LOS ANGELES -- UCLA head women's basketball coach Cori Close announced today the signing of five highly-rated high school standouts to national letters of intent. The class has been rated No. 1 in the country by most recruiting services including ESPN’s HoopGurlz, Blue Star Basketball and Prospects Nation to name a few. The class includes five players all ranked in the Top 40 in the country, including three in the Top 10.
The class consists of Jordin Canada (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward HS), Recee’ Caldwell (San Antonio, Texas/FEAST), Lajahna Drummer (Inglewood, Calif./Long Beach Poly), Kelli Hayes (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty HS) and Monique Billings (Corona, Calif./Santiago HS). The five newcomers complete the Bruins' early signing class and will enter UCLA in the fall of 2014 as freshmen and will become members of the 2014-15 women's basketball team.
"It’s with great humility and excitement and passion all wrapped up into one that I welcome this incredible class of Bruins," Coach Close said. "I’m just so excited for how this puzzle of five incredibly gifted young ladies on and off the court fit together to help continue to grow our program here at UCLA. I really want to say thank you to the administration, to the support staff and to all of the people who worked so hard to put us in a position to have the first ever No. 1 recruiting class in this program’s history."
Canada, a 5-6 point guard, averaged 17.0 points, 8.0 assists, 5.0 steals and 4.0 rebounds per game in the 2012-13 season, helping lead her Windward High School team out of Los Angeles, Calif., to a CIF Division 4AA state championship with a 30-0 record. The Wildcats also won the 4AA title her freshman season in 2010-11. She has been named first team All-League and League MVP all three seasons (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13) and was named the Los Angeles Times Player of the Year in 2012-13 as a junior. The Windward Offensive Player of the Year and team MVP in 2010-11 also won a gold medal with Team USA’s U16 squad in 2011. Canada is ranked as one of the Top 10 players in the country by most recruiting services including No. 4 by Prospects Nation, No. 6 by ESPN’s HoopGurlz, No. 7 by Full Court, No. 9 by BlueStar Media and No. 9 by PB Media. She is also ranked near the top in the point guard rankings, coming in as the No. 2 rated PG by HoopGurlz, Full Court and Prospects Nation and the No. 3 PG by PB Media.
"Jordin is an automatic nightmare for any defense," Close said. "Her quickness and her ability to get into the seams of the defense affect both sides of the ball. The fact that I’m able to be her coach is pretty spectacular. Her whole entire family understands the mission of UCLA and the mission of our women’s basketball program. Jordin is really special in the way that she can play at high speeds and make the defense make choices, and she’s an absolutely selfless distributor of the basketball. She’ll have an opportunity to make an immediate impact."
Caldwell, a 5-9 point guard, started all 33 games and averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game as a sophomore in 2011-12, leading Claudia Taylor Johnson to a 27-7 record. She was named to the 2012 San Antonio Express-News Super Team and to the 2012 Texas Association of Basketball Coaches All-State Team. She averaged 20.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game as a freshman in 2010-11. She was also on the Team USA U16 squad with Canada that won a gold medal. Caldwell is ranked as one of the Top 10 players in the country by most recruiting services including No. 6 by Prospects Nation, No. 7 by PB Media, No. 9 by ESPN’s HoopGurlz and No. 19 by Full Court. She is also ranked near the top in the point guard rankings, coming in as the No. 2 rated PG by PB Media, the No. 3 rated PG by HoopGurlz and Prospects Nation and the No. 5 PG by Full Court. While she is from Texas, Caldwell grew up in Riverside, Calif.
"Recee’ really was the start of the domino effect in this recruiting class," Close said. "She was the first one to get on board and say ‘I want to be a part of this special thing at UCLA.’ The very first time I talked to her, she attempted to give me an 8-clap over the phone to show me her history of loving UCLA. It still needs work, but she grew up loving the Bruins. She and her family were probably our best recruiters of the class. Recee’ has great leadership, shoots the basketball really well and stretches the defense. She is very vocal and has a great basketball IQ, far beyond her years. We’re really lucky to have her and Jordin (Canada) in our backcourt."
Drummer, a 6-1 forward, averaged 16.6 points, 12.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 5.0 blocks and 2.2 steals per game during the 2012-13 season for the St. Bernard Vikings. She will be attending Long Beach Poly for her senior year. She was named first team All-League and League MVP as well as first team All-CIF in 2012-13. Drummer is ranked as one of the Top 10 players in the country by most recruiting services including No. 8 by ESPN’s HoopGurlz and No. 10 by Prospects Nation, Full Court and PB Media. She is also ranked near the top in the forward rankings, coming in as the No. 3 rated forward by HoopGurlz, Full Court, Prospects Nation and the PB Media.
"Lajahna is a woman among girls in high school," Close said. "She will have such an immediate impact in terms of the physicality of the game and how hard she plays. People will have to match her intensity and it will raise the level of our practices, let alone the level of our games. You usually have to teach, even great players, the speed and how hard you have to play at the next level. Lajahna will not need to be taught that. Not only is she fast, but she’s powerful and aggressive. She’s developed a great mid-range jumper. She takes pride in how hard she plays and loves to compete and win. I feel like her competitive drive is going to be such a fuel behind what this class wants to accomplish."
Hayes, a 6-0 guard, averaged 17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in the 2012-13 season, helping lead her Archbishop Mitty High School team out of San Jose, Calif., to a 24-7 record. She scored 25 points (16 in the second half) to help the Monarchs win the CIF Central Coast Section title. She also led the team with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. The Monarchs went on to win the Division II state championship. She was named the CCS Player of the Year in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and the Cal-Hi CCS Player of the Year as a junior last year. She was also named the WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) Player of the Year as a sophomore (2011-12). Hayes is ranked as one of the Top 50 players in the country by most recruiting services including No. 26 by ESPN’s HoopGurlz, No. 29 by Full Court, No. 33 by PB Media and No. 42 by Prospects Nation. She is also ranked near the top in the wing rankings, coming in as the No. 7 wing by Prospects Nation, No. 9 by HoopGurlz and the No. 12 forward by Full Court.
"Kelli Hayes is such an unsung hero," Close said. "She does all of the non-statistical things that are the difference between winning and losing. She has a great IQ and will defend any place on the floor. She can score from the deep jumper to the post up and is very versatile. She’s a walking mismatch. What she can do in terms of her on court giftedness is spectacular but her work ethic and her leadership is what puts her into a special category. She’s a rope holder; she gets all the people on the same rope and makes sure everybody is connected. Kelli Hayes’ impact on our program will not only be deep, but it will also be wide."
Billings, a 6-4 forward, averaged 12.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.4 blocks and 2.3 steals per game in the 2012-13 season, helping lead her Santiago High School team out of Corona, Calif., to a CIF-SS Division 1AA championship with a 28-2 record. She was named first team All-Big VIII League and All-CIF last year (2012-13) as a junior. Billings is ranked as one of the Top 40 players in the country by most recruiting services including No. 17 by Prospects Nation, No. 20 by PB Media, No. 27 by Full Court and No. 37 by ESPN’s HoopGurlz. She is also ranked near the top in the forward rankings, coming in as the No. 6 rated forward by Prospects Nation, No. 8 by HoopGurlz, No. 9 by PB Media and No. 10 by Full Court.
"Monique Billings is one of the most spectacular athletes I’ve ever seen," Close said. "She has a tremendous spring off the floor and is very quick. She’s a great player now, but her potential could go to absolutely new heights. Her upside is almost indescribable. She can shoot the basketball, she can run the floor, and she’s a phenomenal shot blocker not only in her rise but also in her timing. She’s just so athletic. She can guard a point guard or she can guard a five. It really doesn’t matter, her athleticism and her length, it’s very impactful on both sides of the ball."
“I’m the one who deserves the least amount of credit and I’m the most grateful because a lot of people worked really hard to get this class here,” Close added. “All five of them walked into Pauley Pavilion and looked up and appreciated the history of what had come before them and saw the banners hanging from the rafters and noticed that not one of those is an NCAA women’s basketball national championship. They make no bones about it, they are coming here to change that. It will take great sacrifice and drive, and they know what’s ahead of them. They’re ready to put their stamp on this incredible place.”