Before the current freshmen class has even taken the floor for a
regular season game, the Michigan women’s basketball team has
signed four standout players for next year’s class.

The players who committed during the early signing period are
6-foot-2 forward Carly Benson from Carney, 6-foot-2 forward Ashley
Jones from Detroit, 6-foot-1 forward Melinda Queen from Oak Forest,
Ill., and 5-foot-7 guard Jessica Minnfield from Toledo.

“This is really the first class where we knew what our
needs were,” coach Cheryl Burnett said.

Burnett’s initial class — the current seven freshmen
— was a guard-heavy class featuring five players in the
backcourt. To balance that class, three athletic players —
6-foot-1 or taller — were brought in along with another point
guard to complement current freshman Becky Flippin.

With just two seniors — Tabitha Pool and BreAnne McPhilamy
— leaving next year, the class will help provide depth to a
Michigan team that has just 10 scholarship players on the current
roster.

“In terms of the entire class and their athleticism, they
are tremendously athletic and skilled,” Burnett said.

Benson — a senior at Carney Nadeau High School — is
enjoying a great senior season, averaging 21.1 points, 10.2
rebounds, 6.5 steals and five assists per game, while earning a
spot as one of nine finalists for the 2004 Michigan Miss Basketball
award. Benson is another example of the type of well-rounded
student-athlete Burnett is looking for. She is the president of the
Carney Nadeau chapter of National Honor Society.

“We look for special people, players and students,”
Burnett said. “Our players succeed in the classroom, on the
court and socially.”

Benson is not the only 2004 Michigan Miss Basketball award
finalist in the class. Jones, who attends Martin Luther King High
School, is also an award finalist. Jones is averaging 13.0 points,
nine rebounds and four assists per game.

“We are always going to establish the success of this
program by recruiting Michigan players , and this is true for a
variety of reasons,” Burnett said in a statement from the
Michigan athletic department. “In any program, whether its
football or basketball, if you are keeping the cream of the crop at
home, you will always be able to build that in-state
pride.”

Michigan was also able to get some solid out- of-state players.
Minnfield — who hails from the same high school as current
Wolverine Kelly Helvey — averaged 16 points, nine assists and
four steals per game as a junior en route to All-Toledo and
All-District first-team honors, as well as all-state honorable
mention honors.

Melinda Queen, the final member of the class, has twice been a
Street and Smith’s All-American honorable mention. Queen has
helped lead her team to two conference championship and joins
Benson as a National Honor Society member.

“I think this second recruiting class is a major step
forward in our program in terms of the overall skill and
athleticism,” Burnett said in her statement by the Michigan
athletic department.

“After getting to know the seven freshmen currently in the
program, this was first time we could recruit a class that would
complement who we already had in the program.”

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