During Jody Wynn’s tenure with the Washington women’s basketball team, the defeats have nearly doubled the victories while the fourth-year coach rebuilds a program that made two deep NCAA tournament runs in successive years prior to her arrival in 2017.
The Huskies, who finished tied for ninth in the Pac-12 last season and are picked 11th in the conference’s preseason media poll this season, are expected to struggle once again.
However, if Washington’s latest recruiting haul is any indication, help is on the way.
Wynn assembled a five-player class, which includes A.J. Marotte, Marisa Davis, Avery VanSickle, Jess Finney and Olivia Pollerd, that’s ranked 16th nationally by espnW.
It’s the highest-ranked class for the Huskies since Washington was 11th on the espnW top-20 list in 2013.
“Recruiting is all about relationships, so yeah, we’ve been building toward this,” Wynn said. “It’s very exciting. So much goes into it. Yes, it’s a major accomplishment for our staff, our school and our team. But first and foremost, the credit goes to these young ladies.
“They come from great families and that’s really important to us, just knowing how to be a teammate and being selfless. They’re winners who played a high level whether it’s high school or club. And they have great work ethic. All of those qualities are really attractive to us.”
For the first time in school history, Washington landed four four-star-recruits (Marotte, Davis, VanSickle and Finney).
By comparison, the last time the Huskies secured multiple four-star prospects was in 2013 when they nabbed Kelsey Plum, the No. 26-ranked recruit, No. 65 Briana Ruiz and No. 71 Chantel Osahor.
Admittedly, Wynn has struggled to compete on the recruiting trail against Pac-12 powerhouses that routinely attract high-school all-Americans.
Stanford ranks No. 6 nationally among espnW’s top-25 2021 recruiting classes, followed by No. 7 USC, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 15 Arizona and No. 23 Arizona State.
“There are very few Kelsey Plums out there where a kid will turn down a top-five program to be a part of something unknown and build it herself,” said Wynn, who has compiled a 31-61 record at UW. “That’s a rare thing for girls. … I think maybe that’s why there’s less parity in the women’s game than in the men’s game.
“These five are kids that aren’t afraid of that challenge. That’s how our program is right now. It’s on the rise and gotten better every year and they recognize that. And they’re not afraid to come and try to prove themselves every day.”
Washington, South Carolina, North Carolina and Syracuse are the only schools to land four espnW top-100 prospects.
Marotte, a 6-foot guard from Cedar Park, Texas, highlights UW’s class and is ranked No. 63 nationally by espnW. Davis, a 6-1 wing from Surprise, Ariz., is No. 76 on the list followed by No. 85 VanSickle, a 5-10 guard from Castle Rock, Colo., and No. 94 Finney, a 5-10 guard from Scottsdale, Ariz.
Pollerd is a 6-2 forward from Australia, who led her country to a gold medal at the 2019 FIBA Under 17 Oceania Championships.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Marotte, Davis and Pollerd signed with Washington without taking a visit. Finney and VanSickle made unofficial trips to UW last year.
“They didn’t know each other beforehand, but they’ve become friends, which is really amazing,” Wynn said. “They met over Face Time and Zoom and they’re connected. They have group chats, even with our Aussie.
“A lot of times kids come in blind and they meet their teammates on moving day. But these girls have good leadership amongst them. Some of the intangible things are interwoven and I’m excited to see how that matures and could lead to wins on the court.”
Plum and Osahor led Washington to a 98-41 record, three NCAA tournament appearances, two trips to the Sweet Sixteen and a Final Four.
“We have some great young talent,” Wynn said. “Our freshman class brings a different dimension of athleticism that we never had here and can really defend and play in the open court. Then you add these five (recruits) and it bodes well for strong depth and interchangeable pieces.
“I don’t want to give empty promises because we’ve never coached these girls, but I will say they’re motivated to work. They want to watch game film. They’re YouTubing things. They want to learn as much as they can. They can’t wait to set foot on campus. And they’re winners. They want to win.”