Six high school seniors signed National Letters of Intent to attend VCU in 2017, according to an announcement from women’s basketball coach Beth O’Boyle last month.
The group includes two Richmond natives: Sydnei Archie from St. Catherine’s School and Huguenot High School’s Taya Robinson.
The duo is joined by a pair of international recruits — Australian Chloe Malloy and New Zealander Tera Reed.
The final two recruits, Maddison Hattix-Covington and Del Sparks, come to VCU from Texas and New York, respectively.
Robinson, the highest-rated of the Rams’ 2017 recruits according to ESPN, ranked the No. 30 guard in the nation.
Robinson averaged 30 points, 4.2 assists and 10 rebounds as a junior at Richmond’s Huguenot High School. Her impressive junior season landed her several honors, including being named to both the 4A East All-Region Squad and the Conference 20 All-Conference First Team.
During her sophomore campaign, Robinson was named Conference 26 Player of the Year, 3A East All-Region Player of the Year and landed a spot on 3A All-State First Team.
O’Boyle said she’s excited to work with Robinson, who will have big shoes to fill following the graduation of current senior guards Keira Robinson, Isis Thorpe and Ashley Pegram.
“Taya is a very talented player who is a true leader on the court,” O’Boyle said. “You want the ball in her hands at the end of the game. She has a high basketball IQ and has great court vision. She truly has the ability to make her teammates better.”
Similarly, Hattix-Covington, the No. 37 ranked guard by ESPN, brings a well-rounded game to what will be a relatively new-look Rams squad.
As a junior, the 5-foot-11 wing averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals and four blocks per game for Killeen, Texas’ Ellison High School, earning her Coaches’ 6A All-Region II First-Team honors.
“(Hattix-Covington) is a proven winner with an extremely high level of athleticism and skill,” O’Boyle said. “She is a player who fills the stat columns with steals, points and rebounds. Her ability to rebound the ball and lead the break will be a great fit in our up-tempo style…(she) is also a natural leader with an incredible work ethic and I can’t wait for the opportunity to coach her.”
Reed, a native of New Zealand, spent the 2015-16 season at New Jersey’s Life Center Academy, where she averaged 16.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, three assists and two steals per-game as a junior. She brings with her an impressive basketball résumé, having played for her native country in the FIBA U17 Oceana World Qualifiers.
This month, Reed will co-captain New Zealand’s U18 team as they compete in the FIBA Oceana Qualifiers in Fiji.
O’Boyle said Reed brings a combination of length and athleticism, making her a tough matchup for the Rams’ future opponents.
“Tera is a very athletic player who can score in a variety of ways,” O’Boyle said. “Guarding a skilled 6-foot-1 wing with those types of skills is a very tough cover. In our pressing system, she can really create problems for opponents with her length and athleticism.”
Reed’s fellow international recruit, Australia’s Chloe Molloy, brings yet another seasoned pedigree with her to VCU.
Throughout her young career, Molloy helped navigate her team to a gold medal in the 2017 Australia Basketball 20’s Championship. The Aussie has also earned the 2015-16 Coaches Award, 2017 Community Leadership Award, 2017 College House Leader award and was named to the 2017 Australian Gems Squad.
“Chloe is a very talented combo guard who can shoot from the outside and does a great job of creating shots for her teammates,” O’Boyle said. “She is a tenacious on-the-ball defender who can play in our high-intensity defense and can really push the ball in transition. Coming from Australia, she brings a ton of international game experience and will be a great addition to our program.”
Sparks, a combo guard from Monsignor Scanlan High School in the Bronx, was named her team’s MVP after last season. As a sophomore, she was named to the All-City Second Team, following her inclusion as an All-City Honorable Mention as a freshman.
O’Boyle said she thinks Sparks’ impassioned game will make her a fan-favorite at VCU.
“Del plays with a ton of creativity and passion for the game,” O’Boyle said. “She plays really well in an up-tempo style and is truly a ton of fun to watch play. Our fans will love her.”
The Rams final recruit, Richmond’s Sydnei Archie, holds perhaps the most intriguing story of the 2017 recruiting class.
Following a standout freshman season at Chesterfield’s Monacan High School, Sparks suffered an ACL tear in a 2013 preseason game against Petersburg. Following a move to nearby St. Catherine’s School, Sparks saw her Division I dreams set back as she experienced a second ACL tear in as many years.
After an intensive recovery, Sparks chose to shrug off offers from high-major programs like the University of Miami, University of Florida and University of Georgia to instead follow in the footsteps of her father, Torrance Archie – who played for the Rams from 1996-98 – and suit up in the familiar black and gold.
O’Boyle said she’s extremely impressed with Archie’s drive and determination and looks forward to working with the soon-to-be second generation Ram.
“(Archie is) one of the toughest competitors I have watched play,” O’Boyle said. “She has worked extremely hard to overcome her injuries and get back on the court. We are excited to have the next generation stay within the VCU hoop family.”
Nick Versaw, Contributing Writer