WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Cowles, Lady Tops sign trio

J. Michael Moore

The Lady Topper coaching staff took the team approach to this year’s recruiting class.

Mary Taylor Cowles and her staff had their backs against the wall when she was named head coach in March. Time was of the essence.

But with scholarships to give and a little enthusiasm, they set to work with the mindset that no one else in the country would match their work ethic and persistence.

It seems to have worked.

Cowles announced last week that the Lady Toppers have found three high school seniors. She said each signed national letters of intent indicating they will play their college basketball at Western, starting next fall.

Natalie Benton, a 6-foot-2 post player from Global Studies High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds per game last season, leading her team to a 12-4 record.

The Lady Toppers also got a commitment from Lakewood, Calif., native Cacie Pope. Pope, a 6-foot-1 post threat, helped Artesia High School to the California state championship last season, averaging 18 points and nine rebounds per game.

She was named to the All-California Interscholastic Federation first team.

And Amber Holt, a 5-foot-11 guard from Lilburn, Ga., rounded out Western’s early commitments. Holt averaged 20 points per game at Meadowcreek High School and was named a Street and Smith honorable mention All-American.

She was also picked as second-team all state and was named an Adidas Top Ten Camp All-Star selection.

“I think all three have the right athleticism to help us as freshman,” Cowles said. “Amber, even though she’s a natural shooting guard, can also help us down low.”

Cowles said Benton and Pope may also step in right away and fill gaps in the post game.

But the quest for fresh talent isn’t over for Cowles and assistant coaches Kyra Elzy, Carrie Daniels and David Graves. Cowles said it took the four of them to land the current recruits, and it will take all four to add additional bulk in the coming signing periods.

“Anyone who thinks there is a physical or mental break now is wrong,” Cowles said. “We’ve got to have four, five, or six players coming in next year.”

The NCAA fall signing period ends tomorrow, but Cowles expects no other perspective recruits to sign until the late signing period in the spring.