Young stars put Iowa girls' basketball in the national spotlight
Zoe Young has become a very popular person among women's college basketball coaches.
The West Des Moines Valley sophomore said she's already received attention from 30 schools. Maybe it's 35. It's so many that she's stopped counting.
"At first, I was keeping track," Young said. "It's amazing that all these schools want me in their programs."
Young, whose team will be playing in the state girls' basketball tournament this week at Wells Fargo Arena, is one of the country's top prospects in the class of 2019. She's ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the U.S. by the website ProspectsNation.com and at No. 21 in the "Terrific 25" by HoopGurlz.
She's one of several young stars with a national reputation who will be in action at state. The tournament starts at 10 a.m. Monday.
Ashley Joens of Iowa City High is among the top juniors. The Iowa State-committed guard is No. 16 in HoopGurlz's Super 60 and No. 21 by ProspectsNation.com for her grade.
Indianola's Grace Berg, another junior, is rated as No. 35 on the Hoopgurlz's list.
Caitlin Clark, a West Des Moines Dowling Catholic freshman, is already on the college scouts' recruiting list. She's on HoopGurlz's class of 2020 watch list.
The athletes may be the best top-notch talent the state has seen since the senior class of 2011 reigned — a group that sent players to programs such as UConn, Stanford and Notre Dame.
How did Iowa become a national hot spot for recruits? Several factors have blended with talented athletes willing to work hard to reach their college goals:
-- Club teams: Iowa has upped its game when it comes to youth programs.
The Ames-based All-Iowa Attack, Des Moines' Kingdom Hoops and the Iowa Barnstormers of eastern Iowa have provided athletes with intense competition and exposure in national tournaments.
Berg, who averages 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, is an All-Iowa Attack teammate with athletes such as Joens and Clark. They've played in Nike Team Nationals.
"The practices are intense, but they prepare you for college," Berg said.
Club athletes go head-to-head against each other in games, too.
"You play against a lot of good players," Clark said.
-- The influence of previous stars has made its mark, too.
Athletes like the senior class of 2011 make an impact on younger girls watching from the stands.
Among that group were college-bound stars such as Kiah Stokes of Linn-Mar of Marion (UConn), Taylor Greenfield of Ballard of Huxley (Stanford) and Markisha Wright of Des Moines East (Notre Dame). All of their college teams ended up in the Final Four.
"I saw the players that got Division I scholarships," Young said. "I thought it'd be great for me to get one, too."
-- Quality coaching at Iowa's high school programs makes a difference.
A lot of familiar faces on the coaches' bench will be on hand this week. So will teams that have made previous appearances. Of 40 programs at state, there are 14 that won championships in the past.
"The tradition in Iowa is a big deal," Clark said.
To athletes like Young, who said she hopes to narrow her college options to five or six schools in the summer or fall, the pursuit of prize recruits will continue.
"We have a lot of talent here in Iowa," Young said.