UMass women’s basketball assembles highest ranking recruiting class in program history

Five new recruits, including top-100 prospect

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(Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian)

By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s 2021 class added five players on Wednesday, culminating in what Head Coach Tory Verdi says is the program’s “highest-ranking class ever assembled.” They are led by Delaware wing Stefanie Kulesza, the highest-ranking player to ever commit to UMass under Verdi and a top-100 recruit nationally, according to ESPN.

Kulesza projects as a three-level scorer who can provide versatility at both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor with her 6-foot frame. Verdi believes she can “step in and make an immediate impact at the guard position.”

Joining Kulesza in the Minutewomen’s future backcourt will be New York guards Lex Brooks and Damoni Tucker. Brooks, who averaged 15 points per game for Westtown School last season en route to a league championship, played on the same AAU team as current Minutewomen center Maeve Donnelly. Tucker, who Verdi described as someone that can “attack downhill and create for herself and others,” can become a lethal playmaker for UMass.

Verdi heaped the most praise for this recruiting class on forward Aisha Dabo and center Natousha Harden. He likened Dabo to “Destiney Philoxy with an extra six inches” and said Harden could become “one of the best centers to ever put on a UMass jersey.” Needless to say, this is easily the most excited Verdi has been about a recruiting class in his half-decade as head coach for the Minutewomen.

These recruits have reason to believe in Verdi as well. Under his watch, the Minutewomen have marginally improved every season, culminating in a 20-win campaign in 2019. Brooks, Dabo and Harden all cited the team’s coaching staff as a primary reason for their commitment to UMass, while Kulesza described the Minutewomen’s basketball program as “amazing.”

With last year’s team leaders Hailey Leidel and Vashnie Perry gone and this season’s top scoring option in senior Sam Breen set to graduate at the end of the year, this class of Minutewomen have some big shoes to fill, but Verdi seems confident that they are up for the challenge.

Freeman Alfano can be reached at [email protected] He can be followed on Twitter at @freemanalfano.