Nike hoops tourney held special interest for ASU coaches

The Arizona State coaching staff got a chance last week to check on the progress of one of their newest, and most prized, women’s basketball recruits.  And they only had to drive to Chandler to do it.

Karina Alofaituli is a six-foot guard/forward who plays for the No. 1 high school team in the country, Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif.   She is one of a group of four players that signed national letters of intent last month to play at ASU.

The Monarchs were here for the Nike Tournament of Champions, which is hosted by the Chandler school district and showcases the best girls high school basketball players in the country each year during the holidays.  They won the championship in the prestigious tournament’s top division last year, and finished third this year.

Alofaituli, who is ranked as high as No. 26 in the country by ESPN HoopGurlz, transferred in to Mater Dei to be able to play her senior year with some of the best players in the country.  The Monarchs’ roster includes Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, a 6’0″ forward considered among the top two or three seniors at that position, and point guard Jordan Adams, among the nation’s best from the junior class.

So Alofaituli, or ‘Kiki’ to her friends and teammates, will hit the Wells Fargo Arena hardwood already battle-tested against the best competition at the high school level, and ready to contribute as a Sun Devil.

The three additional recruits announced last month included Promise Amukamara, Jada Blackwell, and Eliza Normen.

Amukamara was a recruit that head coach, Charli Turner-Thorne, found playing at Apollo High School in Glendale, where she averaged 22 points a game, but was lurking under the radar of most college coaches.  Turner-Thorne said she expects the 5’8″ guard to become an impact player at the next level.

Blackwell is a 6’1″ forward from California who will provide a strong presence under the boards.  She can get the break started, but can also step out behind the arc and drain three at a time.

Normen is a 6’0″ guard ranked No. 28 by HoopGurlz and can play all of the back court positions.  She has been listed as a McDonalds All-American candidate and Turner-Thorne expects her to contribute right away.

That 2011 recruiting class has been ranked as the 15th best in the nation by HoopGurlz.

Turner-Thorne has been talking about the “need to assemble an impact class” since her current team is top-heavy with juniors and seniors.  And this could be it.

And, most recently, the Sun Devils added yet another pair of local standouts when they received commitments from guards Simone Westbrook of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, and Arnecia Hawkins from Mountain View High School in Mesa.  They will both enter ASU in the recruiting class of 2012.

Westbrook, who averaged 16.5 points last year as a sophomore, has opted to participate in club ball this year instead of playing for her high school team.

That not only came as a blow to the Desert Vista program, but flies in the face of the usual argument made by club programs that says club ball is important because it gives the girls exposure to college coaches they can’t get through high school competition.

But Westbrook has already made her commitment to a college.  She doesn’t need the exposure.

So that has to leave the ASU head coach with an uneasy feeling about her latest recruit.  A commitment, after all, is not binding on the athlete.