It was going to be tough to follow up the signing class Baylor women’s basketball landed in 2016 – one that seemed to be a unanimous pick as the best in all of college basketball.
Somehow, coach Kim Mulkey and her staff managed to do it.
The Lady Bears signed four players on – all guards and all Top 50 recruits -- to its 2017 class, which was ranked No. 1 by Prospects Nation and No. 4 by ESPN HoopGurlz on Wednesday.
Baylor signed 5-foot-6 Alexis Morris, 5-7 guard Cara Ursin, 5-9 guard Trinity Oliver and 6-1 guard DiDi Richards. Morris, Oliver and Richards are from Texas and Ursin is from Louisiana.
“We don’t get caught up in how each player is ranked,” Mulkey said. “We evaluate what we need by position and their talent and how they’ll fit in this program. I can say we’re as happy with this class as any class we’ve signed.
“We’re always going to recruit our state and we feel like we’re connected nationally, and we felt like these four players reflect that. Recruiting is the lifeblood of all programs, and we lose four outstanding seniors after this year so we needed to keep reloading.”
Two of the players committed to other schools before deciding on Baylor. Morris, from Legacy Christian Academy, decommitted from UCLA and Richards, from Cypress Ranch, decommitted from Big 12 rival Texas.
Mulkey, as a rule, doesn’t continue to recruit players once they commit to another school even though any player can still be recruited until they sign a letter of intent.
“We just don’t operate that way,” Mulkey said. “We just cut off all communication … I just don’t want to muddy the waters and make it stressful and not fun for the kids.”
Morris, the No. 6 guard in the country according to ESPN, committed to Baylor in September and averaged 25 points, 8.4 assists, 8.2 rebounds and 4.7 steals per game last season while leading Legacy to a runner-up finish at the 3A TAPPS State Tournament.
Mulkey compared Morris to former Baylor guard Niya Johnson, who was picked No. 28 overall by Atlanta in April’s WNBA Draft and finished No. 5 on the NCAA’s career assists chart.
“Alexis has been on our radar since she was in the seventh and eight grade, just like (Baylor freshman) Juicy Landrum,” Mulkey said. “She’s a true point guard, and can score or distribute when she needs to. Just like Niya Johnson, she wants to be the quarterback on the floor.”
Ursin, the two-time Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year, averaged 25 points, 12.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 5.5 blocks last season for Destrehan High. Because of her size, it’s not easy to imagine Richards playing two or three different spots on the floor for the Lady Bears.
“We’re fortunate that we have size just not in the paint, but on the perimeter,” Mulkey said. “DiDi isn’t just a great shooter, she’s a great competitor.”
Mulkey actually discovered Oliver when she went to go recruit another player. Oliver averaged 25.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 1.3 blocks last season for Euless Trinity.
“I was there to see another player on the other team, and I just kept watching (Oliver),” Mulkey said. “She often guards the other team’s best player, and is in a great high school program ... she already has a college-built body and I just the love the way she competes.”
Baylor, which has won six straight Big 12 regular season and tournament titles, opens the season on Friday against Houston Baptist at the Ferrell Center.