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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
Tennessee's coaches built a rapport early with Jordan Horston and the Lady Vols players then followed suit regarding the nation's No. 2 ranked prospect.
The 6-foot guard from Columbus, Ohio, signed with UT early Wednesday morning on the first day of the November signing period. Fellow women's basketball signees Tamari Key and Emily Saunders were recruited in a similar manner, which is paying off nicely.
The past two years, UT signed classes that were ranked No. 4 and No. 1 nationally. The seven players from those classes make up the majority of a team that's 2-0 and ranked No. 12 before facing Florida A&M (0-2) at 2 p.m. Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
This season's signing class currently is ranked No. 6 by Prospectsnation.com and No. 9 by ESPN HoopGurlz.
Coach Holly Warlick assessed Tennessee's recruiting after the Lady Vols missed on their top targets for the 2016 class. She reconfigured her support staff to better serve this crucial endeavor and re-evaluated strategy.
Getting a head start
For starters, Warlick believes that UT is doing a better job of foreseeing needs and identifying prospects.
"I think our staff does a great job of identifying and getting out and seeing kids, building relationships," Warlick said. "That's what recruiting is all about. Seeing who fits in your system and building that relationship."
Horston, Key and Saunders all made early unofficial visits, which helped fast-forward the process. Key and Saunders both committed last spring. Horston's mother, Malika, sensed that UT began separating itself from a crowded field earlier this year just by phone conversations between the coaching staff and her daughter.
Players serve as closers
Warlick said the players have been elevating their roles as recruiters above themselves.
"You've got to have players who are not looking from within," Warlick said. "They're not thinking, 'Gosh if we get this young lady (she's) going to take my spot.' You've got to have kids on your team that are confident, that are willing to do things for the program."
Warlick believes that the current players grasp a bigger picture.
"I'm not going to say they don't get upset on individual things," she said. "But they know kids out there. They want to play with certain kids and they're going to recruit these kids because they want talent, because they want to win."
Malika Horston thought other schools were measured against Tennessee after her daughter's official campus visit in late August.
"I just felt like the girls on this team, they act like me," Jordan said.
Volleyball a primer for basketball
The 6-5 Key, who's from Cary, N.C., and the 6-4 Saunders from Mullens, W.Va., cast long shadows on defense. Saunders averaged 6.1 blocks per game last season while Key averaged 5.8.
"Both of those kids played volleyball," Warlick said. "And I always say I love big kids that played volleyball because they know how to block shots and not foul. They've been taught that."
Ashley Robinson and Isabelle Harrison, who are among UT's career leaders in blocks, played volleyball in high school.
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