The Xavier women's basketball program is looking to take a step up after struggling to an 8-20 finish in 2011-12, and a pair of players -- and possibly more -- from central Ohio should have an impact on that over the next few years.
According to ESPN HoopGurlz, Gahanna junior forward Maddison Blackwell verbally committed to play for the Musketeers in late April from the 2013 recruiting class.
Then on May 11, Reynoldsburg senior Aliyah Zantt signed a letter of intent to play for Xavier after previously signing with Eastern Michigan.
According to Northland coach Dean Washington, Xavier also has been hot on the trail for Vikings junior guard Alexis Peterson.
"Even though Aliyah and Alexis both are guards, their coach said, 'We have to check ourselves' and that them getting Aliyah had nothing to do with Alexis," Washington said.
According to Washington, Peterson has taken an unofficial visit to Indiana and also has been offered by Virginia Tech after being the ThisWeek Super 12 captain last winter. The 5-6 guard and three-year starter helped the Vikings win their first City League championship since 1998, capture their second consecutive district title and finish 24-2. She averaged 18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 4.1 steals and already has scored 1,092 career points.
Blackwell, meanwhile, is part of a talented junior class for Gahanna that produced a district championship and 18-7 record this winter. She transferred to Gahanna from Hilliard Davidson before the season and became an immediate contributor, averaging 8.2 points and making second-team all-OCC-Ohio Division.
Blackwell is 6-1 but does have good ball-handling skills for a big. Gahanna focuses much of its energy on defense, and she and fellow 6-footer Zenobia Bess made it hard for teams to do much in the paint this season. She was pretty much a guaranteed 6-8 points every game, and that's something she'll obviously have to improve on in college.
Blackwell told ESPN, "I chose Xavier because I was blown away with the campus and facilities on my visit there and I love the fact that it's a big-time school with a small-town feel."
Zantt, meanwhile, got out of her commitment with Eastern Michigan after coach AnnMarie Gilbert resigned in April. Eastern Michigan went 23-9 last season, but Zantt, according to Reynoldsburg coach Jack Purtell, felt more comfortable signing a late scholarship offer with Xavier.
Zantt made the ThisWeek Super 12 the last two seasons and averaged 11.1 points, 3.1 steals and 2.7 assists last winter.
The same day she signed with Xavier on May 11, Raiders teammate Adesuwa Aideyman signed with Cleveland State. Aideyman averaged 10 points last season as Reynoldsburg went 26-1.
*Both Northland and Reynoldsburg have other players who recruiters have been following.
Reynoldsburg juniors Destini Cooper, Shiloh Murphy and Yamonie Jenkins likely will "wait until the fall" to make their verbal commitments, according to Purtell. Sophomore Alyssa Rice is one of the nation's top prospects from the 2014 class.
The Raiders have been invited to a tournament in late July in Maryland where Purtell expects to see numerous college scouts.
According to Washington, Northland junior Jasmine Weatherspoon likely will receive some Division I offers over the coming months. Senior Brandie Curd-Watson will play for St. Joseph's College in Indiana and junior Kierra Simpson has been receiving Division I interest.
Senior Symone Denham will play for Michigan next year after signing last November.
May 22, 2013 | Currently: 75° Partly Cloudy