Coronavirus pandemic speeds up recruiting for Western Pa. Bruins girls basketball players

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Thursday, May 14, 2020 | 3:05 PM


If this were any other spring, Corinne Washington would be traveling to Detroit this weekend with her Western Pa. Bruins teammates for an AAU basketball tournament in the Motor City.

Instead, the Quaker Valley junior is limited to one-on-one games with her brother and father on an outdoor neighborhood court. They’re great competition since her dad played basketball at Yale and brother Coletrane plays at Drexel, but there aren’t any college recruiters sitting courtside.

That’s a dilemma many recruits face nowadays.

Spring and summer AAU events are scheduled during evaluation periods on the NCAA calendar when college coaches and athletes can share a gym. Those face-to-face encounters aren’t happening because of the coronavirus pandemic and probably won’t resume for awhile. So, with help from their AAU teams, Washington and others have turned the recruiting process around and reached out to colleges.

“In Corinne’s case, she drew up a wish list of schools,” said John Tate, executive director of the Western Pa. Bruins. “We reached out to all five of them. We heard back from four. She got offers from three.”

Washington committed May 3 to Boston University after receiving an offer from Terriers coach Marisa Moseley just two weeks earlier.

“Coach Tate has done a great job of making sure the 2021 class is getting recruited even though we’re not playing any games right now,” Washington said. “My dad sent Coach Tate a list of schools I was interested in. He sent out some of my film from high school and AAU games to those coaches, and they would text back and tell him, ‘Set us up with Corinne. Let us talk with her.’

“That’s what happened with Boston U.”

The 5-foot-11 guard/forward averaged 16.7 points for the Quakers, who went 17-7 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals this past season. Washington chose the Patriot League team over offers from Duquesne, Robert Morris and others. She hasn’t toured the Boston campus in person — only virtually online — but liked what the school and basketball coach could offer.

“It has everything that I’m looking for in a college,” Washington said. “High academics, good athletics programs, a city campus and I just really connected with the head coach.”

Tate counts eight current Bruins from the 2021 class who’ve already committed to Division I schools. Six made their decision in the past few weeks.

Along with Washington, Shady Side Academy’s Nyla Rozier committed to St. Francis (Pa.), Woodland Hills’ Peyton Pinkney committed to Eastern Michigan, Bethel Park’s Liv Westphal committed to Duquesne and Plum’s Kennedie Montue committed to Oakland. All committed since April 13.

Outside of the WPIAL, Blacklick Valley’s Maria McConnell committed April 27 to St. Francis (Pa.).

The pandemic caused college coaches to adjust their timelines.

“They’re in the same kind of mode we are,” Tate said. “These (evaluation) periods are when they throw their nets out for the upcoming class. If they’ve got a couple of openings, they throw that net out. They get to see some people in April, see some people in May and then hone in and make offers in July.

“That’s all changing now,” he added. “The offers have started coming in fast and furious over the last three weeks.”

If not for the pandemic, the Western Pa. Bruins would’ve visited Detroit this weekend for “Michigan May Madness” and then traveled to Cincinnati on Memorial Day weekend for an event that draws more than 200 teams.

Both events were canceled.

The Bruins typically take a break in June, Tate said, before the AAU season heats up in July. The Girls Under Armour circuit has events July 10-12 in Westfield, Ind., and July 23-25 in Las Vegas. Both occur during NCAA evaluation periods.

“I’m just waiting for the email to come out saying that’s canceled,” Tate said. “There’s no way that’s going to happen.”

Among the WPIAL coaches working for the Bruins are North Allegheny’s Spencer Stefko, Penn Hills’ Robert Cash and Shaler’s Cornelious Nesbit.

For the girls on the team, this is likely the longest they’ve gone in years without playing organized basketball. Most have resorted to shooting at a court near their house or a hoop in the driveway.

“It’s terrible and I’m going crazy,” Washington said, laughing.

Fortunately, there’s a court that’s about five minutes from her home.

“We’ll go down there and I’ll get my workouts in,” she said. “I’ll play 21 with my dad and my brother. And I’ll play my dad one-v-one.”

Tate is hopeful everybody’s basketball isolation will end within a couple of months. If the national AAU events are canceled, he’ll try to organize something small locally in late summer, if Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions allow. He envisions streaming video of the games online so college coaches could watch.

“That way coaches can get another look at our kids,” Tate said.

Until then, he’ll work his college connections. He said the Bruins have five or six juniors who remain uncommitted.

“With no evaluation periods, we’re relying on relationships,” Tate said. “The Bruins have been around 33 years. We’ve sent a bunch of kids to schools — big, big numbers over the last seven to eight years. These college coaches will take our word for it if we say: ‘Hey, we’ve got a kid that’s a fit for you.’”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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