Women's Basketball Signs Four For 2009-10 Season
Nov. 12, 2008
AUBURN - Morgan Toles, a 5-foot-9 point guard, Blanche Alverson a 6-foot-3 forward/guard, Nicolle Thomas a 5-foot-10 guard and Pascale "P.J." West, a 6-foot-8 center, have signed national letters of intent to attend Auburn and play basketball in 2009-10, head coach Nell Fortner announced Wednesday.
"I'm really excited about this class, I think we got a little bit of everything," said Auburn head coach Nell Fortner. "It is great to have this class coming in behind the freshmen class we have now because it is a very athletic class, it has size, speed, it has a little bit of everything and I feel good about the future."
All four players will come to the Plains from Georgia. Toles is a native of Fayetteville, Ga., and plays for Sandy Creek High School; Thomas is a native of Moultrie, Ga., and plays for Colquitt County High School; and West is a native of LaGrange, Ga., and plays for Troup County Comprehensive High School. Alverson currently lives in Buford, Ga., playing for Buford High School, but is originally a native of Andalusia, Ala..
Fortner said having so much talent within a short distance from Auburn gives the team a great advantage.
"I think kids want to play in front of their family and friends, and I don't blame them," said Fortner. "You don't have to go halfway across the country to play in a great program - you have it right here at Auburn and we feel pretty good about that. We feel that Auburn is in a really good place, we have the new arena coming and it is just such a great time for Auburn basketball and we are excited about it."
Toles is ranked as the No. 27 prospect in the country and the fourth-best point guard in the country, according to ESPN.com's Hoop Gurlz. She won two state championships at St. Pius X before transferring to Sandy Creek High School, where she made an Elite Eight appearance as a junior. Toles also played on the Georgia Metros club team that won a national championship.
She was an honorable mention high school All-American as a junior and has been selected as a preseason second-team high school All-American for her senior season. Toles also comes from an athletic family as her dad, Alvin, played football at Tennessee and her mom, Vicky, played basketball at New Orleans.
"Morgan is a tremendous point guard, I am so excited about her," said Fortner. "We lose Whitney Boddie, who is a heck of a point guard, and Morgan is going to come in here and be able to do a lot of what Whitney does."
Fortner said she is also excited to see what Toles can do alongside current freshman Morgan Jennings.
"When you put her on the court along with Morgan Jennings and some of the other great athletes we have out here, we get a lot faster," said Fortner. "That is a really good thing for us, especially with the way we are playing right now. She has a great upside to her and she has not reached her full potential by any stretch of the word. "
Alverson comes to Auburn after averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season at Buford High School. She is another nationally-ranked recruit as she comes in as the No. 45 overall prospect and eighth-best forward by ESPN.com's Hoop Gurlz. Playing for the Peach State Elite Black club team, a squad ranked in the top 20 in the nation, since the eighth grade, Alverson transferred from Andalusia High School in Alabama to Buford High School in Georgia to be closer to her team.
Last season she led Buford High School to a quarterfinal appearance in the Georgia AA State Tournament. Alverson also gets it done in the classroom as she carries a 4.0 grade-point average and plans to major in pre-med while at Auburn.
"Blanche sees the floor very well and that makes the people around her better, which is a good thing," said Fortner. "She is a very skilled defensive player and is a tremendous addition to what we have, especially with her versatility."
Versatility is a key word for Alverson as at 6-3, she currently plays shooting guard, but could also see some time in the post.
"Blanche is a very versatile player and can play all three spots on the floor," said Fortner. "She can play a perimeter spot and an inside spot. She has the ability to shoot the three, put it on the floor, she is an excellent passer, and that is a skill that you do not get a lot of kids coming in with anymore."
Thomas, a 5-10 guard from Colquitt County High School, comes to Auburn after averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per game as a junior. Averaging double figures in points per game since her freshman season, when she helped her team to an elite Eight appearance at the state tournament, Thomas has bulked up her stats in other area to become an all-around player.
Along with her 16 points and eight rebounds per outing last season, Thomas also chipped in six assists and three steals to lead her team. She is also currently ranked as the No. 24 guard prospect according to ESPN.com's Hoop Gurlz.
"Nicolle is one of those players that has flown under the radar," said Fortner. "She had a great summer and made a name for herself. She is so strong, similar to Reneisha Hobbs, has a great build with quick feet."
Fortner said the areas where Thomas will impact the team most will come from her shooting and her versatility to play inside and outside.
"Nicolle has a beautiful shot, is a great three-point shooter, but can also get to the hole very strong," said Fortner. "Her game is very versatile. She has had to play inside in high school, but will play on the perimeter for us.
"The good thing about her playing inside in high school is that she has those skills already, similar to Sherell Hobbs when she came to us. Sherell has played perimeter her whole time here, but we can also post her up. Coming in with those kinds of skills makes her a very dangerous player."
Rounding out the class is one of the tallest players ever to come to Auburn in 6-8 P.J. West. A native of nearby LaGrange, Ga., West enters her senior season at Troup County Comprehensive High School after averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game as a junior.
Ranked as the No. 25 post prospect by ESPN.com's Hoop Gurlz, West has led the state of Georgia in blocked shots and was also ranked in the top five in the nation. Along with earning top defensive honors on her high school team, she also made moves in the classroom as she enters her senior year with a 3.75 GPA.
West also comes from a basketball family as her dad, Wally West, was drafted by the Utah Jazz in the 1980 NBA Draft after finishing his career at Boston University.
"P.J.'s upside is tremendous, it is just a matter of how good she personally wants to be," said Fortner. "She runs the floor very, very well and has become a much more aggressive player over the past four years. We have known her for a long time and her game is really starting to develop in a big way and we are looking for her to do some nice things here at Auburn."
Something else Fortner and the coaching staff are excited about is the possibility of West, at 6-8, playing alongside 6-7 KeKe Carrier, who will be a senior during the 2009-10 season.
"At 6-8, to have that kind of size is awesome," said Fortner. "We will have KeKe Carrier for one more year and to have P.J. there with her will be great."
The 2008-09 Auburn women's basketball team, currently ranked No. 20/21 in the nation, opens its regular season Friday at Alabama A&M. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at the T. M. Elmore Gymnasium.
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