Signing day took on more importance than usual for the Missouri women’s basketball team Tuesday.
With five seniors, including four expected to be mainstays in the starting lineup, the Tigers began to look to the future by securing letters of intent from three high school seniors.
Missouri filled a big hole with Brittany Mannings, a 6-foot-3 center and coveted in-state recruit from Duchesne High in St. Charles. Mannings averaged 16.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.7 blocks while leading the Pioneers to the Class 4 state championship last year.
“I’m really excited for Brittany and I think it’s going to be a great fit,” Duchesne coach Charlie Elmendorf said. “It is also good for her to stay in the state and it will allow us to keep an eye on her.”
Mannings was selected to the All-State team and named Gateway Athletic Conference player of the year after her freshman and junior seasons. She also holds the Duchesne career record for rebounds and blocks.
Missouri will lose power forward Stretch James and center Melanie Fisher, both seniors, after this season, but Elmendorf said he thinks Mannings will be more than capable of satisfying Missouri’s need in the post next year.
“Brittany is a really strong player and very good offensively and defensively in the post and I think she’ll contribute a lot,” Elmendorf said. “But most importantly, she seems really excited about going to Missouri.”
Kassie Drew and Crystal Howard also signed with Missouri and both bring impressive resumes as well.
Drew, a 5-9 guard at Anna-Jonesborough (Ill.) High, is known for her 3-point shooting ability and made 11 3-pointers in one game last season, an Illinois record.
The Chicago Sun-Times named Drew a member of its All-State team each of the past three years. Drew was also one of two unanimous selections to the Associated Press All-State team last year after averaging 22 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Jim Drew, Kassie’s father and the Anna-Jonesborough athletic director, said more than 200 schools showed interest in his daughter, but her trip to Columbia sealed Missouri as her top choice.
“Everybody was recruiting her, but when it got down to it, it was Mizzou all the way,” Drew said. “It is just a perfect fit and coach (Cindy) Stein and her staff really did a first-rate job of recruiting.”
Howard, a 5-9 guard at Central High in Omaha Neb., averaged 17.5 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals last season.
With shooting guards Tracy Lozier and MyEsha Perkins using up their eligibility this season, Drew and Howard will help fill a void in Missouri’s backcourt next year.
The addition of Mannings, Drew and Howard leave only two roster spots unfilled for next season. The Missouri coaching staff said it hopes to fill those spots in the spring.