The LSU women pulled in one of the South’s top basketball recruits this weekend when Memphis Central guard Danielle Ballard committed to the Lady Tigers.
On the men’s side, it appears Riverside Academy star Ricardo Gathers is headed out of state.
Memphis Central coach Niki Bray said Monday that Ballard, ranked by ESPNU/HoopGurlz as the Class of 2012’s No. 24 prospect, nearly committed to UCLA when Nikki Caldwell was coaching there last season. Ballard became interested in LSU after Caldwell left the West Coast for Baton Rouge in April, bringing along her staff from UCLA virtually intact.
Bray said Auburn, Ole Miss and Rutgers were other schools in the mix.
“Everybody in the country has been recruiting Danielle,” Bray said. “I mean everybody. I think she was torn between LSU and Auburn for a while.”
The commitment of Ballard continues a nice early run for Caldwell on the recruiting front. California prospect Sheila Boykin, a former UCLA signee, signed with LSU last month and will be eligible to play for the Lady Tigers this fall.
LSU men’s coach Trent Johnson, meanwhile, hoped to add Gathers after signing McDonald’s All-American Johnny O’Bryant and Kentucky Mr. Basketball Anthony Hickey this past year.
But according to several recruiting websites, Gathers has committed to St. John’s, choosing the Red Storm over LSU, Arizona, Texas and Syracuse.
Gathers, the state’s Mr. Basketball as a junior, has led Riverside to the Class 2A state title the past two years. He is considered the top prospect to come out of Louisiana since Class of 2008 standout Greg Monroe, who chose Georgetown coming out of Helen Cox.
“I can’t wait to play in New York,” Gathers, 6-6, told ESPN.com. “Watching the movie ?He Got Game’ got me really excited about playing there.”
Gathers will play for coach Steve Lavin, who led St. John’s to the NCAA tournament this year, ending a nine-year hiatus for the Queens school, in his first season as coach.
“I picked St. John’s because of the coaching staff, and I liked the way coach Lavin communicated with me throughout the process,” Gathers said in the ESPN.com report. “A year ago he was recruiting me and I didn’t think much of it until I saw how they played on television and how much success they were having.”
Ballard, a 5-foot-9 lefty, helped Memphis Central to a 29-9 mark as a junior. She scored 21 points in a 72-59 win over Murfreesboro in the Class 3A state final.
Because of her great body control and balance, Bray said Ballard is often compared to male players.
“And she doesn’t care if she scores one point or 50,” Bray said. “She’ll pass it in a heartbeat if it means somebody else can score.”
Verbal commitments are non-binding. Ballard and Gathers may sign with their schools Nov. 9, the start of the early signing period.