Zakiyah Johnson and Darianna Alexander – two other top-ranked prep stars in the class of 2025 – are also in the thick of things. Bourrage, who plays at Davenport (Iowa) North High School, does her best to block out distractions when playing in front of college coaches.
“I try not to worry about it. Sometimes I look at the coaches and see who’s paying attention and who’s not,” said Bourrage, who played for the Iowa Attack – the same AAU team for which Caitlin Clark, All-American The University of Iowa competed. “Some are on the phone, I can see who is really paying attention.”
Casual basketball fans may think the transfer portal and NIL changes are limited to boys’ hoops, but all high school players – whether they have dozens of scholarship offers like the aforementioned trio or Whether a player looking for just one school to come calling with an opportunity – feels the fallout of the rules.
“It’s been an incredibly different change,” said Big Ten women’s basketball analyst Christy Winters-Scott, a Maryland Hall of Famer who helped the Terps reach the Final Four in 1989 and coached high school and college basketball for over two years. decades. “The media, the social networks, the NIL, the transfer portal. This is becoming a necessity for universities.
“For me, when I was coaching, we were looking at high school and maybe some college kids. This is the pool from which we drew. Today, the hierarchy has changed: it seems that 80% of schools go through the transfer portal first.
Jam, Johnson (Academy of the Sacred Heart of Louisville, Kentucky); Alexander (Purcell Marian High School in Cincinnati, Ohio) browses the offerings. But it’s always about the numbers and the transfer portal has reduced the already slim chances of landing a Division I basketball scholarship.
— Three years ago, nearly 400,000 girls played high school basketball and only 1.3 percent of them went on to play Division I basketball, according to the NCAA.
— On average, about 1,400 Division I scholarships are available each year and there were 1,200 players in the transfer portal this year.
— Last year, 25,355 girls ages 13 to 18 played AAU basketball.
The Winters-Scott family knows as well as anyone how rewarding – and heartbreaking – the recruiting process can be. Her husband played at Miami, her daughter plays at Georgetown and her youngest son is a top 100 high school prospect.
“Seeing them recruited through their eyes and being there to listen to things is a reward that I can’t even equate to anything,” Winters-Scott said. “What haunts parents is that they want the best for their children and sometimes they don’t know what that is.
“You try to help them understand that part.”
It has never been more difficult than today.
While Kentucky and Iowa are among the states that allow high school athletes to take advantage of NIL opportunities, Bourrage and Johnson do not. Ohio, the state in which Alexander plays, does not allow high school athletes to compete in the NIL. But NIL will be part of their recruiting process at some point.
The Associated Press spent time with the trio over the summer to talk about recruiting challenges, including First NCAA Women’s College Basketball Academy in Memphis.
Many of the top coaches in women’s soccer filled the sidelines at the event, watching, evaluating and scrutinizing the prospects, and every time Bourrage, Johnson and Alexander took the field, the lineup filling the sideline included Kim Mulkey from LSU, Dawn Staley from South Carolina and Cori Close from UCLA. .
It’s a familiar part of the process, but players are also smart to pay attention to developments when coaches aren’t watching them play. If school X recruits someone from the transfer portal, that’s one less scholarship available at that university.
This adds another layer to what was already a mentally exhausting process.
But college sports are big business, and recruiting can be a negative consequence of the business world. Even if some top players are lucky enough to receive multiple offers, they can only accept one – and these highly paid coaches must pivot to fill out their rosters in order to remain competitive.
Schools sometimes move on to other recruits before a prospect makes a decision, and the basketball court can end abruptly without notice.
Johnson, a 6-foot guard from Shelbyville, Kentucky recently narrowed its list of schools to the top 12 which included LSU, South Carolina, UConn, USC, UCLA and Ohio State. Louisville is also on the list.
Cardinals coach Jeff Walz was the first to offer Johnson, who lives near the Louisville campus.
“I was 13 or 14 and Coach Walz was calling me and telling me he wanted to make me an offer, but I didn’t really understand it at that time. I told my parents and they were really excited,” Johnson said. “I knew I had to work even harder to reach this level. »
And that was before All-ACC guard Hailey Van Lith decided to leave the Louisville program, moving on to defending national champion LSU.
Most girls playing major college basketball have at least thought about playing in the WNBA, but it’s usually not their first thought during the recruiting process.
Alexander and Bourrage have not yet announced a list, although Alexander expects to have a top 10 soon according to his mother, Maria.
“It’s a big relief to know that you can go to school and you’re not in debt,” Maria said. “Most people come out of college and are in debt. It’s a plus.
This is the objective, even if the path to school can be strewn with pitfalls.
This story is part of the AP’s Inclusive Journalism Initiative with the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball And https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll