The Mankato Free Press
---- — It hasn't always been the case at Minnesota State where the women's basketball coach was an aggressive recruiter.
Not too long ago, the recruiting process was about as scientific as "who wants a scholarship?"
The results were predictable, and the program became a bottom feeder in the old North Central Conference. It wasn't until coach Lori Fish convinced the recruiting class that included Heather Johnson, Joanne Noreen and Alex Andrews to help lift Minnesota State out of the abyss that the product has been pretty good.
Coach Emilee Thiesse seems to have lifted the Mavericks to a higher level of play, and she's been very aggressive this summer in getting top recruits into the program for next year and beyond. Maybe it's just the world of social media, but you never heard much about Minnesota State women's basketball recruits until they signed letters of intent.
Already, Thiesse has received commitments from three players who won't start college for another 14 months. Two are Iowa point guards Madi Agey from West Des Moines and Morgan Neuendorf from Waverly-Shell Rock, and the other is Mankato East forward Claire Ziegler.
Neuendorf has played here a couple of times in the last month, and she's a gifted ballhandler, savvy passer and high-percentage shooter. There have been countless times to see Ziegler, who seems prepared to take on the more athletic and physical play she'll see in college. She's got a decent jump shot that you don't get to see too often in high-school games, and she should complement her classmates beautifully for four seasons.
Thiesse led the Mavericks to the region semifinals last season, the second-best showing in program history behind the national championship in 2009. Most of the key players return this season, meaning the expectations will be at least that high again.
The future also looks bright with next year's signings, two guards and two interior players. The 2014 class looks like it will be pretty good, too.
It's a positive change in Minnesota State women's basketball where the competition for playing time and scholarship money is intense. In the coming seasons, there will be fewer names on the roster that don't contribute. With two solid recruiting classes, Thiesse has returned the program to the position of challenging for national-tournament berths, not just hoping to have a winning record.
She and her staff have been aggressive this summer, and it seems to be paying off.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at email@example.com, or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.