately showcases her versatility. Having been a part of gold medal USA basketball teams and state championships will no doubt bring with it an expectation of finishing on top.” – Jeff Walz, Louisville Head Coach
Samantha Fuehring, 6-3, Forward, Wanaque, N.J. (Immaculate Conception)
Samantha Fuehring, the top forward from New Jersey, is currently ranked as the 26th-best recruit in the Class of 2015 by Prospects Nation. She is tabbed 65th overall by espnW, No. 13 at the forward position.
The product from Immaculate Conception High is coming off a junior season in which she averaged 20.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. She collected multiple state accolades by the end of the year: all-Bergen first team, all-non public second team, and all-junior second team.
A lethal scorer, Fuehring surpassed 1,000 career points as a sophomore and needs 400 points in her senior season to reach 2,000.
A member of the New Jersey Sparks AAU team, Fuehring helped lead the squad to a 10th-place finish at Nike Nationals during the summer of 2014. By signing with Louisville, she will be reuniting with former AAU teammate and current Cardinals’ player Myisha Hines-Allen.
The 6-foot-3 forward chose Louisville over California, Dayton, Rutgers, Seton Hall, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
What they’re saying about Samantha Fuehring
“Sam has been on the circuit for only one year. She has a very high basketball IQ. With her toughness and size and the ability to become a great stretch four. Louisville is a great fit for her. With the 2014 class and 2015 class coming in, Louisville women’s basketball will be fun to watch.” – John James, New Jersey Sparks (Nike EYBL) Head Coach
“Sam made an excellent decision by picking Louisville. It’s great school academically and she will get a chance to win a national title in basketball.” – Jeffrey Horohonich, Immaculate Conception High Vice Principal and Athletic Director
“She adds a faceup-4 dimension for the Cardinals. This is the tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar talent that everyone wants on their team. Fuehring does the intangibles and also produces on both ends of the floor. (She is) another high ceiling frontcourt player.” – Dan Olson, owner and director of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and director of espnW Hoopgurlz
“Sam is a blue-collar worker who can play multiple positions on the court. She can hit 3s, take her defender to the rim, and post up with authority. She has only recently been on the travel circuit and has blossomed into an elite prospect. Her upside is tremendous as she will be a matchup problem for most defenders we encounter.” – Jeff Walz, Louisville Head Coach
Brianna Jones, 5-9, Guard, North Babylon, N.Y. (North Babylon)
A highly touted guard, Brianna Jones is the No. 33 prospect in the Class of 2015 by All Star Girls Report. According to ESPN, she is the 43rd-best player in the class and the ninth-best guard.
Jones, who stars at North Babylon High in North Babylon, N.Y., was named to the 2015 Full Court Fresh 50 Watch List after being selected as an honorable mention on the 2013-14 MaxPreps Girls Basketball All-American Team. That season, she earned all-state honors from the New York State Sportswriters Association.
In her junior campaign, she averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds, knocking down 68 3-pointers. She surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for her career during the year and became the only junior nominee for New York’s Gatorade Player of the Year award.
The year prior, Jones totaled 13.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in helping North Babylon – the same high school that produced Connecticut’s Bria Hartley – reach the Suffolk County Class AA championship game.
Jones currently plays AAU basketball for the Philadelphia Belles, which at one time featured Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart.
The 5-foot-9 guard chose Louisville over Ohio State, Penn State, Duke, Michigan, and West Virginia.
What they’re saying about Brianna Jones
“The 5-10 guard from North Babylon (N.Y.) High School is an accomplished player with a scorer’s mentality. Brianna brings with her a bevy of offensive skills that will play very well in Louisville’s up-tempo system. Not many guards excel in the things Jones does best – strong enough to consistently get to where she wants to on the court combined with a pull up jump shot with uncanny mid-range consistency. She has the ability to create space with her change of speed deception and ability to attack the basket. Louisville fans will love her competitive fire and New York flair. In 2013, she led her Philadelphia Belles 15U club team to Championships at Boo Williams, US Junior Nationals, and Nike Nationals.” – Kevin Lynch, Director of Philadelphia Belles
“Brianna has a love and passion for the game and plays with such joy. Coach Walz has these same qualities. No one ever can really know in advance if a player and coach are right for each other, but I believe wholeheartedly that Brianna was meant to play for Louisville and coach Walz. They are two of a kind.” – Debbie Brajevich, North Babylon High Head Coach
“Brianna is a strong bodied guard who may be one of the best pull-up jump shooters in the game. She has a ton of confidence and can score in bunches. Her aggressive, attacking style will fit in perfectly to our up tempo game. She is also an accomplished student and will be pursuing a degree in business upon arrival to campus.” – Jeff Walz, Louisville Head Coach