ACC notes: UNC secures commitments from Teonni Key, Morasha Wiggins

Courtney Banghart now has three top 50 players from the 2021 class committed to the Tar Heels.

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In her first full offseason as head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, Courtney Banghart is having a whole lot of success on the recruiting trail.

Within the past two weeks, the Tar Heels have secured verbal commitments from a pair of five-star 2021 prospects. One resides just down the road from Chapel Hill in Cary’s Teonni Key, while the other — Morasha Wiggins — comes from way up in Michigan. Combined with Destiny Adams, a 6-foot-3 forward from New Jersey, Banghart has now secured three commitments from the top 50 players in the 2021 class. The Tar Heels lead the ACC in 2021 top 50 commits (Notre Dame and N.C. State each have two).

Key, a 6-foot-3 wing ranked as the 22nd best player in the class by ESPN, also had offers from UConn, Notre Dame, N.C. State, South Carolina, Maryland, Auburn and Kentucky. ESPN calls her a “hybrid-four” who is “best off the dribble,” “active on the glass,” and “creates mismatches.”

Speaking to the Daily Tar Heel about committing to UNC, Key said: “It was the coaching staff, their vision for the future and what they have planned. The way that, in only a year, you've seen the vision change and the program change in a good direction. And UNC — as a school — is just a great place as well.”

Wiggins is a 6-foot guard who lands at the No. 50 spot for the 2021 class in ESPN’s rankings. She also had offers from USC, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Kentucky, Ohio State and Michigan State. ESPN calls her an “athletic combo guard” who can manufacture her own shot, rebound and attack in transition.

Banghart’s tenure at UNC started off well last season, beginning the season with an eight-game winning streak. After beating Clemson on Feb. 2, the Heels had a 16-6 record and seemed bound for a top seed in the ACC tournament. But things fell apart. UNC lost its final seven regular season games and bowed out in the first round of the conference tournament in a 10-point loss to Wake Forest.

But things are looking up for the Tar Heels heading into the future. Going into this next season, they’ll bring back All-ACC talent Janelle Bailey at center, promising forward Malu Tshitenge at the four, and they’ve brought in Illinois grad transfer Petra Holešínská to give them an outside threat. Much will be expected of incoming freshmen Anya Poole and Deja Kelly too, a pair of five-star talents.

Around the ACC

  • According to her Instagram — screenshotted here by David Cunningham — assistant coach Britney Anderson is leaving Virginia Tech. Kenny Brooks now has two openings on his staff, following Jen Brown becoming the head coach Division II Queens University. Anderson played at Virginia Tech from 2003 to 2007 and returned in 2015 for a spot on the staff.

  • Former Syracuse guard Alisha Lewis found a new home quickly. Two weeks after entering the transfer portal, Lewis has signed with UCF. She will sit out the 2020-21 season and then have three years of eligibility left for the Knights. She was a five-star recruit in the 2019 class and won a trio of state championships with Urusline Academy in Delaware. She appeared in just seven games at Syracuse.

  • Kayla McPherson — the 15th best player in the 2021 class per ESPN — has narrowed her college choices to five with N.C. State, UNC, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State and Arizona making the cut. The five-star 5-foot-7 guard is a native of Hull, Georgia. ESPN calls her an “athletic floor-leader with a scorer’s mentality.”

  • Damiya Hagemann – the 19th best player in the 2021 class per ESPN – has narrowed her college choices to seven with Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Michigan State making the cut. The five-star 5-foot-7 guard is a native of Mount Clemens, Michigan. ESPN calls her an “elusive floor-leader” who “pushes tempo” and “distributes with flair and precision.”

  • Clemson picked up a verbal commitment from 2021 prospect Kionna Gaines, a 5-foot-11 guard from Columbus, Georgia. A three-star prospect, ranked the 100th best player in her class according to ESPN, Gaines also had offers from Georgetown, Florida, Kentucky, Purdue and Southern Miss. ESPN calls her an “athletic combo guard” who can break down defenders and find “the rim with regularity.”

  • Former Syracuse guard Isis Young is headed to her fourth college for her final season of eligibility. Young, who did some broadcasting work for ACC Network this past season, will suit up for Siena. Young began her career at Florida, spent three seasons at Syracuse and was at Fordham last year, but didn’t play due to a knee injury. The 5-foot-7 guard from New Jersey has degrees from Syracuse and Fordham. Her best season at Syracuse was in 2017-18 where she averaged 6.7 points and 1.4 rebounds per-game over 31 contests. Siena went 11-20 last season.

  • At Floor Game, Ben Dull takes an in-depth look at how Duke’s Leaonna Odom can fit in with the New York Liberty as a rookie.

  • N.C. State players participated in protests in Raleigh last weekend. The Technician has a story on their efforts, led by Jada Rice and Kayla Jones.

Elsewhere in women’s basketball

  • For The Next, Kurtiz Zimmerman has a by-the-numbers look at the 2020 WNBA rosters.

  • Also at The Next, Howard Megdal takes us inside the negotiations between the WNBA and its players association. Then, at the New York Times, Howard has all the details on the WNBA beginning its season next month in Florida. (By the way, Ari Chambers has been all over this story, breaking news and providing insight. Follow her and read her work.)

  • Five-star 2021 talent Reigan Richardson announced her commitment to Georgia. The 5-foot-11 guard from Huntersville, North Carolina also had offers from N.C. State, Virginia, Alabama, Clemson, Louisville, Georgia Tech and UNC. Ranked as the 39th best player in her class, ESPN says she’s an “athletic combo guard” who can rise over defenders and also has a “smooth delivery off the bounce.”

  • At Navy, new head coach Tim Taylor will retain assistant coach Jimmy Colloton. He enters his seventh season at Navy, arriving in 2014 after a stint at Indiana.

  • Delaware State picked up a 2021 commitment from Joy Watkins, a point guard from Henderson, Nevada. She also had an offer from Arkansas Pine Bluff.

  • The MEAC women’s basketball tournament — along with other postseasons for the conference — is getting an adjustment. First round games will be played at campus sites, while the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship will still be at Norfolk’s Scope Arena. HBCU GameDay has more.

  • Reigning MEAC Rookie of the Year Alaina Rice has left Florida A&M and transferred to Auburn. She will sit out the upcoming season and have three years of eligibility remaining. A native of Rockledge, Florida, the 5-foot-9 Rice averaged 10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals per-game while shooting 31.8 percent from the floor and 32.1 percent from three-point range.

  • For its next head coach, USC Upstate reached into the Division II ranks and plucked Becky Burke from the University of Charleston (West Virginia) for the job. Burke was introduced as Upstate’s 15th head coach on June 8. In two seasons as the head coach of Charleston, Burke had a 48-14 record, cracked the Division II Top 25 and made the NCAA tournament. Before that, Burke started the women’s basketball program Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, a NAIA school in Prescott, Arizona. She has also been an assistant on staffs at St. Joe’s and Cal State Fullerton. Burke played at Louisville and helped the Cardinals reach three NCAA tournaments, including the championship game in 2009. She ranks fourth all-time in Cards’ history in three-pointers made.

  • Here’s was Louisville head coach Jeff Walz had to say about Upstate hiring Burke: "I'm very excited for Becky as she has done a tremendous job at every stop she's had along the way to this point of her career. This is just the next step for her. She's had success at every stop. She's very passionate and knowledgeable, and just does a fantastic job of getting the best out of her student-athletes. She coaches the same way she played which is with a lot of passion and heart and fire, and I think that is going to continue to lead her to great success."

  • East Carolina’s Raven Johnson received a medical redshirt from last season and will be eligible to play in 2020-21. As a junior, she averaged 12.5 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per-game. ECU went 6-10 in AAC play in Kim McNeil’s first-year on the job, but heads into next season with six seniors. The Pirates did excel on defense, ranking second in the nation in turnovers forced with 24.1 per-game. More good news: they won’t have to play UConn this season.

  • Asia Todd is leaving Liberty University, but not for basketball reasons; for “racial insensitivities.” The native of Clayton, North Carolina explains below in a video she tweeted. HighSchoolOT.com and the News & Observer caught up with her for more. Todd started 25 games as a freshman in Lynchburg and will have three years of eligibility remaining for wherever her next stop is.

Also read

  • At ESPN, Ryan McGee keeps it all the way 100 about the Confederate flag and it being banned from NASCAR. This passage in particular stuck out to me, but the entire piece was extremely well-written, inarguable, thoughtful and is worth your time:

Even if there had ever been a stitch of honor left in that flag after the Civil War was over, that was wrung out when hate groups chose the stars and bars as their go-to banner, under which they set fire to crosses, lynched black Americans, and held aloft as they stood at the doors of desegregated schools and screamed at innocent children, schoolbooks in hand, who did nothing more than be born.

There was a time when the swastika meant nothing, too. It first appeared in Asia 5,000 years ago. It was meant to signify the sun. But then someone came along and turned it into the symbol of one of the greatest evil forces that Earth has ever known.

You wouldn't fly that over Talladega, would you?

  • I also enjoyed this, from Jay Busbee’s newsletter, about a basketball hoop in Grottoes, Virginia.

  • At Power Plays, Marisa Ingemi has a fantastic read on the college sport we should pay more attention to: women’s bowling. One of the consistent winners in the sport are the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks, who I covered once upon a time.

­Some stuff I wrote

  • Several college and sports teams in North Carolina ended their relationships with a security firm, CPI, after its CEO downplayed police brutality in an email to a community activist. I checked in with the Durham Bulls about it and recapped it all here, for WUNC.

  • At The Next, I broke down Dara Mabrey’s move from Virginia Tech to Notre Dame. She’ll likely have to sit out a year, but will give Niele Ivey’s squad a big boost in 2021-22. Please subscribe!

  • Sports news out of the Service Academies are slow right now, but there’s a few things going on. Here’s a link dump I threw together for Against All Enemies to get you caught up.

  • On Friday at this here newsletter, I published a long feature on Duke guard Mikayla Boykin. We talked about hip-hop, knee injuries, her game against Virginia Tech last year, coming up in Clinton, stepping into a leadership role, and her go-to Waffle House order.

Stay safe. Y’all be good.

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Mitchell Northam is an award-winning journalist based in North Carolina. He grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and is a graduate of Salisbury University. He is a digital producer at WUNC, and his work has also been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, NCAA.com, the Delmarva Daily Times, Sports Illustrated, Pittsburgh Sports Now and elsewhere. He is a member of APSE, NWSLMA and USBWA. He’s on Twitter @primetimeMitch. More of his work can be found at MuckRack.