WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Cowles nets first recruits

J. Michael Moore

The Lady Topper roster just got a little more crowded.

After playing the entire season with just nine available players, women’s basketball coach Mary Taylor Cowles is looking to fill vacancies and add more depth.

She made some progress Thursday, signing two more freshmen to join the three recruits signed in the early signing period.

Charlotte Marshall and Shardae Butler signed national letters of intent Thursday, joining Natalia Benton, Amber Holt and Cacie Pope as the first recruits of the Cowles’ era at Western.

Cowles was out of the office yesterday and unavailable for comment. But associate head coach David Graves echoed Cowles’ enthusiasm that she expressed in a press release from late last week.

Graves looks forward to Marshall’s versatility.

“I think she is a very versatile player,” he said. “That’s the thing you get with Charlotte. She has also played goalie in soccer. That’s a very demanding sport time wise and I don’t think she’s been able to totally commit to basketball. I think you’ll see her improve once she devotes her time primarily to academics and basketball.”

Marshall, a 5-foot-10 guard/forward earned second-team all-state honors two weeks ago after leading Shelby County High School to the Sweet Sixteen and a 29-4 record. She helped the Lady Rockers earn their second straight Eighth Region title, averaging 17.5 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.

Last week, she was named to the Kentucky-Indiana all-star team.

Shelby County coach Sally Zimmerman said Marshall has become familiar with Western’s campus, playing in Diddle Arena in tournaments and attending Lady Topper basketball camps.

While her best position may be at the shooting guard or small forward, Zimmerman believes Marshall can contribute across the board and slash to the basket, adjusting her game to the college level.

“I feel really good about where we’re sending her and you all should feel even better about getting her,” Zimmerman said. “I feel like she’s up-and-coming herself. I feel like her potential hasn’t even peaked itself.

“I don’t think she’s going to be willing to settle into one spot. I’ve had to play her a whole lot at the four and five just because I needed to.”

Graves said Marshall’s post play has made her a better defender.

Butler is a senior at East St. Louis High School in East St. Louis, Ill.

The 5-foot-3 guard averaged 15.2 points and eight assists last season, reportedly playing above her size.

Butler played the last seven years on the St. Louis Crusader AAU team. Her coach, Tim Hill, says she has a 30-inch vertical leap.

“Number one, you have a young lady that’s going to represent our program on the floor and off the floor the way we want to be presented,” Graves said. “Immediately she adds depth to our point guard position.”

Graves compares Butler to Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and Lady Topper Tiffany Porter-Talbert, who despite her smaller stature brings athletic ability to the court.

“I think the one way to sum Shardae up is great things come in small packages,” Graves said. “She’s going to dive on the floor, she’s going to lead the team, she’s going to do things like that. When you look at leadership it’s hard to look at height and numbers like that.”

Graves said Western has four scholarships it could give during the remainder of the late signing period. He’s unsure if the coaching staff will exhaust the supply, but said they have players they could sign in the coming weeks.

The Lady Toppers will host their end of the year banquet tonight in Diddle Arena. Western is coming off one of its best season’s in recent memory, winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, finishing 22-9 and losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Rutgers.

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