The impact of Lindsay Whalen on Gophers recruiting is already being felt.
Minnesota’s new women’s basketball coach picked up her second recruit in less than a week, with four-star senior guard Mercedes Staples signing Wednesday to play for the U next season.
“I am excited to be a part of something great,” Staples said Wednesday night.
The 5-10 guard at Viewmont High School in Utah is ranked No. 64 in the Class of 2018 by ESPN’s HoopGurlz. She originally signed to play for Clemson, but Staples was allowed out of her national letter of intent after Tigers coach Audra Smith was fired.
Staples was coached by former WNBA player Natalie Williams at the AAU level in Utah. She said Whalen’s playing experience with the Lynx was a major factor in her picking the Gophers.
“I have been coached by an incredible WNBA player, Natalie Williams, for the last four years,” Staples said. “She coached me up to where I am. I believe Lindsay will have the same influence on me. How could I pass that opportunity?”
The Centerville, Utah, product averaged 22 points, 4.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 steals for Viewmont last season, helping the Vikings reach the Class 5A state quarterfinals. Staples and Stillwater junior guard Sara Scalia, who announced her commitment to Minnesota on Twitter on Sunday, are Whalen’s first two recruits since the Gophers legend was hired to replace Marlene Stollings last month.
“Mercedes is someone that has a lot of different skills and brings a lot to the team,” Whalen said in a statement. “She can pass it with the best of them, can see the floor, can shoot and can score it.
“She’s got great size and length so we’re really excited about her joining our Gopher family. Getting to know her and her family over the last few weeks has been really fun, and we’re just thrilled that she’s going to be a part of our program.”
Staples joins fellow signees Delaynie Byrne (Arvada, Colo.), Lesila Finau (Dublin, Calif.), Houlfat “Happy” Mahouchiza (Marseille, France) and Jaidah Stewart (Kirkwood, Mo.) in the 2018-19 class. Mahouchiza is a sophomore at South Georgia Technical College.