Even in wake of her team’s defeat to Michigan State last Tuesday, Tonya Cardoza couldn’t fight off a grin when asked about her newly acquired “fireball.”
The sixth-year Temple coach saw four recruiting prospects officially put pen to paper last month upon signing their national letters of intent to join Temple’s women’s basketball squad.
Edgewater Park, N.J., native Alliya Butts, heads Temple’s four-player recruiting class of 2014 despite her 5-foot-4-inch frame. A four-star recruit, Butts checks in at No. 87 on the ESPNU Hoopgurlz 100, a ranking of the Top 100 players in the country.
“Alliya is an explosive little fireball at the point position who can really change the tempo of the game,” Cardoza said. “She’s a lot like [freshman guard Feyonda Fitzgerald], who can really push the tempo on the floor, and that’s something special. Her and [Feyonda] are really going to complement each other when they’re on the floor.”
“I’m a fast-burst point guard,” Butts said. “I have the ability to score the ball despite my height. I can shoot from outside-range when I need to and I can attack the rim and finish through contact … I think I have more to show than my frame. People look at me sometimes like I’m too small and I can surprise some people with my quickness and my abilities.”
In addition to Butts, who was given an ESPN “scout’s grade” of 94, Cardoza signed a trio of three-star recruits in forward Wendion Bibbins and guards Tanaya Atkinson and Khadijah Berger. Atkinson and Berger were both given scouting grades of 90, while Bibbins received mark of 89.
In these three recruits, Cardoza said she pulled in a rebounder, a do-it-all athlete and an intangible-heavy hard worker at the guard position.
Bibbins, a 6-foot-1 forward out of Helen Cox High School in Louisiana, will be brought in to help supplement the loss next year of current Temple senior forward Natasha Thames.
“[Bibbins is] someone that we’re looking for to come in here and rebound on both ends o the floor and play defense.”
“I love rebounding,” Bibbins said. “I feel like I can help with a blocked shot or a rebound, mainly my hustle, too. I put some heart into it.”
Bibbins, who hails from Harvey, La., and aspires to land a career as a detective after her playing days, said her ultimate motivation lies beyond a mere game.
“My dream is to be successful for my sisters and my brothers at home,” Bibbins said. “Whether it’s go to the pros or play overseas, or fall back on my degree in criminal justice, that way I can just come back and help them out. That’s all I want to do.”
Atkinson, a 5-foot-9 guard from Hill Regional High School in New Haven, Conn. with well-documented athletic ability, figures to help add depth to the guard position off the bench next year particularly with the loss of Temple graduate-senior Shi-Heria Shipp.
“Tanaya is an athletic wing who’s going to benefit playing with Alliya because she likes to run the floor and get to the basket,” Cardoza said. “She likes to get to the hole. She’s really athletic and can rebound the basketball and score around the paint.”
Atkinson is a reigning all-conference and all-state selection and averaged 20.4 points per game for Hill Regional in her junior year.
Berger was a USA Today Honorable Mention selection last year in a junior season in which she averaged 17.1 ppg. at Hampton High School in Virginia.
“Kadijya is just a hard worker who can shoot the ball, but she does a lot of the intangible things that go unnoticed,” Cardoza said. “She’s going to guard the best player, she boxes out, she’s going to come up with a lot of loose balls, she does a lot of the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Temple’s class of four nationally rated players figures to stack up as one of their better classes in recent years. With the Butts signing, Temple joined Connecticut, Louisville and Rutgers as the only American Athletic Conference schools to sign a Top 100 player.
“Right now Feyonda’s class has been our best because of the way she’s playing as a freshman, but as a whole, I would say this 2014 class is probably the best overall class that we’ve had in my time here,” Cardoza said. “You never know how it pans out until they’re junior or senior year, but as of right now this is probably the best overall class we’ve had.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @daParent93.