Nov. 13, 2009
DeKALB - With eight in-state rivals on the 2009-10 schedule, Northern Illinois women's basketball coach Carol Owens has frequently said she does not have to look far to find talented teams for the Huskies to play.
Now she can say the same for finding talented players. Owens announced Friday the addition of three players from Illinois and one from Indiana to comprise to 2010 signing class. Forward Jenna Thorp, guards Danielle Pulliam and Alicia Johnson, and wing Ashley Sneed all signed to join the Huskies for the 2010-11 season.
"What sticks out about these four is their work ethic," Owens said. "I don't want to have to coach effort. I want kids who bring it right away, and these four will."
Owens got the total package with this class, bringing in players that have been as successful in their academics as they have in their game. Of the signees, three hold a 3.3 grade point average or better.
"That's what our athletic department is about, and that's what we talk about when we bring in student-athletes," Owens said. "We want players that strive for success on and off the court."
Owens hardly had to look out past her own back yard to find Thorp, a six-foot multisport athlete from Hinckley, Ill. Thorp led Hinckley-Big Rock High School, located about 30 minutes southeast of DeKalb, to the Illinois Class 1A State Championship last year. Thorp scored 10 points to go with 10 rebounds in the title game.
"Jenna can do a little bit of everything," Owens said. "I've seen her go from the one to the four, and she can shoot the three, rebound, pass, and she knows the game well."
Thorp, who played Amateur Athletic Union basketball for the Illinois Lady Lightning under Mike Seberger and Pat Cinotte, is full of surprises. In addition to holding a 3.8 GPA and being a member of National Honor Society, Thorp is a black belt in karate.
A native of Indianapolis, Ind., Pulliam averaged 11 points, three assists, three rebounds and two steals per game in her junior season at Pike High School.
"If you think (current Huskie point guard) Marke Freeman
is quick, you haven't seen Danielle," Owens said. "She has blazing quickness, values defense, she comes with an energy that is contagious, and I like her leadership."
Adding to the team's Illinois flavor will be Ashley Sneed, a 5-10 Harvey, Ill. native who can play guard or forward. Sneed, who verbally committed to NIU last fall, played AAU ball with the Illinois Warriors under Eric Armstrong. She has maintained a 3.5 GPA at Thornton High School, and has the length and versatility to bother opponents on both ends of the floor.
"If you remember (former Huskie) Shari' Welton, Ashley has a body like that," Owens said. "She has a strong body, can shoot the three, defend, and comes with a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the game."
Hailing from Von Steuben, the same high school as current NIU men's basketball sophomore Mike DiNunno, Johnson is an anchor defensively. The Huskie coaching staff is excited for her ability to create for her teammates, something she excelled with renowned AAU squad Chicago Hoops Express under the guidance of Jerald Davis.
"Alicia is a specialist," Owens said. "She is a wing that's a good defender, and that was something we were really looking for. She has a nice mid-range jumper, works really hard, and comes from an excellent AAU program."
When the newest Huskie class arrives on campus next fall, Owens will have 10 players from Illinois on her roster, the most in-state student-athletes of her tenure.
The Huskies tip-off the regular season tonight at 7 p.m. when they host Bradley at the Convocation Center. Fans can purchase a lower bowl ticket to the game for just one dollar with a ticket stub from Thursday night's NIU-Ball State football game.