For the Michigan women’s basketball team to be a top program, it needs to bring in impact players who have the choice of any school in the country. Last Thursday, Michigan added a fifth and final signee to its 2004-2005 recruiting class — 6-foot-3 forward Stephany Skrba from Richmond Hill, Ontario.

“We worked very hard on Stephany Skrba,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “We call her a statement player; 120 schools contacted her and she cut her schools to four and we made the cut.”

Skrba becomes the fourth forward in the class and is considered by many to be the No. 1 women’s basketball high school player in Canada.

The coaches have not determined how they are going to use Skrba’s abilities, but they do believe she has the versatility and agility to play both the small and power forward positions.

Burnett and the rest of the staff worked extremely hard on Skrba and have been waiting on her to sign since the team’s first four recruits signed Nov. 11.

“She is a player that could really choose where she wanted to go,” Burnett said. “We look at her as one of the top five players in the country for what we want to do.”

Skrba is averaging more than 30 points per game as a senior, but she is also an honor student at Langstaff Secondary School — exactly the type of student-athlete the coaching staff is looking for.

“When you are the University of Michigan and have some of the best academics in the world, the facilities, the academic center, we just have a great dream to sell,” Burnett said.

Besides excelling on her school team, Skrba was one of the key members of the Canadian Junior (Under-18) National Team that earned a bronze medal at the 2004 FIBA Americas Under-18 World Championship qualifying tournament this past summer.

Free points: Going into the game on Monday, the Michigan coaching staff was worried about the two defenses that Washington was going to use — a switching man and 1-3-1 zone.

“We haven’t seen a lot of either, and I thought that our players did a wonderful job, especially in the second half,” Burnett said.

In the first half of Michigan’s 75-68 win, the Wolverines committed 15 turnovers while adjusting to the new defenses. The second half was a different story. Michigan was able to attack the hoop and draw fouls against the Huskies. While the team did not shoot particularly well from the line — making just 57.7 percent — it was enough to seal the win.

“They were in the bonus awfully early and were able to take advantage of it,” Washington coach June Daugherty said. “Honestly, we were just not moving our feet against the pressure of dribble penetration and giving up too easily in the second half.”

Michigan shot 39 times from the line to Washington’s eight. This disparity helped Michigan take control of the game and keep the pressure on the Huskies. Burnett credits the better ball movement for the increase in opportunities at the line for her team.

“We talk so much about ball reversal breaking down the opponent,” Burnett said. “We always talk about how it is very easy to guard any team on one side — let’s see how people can guard on the second side.”


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