Men's, Women's Hoops Classes Announced

Five men and four women signed with West Virginia on the first day of the early signing period for men's and women's basketball.

West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins has announced the signing of Aaron Brown, Pat Forsythe, Jabarie Hinds, Tommie McCune and Keaton Miles to national letters of intent for the 2011-12 academic year.

"We are certainly excited about this class," says Huggins. "We believe that we answered a lot of our needs in different areas with the departure of five seniors next year."

Brown, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound wing, is currently in his senior year at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne, Pa., where he plays for coach Clyde Jones. Last year as a junior, Brown averaged 18.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and is considered the best player in Delaware County, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. He is ranked as the 27th-best small forward by Scout.com and the 29th-best small forward by ESPN.com.

A native of Darby, Pa., Brown, who is left-handed, attended Roman Catholic High as a freshman. He scored a team-high 20 points in leading Penn Wood to its first District 1 Class AAAA championship in beating Plymouth-Whitemarsh. He played AAU basketball with Team Final, coached by Rob Brown.

"Aaron will hopefully give us toughness and perimeter defense," says Huggins. "He is a guy who loves to play basketball and is constantly in the gym. Aaron also should give us consistent perimeter shooting. He should fill a void on the wing with the losses of Casey Mitchell and Jonnie West."

Forsythe, a 6-foot-10, 210-pound center, is from Brunswick, Ohio, where he is in his senior year at Brunswick High, playing for coach Joe Mackey. Last year as a junior, he played the first 12 games of the season in a brace while he recovered from a fractured vertebrae. He went on to average five points, seven rebounds and nearly three blocks a game on a team that finished with a 17-5 record.

Forsythe is rated as the 54th-best center by ESPN.com.

"Pat has tremendous upside," says Huggins. "The longer the recruiting process went on, more and more of the big name schools started coming to Brunswick. He runs the floor extremely well, has outstanding lateral quickness and has very effective footwork in the post. Obviously, he needs to improve his strength and gain some weight, but he really has an exciting upside."

Hinds, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound guard, is from Mount Vernon, N.Y., where he is in his senior year at Mount Vernon High, playing for coach Bob Cimmino. Hinds averaged 18.5 points, 4.5 steals and 4.0 assists last season as a junior. He has scored more than 1,000 points in his Mount Vernon High career.

Scout.com has Hinds at No. 13 among players at his position. He is ranked No. 13 at his position by ESPN.com and 73rd overall in the 2011 class. Hinds played AAU basketball for the Westchester Metro Hawks.

"Anytime Bob Cimmino compares you in the same breath as Ben Gordon, it certainly says a lot," says Huggins. "Jabarie gives us the ability to penetrate opposing defenses and create for himself or his teammates. He's extremely well-coached, coming from the storied Mount Vernon program. Jabarie will compete immediately for playing time."

McCune, a 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward, is from Saginaw, Mich., where he attends Saginaw High, playing for coach Lou Dawkins. Scout.com has McCune as the 26th-best power forward while ESPN.com has him ranked No. 24.

Last year as a junior, McCune averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots for Saginaw High. He played AAU basketball for Team Pride, where he averaged 44 points and 20 rebounds in July.

"Tommie is another guy with an exciting upside," says Huggins. "His length and perimeter skills will remind Mountaineer fans of Devin Ebanks. Tommie will add a tremendous boost to our overall team length and athleticism. He's a big-width guy with outstanding perimeter skills." <> Miles, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound small forward, is from Dallas, where he attends Lincoln High, playing for coach Leonard Bishop. Last year as a junior, Miles averaged 13.5 points and 12 rebounds per game in helping Lincoln to a 28-4 record and a trip to the third round of the UIL Class 4A playoffs. He played AAU basketball with the Dallas Mustangs.

Miles is listed as the 39th-best player at his position by ESPN.com. He is ranked No. 17 in the state by TexasHoops.com.

"Keaton is from the storied Dallas Lincoln High basketball program," says Huggins. "He will add immediate size and athleticism. His strengths are attacking the basket and at the defensive end. He is another player who loves being in the gym, and we expect him to show tremendous improvement each year because of his love for the game. Keaton is from a basketball family – his father and uncle were major Division I players.

"This class certainly has the opportunity to have the impact and to see the playing time that the Devin Ebanks-Kevin Jones-Truck Bryant class has had on the court. This will be an exciting class for Mountaineer fans to watch and enjoy for the next four years."

* * *

West Virginia University women's basketball coach Mike Carey announced today the signing of four players to the 2011-12 Mountaineer roster.

Akilah Bethel (Randallstown, Md./Academy of the Holy Cross), Averee Fields (Hazel, Ky./Calloway County), Crystal Leary (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor) and Linda Stepney (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor) make up West Virginia's 2011 signing class.

"Losing five seniors, it was very important for us to go out and get some quality players," Carey says. "We were able to do that and get a very athletic and skilled group. We're extremely pleased to have these four young ladies sign with West Virginia University."

Bethel, a 6-foot guard at the Academy of the Holy Cross, averaged 10.6 points per game as a junior. She led the Tartans to a 10-2 record last season and was ranked by All-Star Girls Report as the No. 144-best player in the country. Bethel was named first team all-conference in the prestigious Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. A native of Randallstown, Md., Bethel hails from the same hometown as Mountaineer standout and 2009-10 unanimous all-BIG EAST freshman team selection Asya Bussie.

"Akilah Bethel has great size for a shooting guard," Carey explains. "She can shoot the three and is very athletic and will fit our style of play so we're very excited about having her sign."

Fields, a 6-foot forward, led Calloway County High to the Regional Championship game for the third time in her four years. She is ranked among the top-100 girls basketball players in the country (No. 80 by ESPN HoopGurlz). She led the First Region in scoring, averaging 24.6 points per game, 12.4 rebounds per game and held a 57.9 field goal percentage. Fields was named a 2010 AAU All-American.

"Averee Fields can play a couple different positions in our system, so anytime we get somebody that can play several positions it is a benefit to our program," Carey says. "She is another person that can get up and down the floor and is very athletic, but can also score, so we're very excited about that."

Leary and Stepney have been playing basketball together since they were 11 years old. Leary is a 6-foot-2 forward and Stepney is a 5-foot-7 guard.

"Crystal and Linda are great friends and their families are great friends. We're very excited to get both of them. They have won a lot of games throughout their careers and they're used to winning. They have won state championships and those are the type of players we want in our system," Carey says. "They definitely have to come in here and learn our system and our style, but once they get our system and are on the floor together, the chemistry they have will work to our benefit."

Leary, who is ranked as the 77th-best player in the country by Blue Star Basketball Report, played at Granby High as a freshman and sophomore, and averaged 12.9 points and 9.5 rebounds as a junior at Lake Taylor. She earned Virginia AP AAA All-State second team honors following last season.

"Crystal Leary is a big-time athlete; one of the best athletes in the country," Carey says. "She is another player that will be able to play a couple positions and give us what we need defensively as well as offensively."

Stepney averaged 13.9 points, 4.7 assists and 3.3 steals per game and scored 17 points in the state championship game win over Princess Anne. As a first team Virginia AP AAA All-State selection, she was ranked as the 56th-best player in the country by Blue Star Basketball Report and was also named to the 2009-10 MaxPreps All-American Honorable Mention list.

"Linda is a point guard that is very athletic. She can score but also sets up a lot of people for some easy shots and we need that in our system. We need our point guards to be able to score and she'll give us that. She plays defense really well and gets after it on both ends. I think she'll come in here and contribute immediately," Carey explains.

The pair were the top two scorers on a Lake Taylor team that finished 30-1 and won the group AAA Virginia State Title in March. Both were first-team All-Tidewater picks. With the duo, Lake Taylor earned a No. 1 ranking in the state by South Hampton Roads and the Associated Press Group AAA polls. USA Today ranked the Titans 22nd in the nation. Lake Taylor won seven games by more than 50 points.

"They even play AAU together in the summer so they'll come in here with a lot of confidence, at the very least, they'll come in here knowing each other and knowing what each other is about when they're on the floor," says Carey.

Both Leary and Stepney were key performers for the Boo Williams Elite AAU team, one of the premier AAU teams in the nation.

"We're very excited about the whole group," Carey says. "With graduation of the five seniors, we need to fill holes on the perimeter. With Asya (Bussie), Ayana (Dunning) and Natalie (Burton) coming back, you can see we went out and filled a need with the perimeter players that are graduating. We have some young people on our team now and when we bring in this young group of freshmen, we're excited about the future of the program."

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