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Thursday, April 4, 2013
Recruits keep close eye on Final Four teams

By Walter VIlla

Louisville's run to the women's Final Four nearly came at a high price.

The fifth-seeded Cardinals upset No. 1 Baylor last Sunday in Oklahoma City, eliminating the defending national champions and ending the brilliant career of 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner.

A few hundred miles away, future Cardinal Emmonnie Henderson, a 6-foot-1 senior guard from Edwardsville (Ill.), was watching the game from her family's couch.

"I was screaming so loud at the TV that I damaged my knee," Henderson said. "When we won the game, I jumped up and hit my knee against our glass table."

Don't panic, Cardinals fans. Henderson is bruised but fine.

I had Louisville in my bracket winning it all, and I have faith in my team. Im just so proud of everyone at Louisville.

-- Emmonnie Henderson

Still, somebody may want to hide any potentially harmful furniture Sunday when Louisville plays Cal in the semifinals in New Orleans.

Henderson, a three-time state champion in the shot put and a two-time champ in the discus, would love to be in the Big Easy this weekend, rooting for the Cardinals in the Final Four. But she has a track meet to attend.

"I will be watching on my couch again with my entire family," said Henderson, who had 20 people over for Sunday's upset.

"I had Louisville in my bracket winning it all, and I have faith in my team," she said. "I'm just so proud of everyone at Louisville."

The same can surely be said of the recruits of the other Final Four teams -- Connecticut, Notre Dame and Cal.

Three of them -- Connecticut signee Saniya Chong and Notre Dame commits Taya Reimer and Lindsay Allen -- will be in New Orleans to play in Saturday's WBCA High School All-America Game.

All three are planning to stay for Sunday's semifinals, but only Reimer and Allen will be able to stay for Tuesday's title game -- assuming Notre Dame gets past Connecticut.

Chong, a 5-foot-9 guard at Ossining (N.Y.) and the fourth-leading scorer in the history of New York girls' basketball, was in Bridgeport, Conn., on Saturday when the Huskies defeated Maryland to advance to the Elite Eight. She was back in Bridgeport on Monday when the Huskies beat Kentucky to advance to the Final Four for the sixth straight season.

"I've learned a lot by watching the tournament," Chong said. "I saw that everything isn't always going to be easy. You saw that with Baylor, when everyone was predicting they were going to win it all.

"If you give it your all, you never know what will happen."

Chong said the atmosphere at the tournament games she attended was "amazing" -- among other adjectives.

"I wouldn't say it was intimidating," she said, responding to a question, "just remarkable."

Reimer, a 6-foot-2 forward for Hamilton Southeastern (Fishers, Ind.), said the tournament has been "crazy" so far with all the upsets.

"Hopefully the road has been set up where [Notre Dame] can win the national championship," said Reimer, who played in the McDonald's All-American Game on Wednesday night in Chicago. "They've come up short the past two years, and it would be really special for Skylar [Diggins] to get [the title] in her senior season."

Allen, a 5-foot-8 point guard from St. John's College in Washington, D.C., said her parents got tickets for the title game.

"Hopefully Notre Dame is in it and wins it all," said Allen, another McDonald's All-American. "I'm really looking forward to [playing for Notre Dame] next year."

Courtney Range, a 6-foot-3 forward for St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.), won't be able to make it to New Orleans -- but she will be watching on television along with the rest of her family.

"It was too expensive to go all the way down there," Range said. "It's disappointing -- trust me. I would go if I could. But it's OK. I will be watching just like I have every Cal game."

Courtney's last name is fitting because she has felt a range of emotions while watching her Bears.

"It's exciting but upsetting at the same time," she said. "You see certain things but you can't do anything to help.

"But I've learned a lot from watching, like how they make certain moves, when to drive and when to pull up. & Sometimes it's OK to foul and not let them get a breakaway layup. And I also saw how the referees were calling the game and how physical you can be [in each game]."

While she studied each game intently, one thing was taboo in the Range home -- no thumb exercises while Cal is playing.

"Not even in the commercials," Range said with a laugh. "My dad held the remote to make sure no one would change the channel."