Second in a series looking at Horizon League women’s basketball’s committed players for 2022 (Part I)
Brianna Wooldridge (IUPUI)
Height: 6-1, Position: F, High School: Fremd HS (IL), Commit Date: August 31, 2021
With Teresa Maggio and Jessica Carrothers (both covered in Part I) already in the fold, nobody in the Horizon League is out-recruiting IUPUI right now. Now, Austin Parkinson appears to have another gem on his hands in Wooldridge, the sixth-ranked 2022 in Illinois.
It’s hard to not look at her and see the Jags’ staff keeping an eye on their future roster. Stop me if this sounds at least a little bit like someone else affiliated with the program: “Wooldridge is a powerful forward who is tough to contain in the lane. She is strong with great athleticism and creates mismatches with her ability to handle the ball on the perimeter and attack the paint. Brianna is a dominant rebounder on both ends and has proven she can knock down free throws consistently.”
Wooldridge’s stock was probably hurt a bit by her missing the summer AAU season due to injury, and she’s also bounced back and forth between Fremd High School (where she spent her freshman year and plays now) and Lincoln-Way West (where she played as a sophomore, ironically losing to Fremd in the state title game that year). However, a family situation pushed her back to the original school, and no matter where you’re playing, if you’re a big with the skill to also produce further from the hoop and put up a double-double as often as not, people are going to pay attention.
Cleveland State had an offer out to Wooldridge, and her list also included Western Michigan, Toledo, Kansas State, Marshall, San Jose State, Arkansas State, and Southern Illinois.
Brooke Daniels (Oakland)
Height: 5-6, Position: PG, High School: L’Anse Creuse North HS (MI), Commit Date: September 6, 2021
A second-team all-state selection as a junior, Daniels was the driving force behind L’Anse Creuse North (a school that wears the same black and gold as Oakland, because why buy new accessories if you don’t have to), one of the biggest stories in Michigan high school basketball last year. The Crusaders ran to a regional title before falling to Detroit Renaissance in the state quarterfinals – LCN’s first loss of the season. Daniels had a game-high 24 points in defeat and averaged about 17 for the season, but offense isn’t the first thing most notice about her.
Consider Prep Girls Hoops, which ranks her as the number 17 prospect in the state: “Daniels showed that she’s not just a force on offense. She was an absolute terror on the defensive end. Daniels was a lockdown defender that played an in your face style of D. On the other end, she was feeling her jumper and connected consistently all night.”
Other scouting reports have called her “a big-time point guard with an explosive edge,” “a playmaking lead guard,” “a terrific athlete and playmaker,” and “one of the highest upside guards in the state.” She’s a heart-on-her-sleeve type of player who will definitely become a fan favorite at OU.
Daniels had an extremely impressive offer list, including Penn State, Xavier, Monmouth, North Dakota, and Wayne State. Army West Point was interested as well.
Instead though, she will enter a crowded Grizzlies backcourt, where Kahlaijah Dean will still have her “pandemic option” in 2022 and most of the other significantly-contributing guards (along with newcomer Aaliyah McQueen) will also be projected to return. However, Daniels’ skillset should earn some minutes with a team that’s struggled mightily on the defensive end over the last few years.
Lauryn Stover (Purdue Fort Wayne)
Height: 5-11, Position: SF, High School: Gilmour Academy (OH), Commit Date: August 3, 2021
Maria Marchesano has generated a lot of momentum for the Dons since returning to her hometown, and part of that is Stover, who became the program’s first 2022 commit back in early August. She’ll hit PFW at a pretty interesting time for the team, as they’re projected to return almost everyone next year and will be looking to take another step.
What really impresses me about Stover is how effortlessly she reads the floor and knows exactly where to exploit a defense. Those are half steps that aren’t necessarily required now but will make all the difference at the next level, and that sort of processing ability is also useful on the defensive end of course. She’s also very versatile, with clips showing her playing both a traditional post role and further out as a dribble drive specialist (with some extremely nice handles helping out with that). On the other side of the ball, those same traits give her a strong ability to anticipate and shut down plays.
Given all of that, not to mention a really nice reel (see below), it’s a little surprising that she hasn’t generated more buzz in the scouting community. Prep Girls Hoops only has her as Ohio’s number 60 2022 prospect, even misspelling her name as “Stolver” on their list. Ouch. Nevertheless, she’s a standout on her Gilmour Academy team, as my fellow Solon Middle School grad was all-district second team last season while leading the Lancers in scoring, while placing second in rebounding and blocked shots, and third in steals.
Natalie Johnson (Robert Morris)
Height: 5-9, Position: CG, High School: North Point HS (MD), Commit Date: August 1, 2021
In the context of where Robert Morris presently stands, Johnson really seems like an ideal add, as she’ll be able to push the pace a bit and facilitate, bringing some definition to a Colonials team that sort of needs it right now.
Maryland’s high school seasons were pandemic-disrupted more than most, but the last time Johnson played a full one, she was an absolute monster, averaging 17 points and – this is the part that really gets me – 7.6 rebounds, including one late-season stretch where she hit double digits six times in seven games, including outings of 15 and 16. Now, doing that in Division I is a bit different than doing it against Jill from honors chemistry, but her grassroots track record says that it’s not a fluke.
Either way, it’s still something that helps paint a picture of someone who excels in all phases of the game, doesn’t let size dictate her effort level, and gets where the ball is going and not where it’s been.
Speaking of, let’s watch her play defense for a bit, among other things.
I know the coaches and scouts out there appreciate that they included both the good and bad plays and so do I, to be honest. The bad plays are typically turnovers borne from aggressiveness, and the good news is that can be corrected. But overall, there’s a lot to love about the way she sees the court and plays freely.
Johnson’s other offers included Tulsa and Hawaii.