By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Twenty-two high school athletes from across the country signed on today to play for Baylor as a part of national signing day for basketball, baseball and softball.
Head women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey brings in the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the country, according to ESPN.
Mulkey said the group will help keep the Lady Bears in the national spotlight for the coming years.
“I am thrilled to welcome these five talented and well-rounded young ladies to the Lady Bear basketball family,” Mulkey said. “Our program is gaining elite student-athletes, but more importantly, invested parents and families, who were very involved in each of their daughters’ college decision. They will continue to help us keep our program at an elite level, which gives us a lot to look forward to in the future. We are excited to welcome the Fierce Five to Baylor.”
The class consists of wing Aquira DeCosta, forward NaLyssa Smith, post Queen Egbo, point guard Honesty Scott-Grayson and wing Caitlin Bickle.
DeCosta and Smith are ranked in the top 10 of espnW HoopGurlz recruiting rankings and all five players are in the top 30 with five-star ratings.
Mulkey said Smith has the chance to be one of the best players the Lady Bears have ever had.
“We’ve been following NaLyssa and recruiting her heavily for the last five years,” Mulkey said. “NaLyssa has the ability to play and defend every position on the floor. She can certainly be one of the most impactful players we’ve had in our program, and keeping her in-state was a high priority for me and my staff.”
Head men’s basketball coach Scott Drew brings in two players for his 2018 recruiting class.
Small forward Matthew Mayer is ranked No. 57 in the ESPN 100 and shooting guard Darius Allen is a four-star junior college prospect from Palm Beach State.
Palm Beach head coach Martin McCann said Allen’s relationship with Baylor assistant coach Alvin Brooks contributed to his decision to play for the Bears.
“Baylor feels at home for Darius and he’s created a strong relationship with Coach Brooks,” McCann told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “He really enjoyed getting to know some of their players.”
While Drew and his staff still have a chance to snag more recruits in the late signing period, these two will provide a foundation for the class.
Drew said Mayer will bring offensive versatility to the Bears when he arrives for his freshman year.
“Offensively, he’s very talented and he continues to grow,” Drew said. “He’s somebody that is very versatile and can play a number of positions. He’s a great student and he’ll be a great representative for Baylor University.”
Head baseball coach Steve Rodriguez brings in a versatile group of seven players- six of whom are Texas natives.
Braxton Ashcraft, Logan Freeman, Brooks Helmer, Ricky Martinez, Anderson Needham, Ryan Segner and Branson Wilson are all listed as right-handed pitchers, but Ashcraft, Helmer, Martinez and Wilson can all play multiple positions on defense.
Rodriguez said the coaching staff is excited to bring in the next generation of Baylor pitchers.
“We went heavy on pitching to bolster the amount of quality frontline arms that will make an immediate impact to our pitching staff,” Rodriguez said. “Our program is developing a solid foundation for the future and we are very excited about the direction we are going.”
Ashcraft could have played wide receiver in college, but he chose to pursue his dream of being a professional baseball player.
“In my living room, as a little kid, my dream was to be like Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw,” Ashcraft told the Waco-Tribune Herald. “Those were the guys I looked up to. To see that dream in front of me is great, but to a degree it’s kind of overwhelming when you think your dreams could actually come true.”
The 2017 College World Series participant Baylor softball team will add eight players from the 2018 recruiting class.
Head coach Glenn Moore added five players from Texas, one from Oklahoma, one from Kansas and one from Missouri.
Moore said the group is very diverse and will be solid foundation for the team in the coming years.
“This is a very diverse class and certainly one of the largest we’ve ever signed,” Moore said. “With a transfer and possibly a redshirt we will still have at least six incoming freshmen. We have every area covered with left-and right-handed pitching, catching, infield and outfield.”
Outfielders Lindsey Gilbert, Josie Bower, Ana Watson and Casey Shell, first baseman Kendall Cross, catcher Tyler Trott and pitchers Madison Lindsey and Sidney Holman will look to replace production lost from graduated seniors.