Best class ever?

Women’s basketball head coach Charity Elliott can barely contain her enthusiasm for this year’s recruiting class. “I’m excited about everyone,” Elliott said, “About the quality of people, but also for their abilities as players.”

The Vikings welcome seven new players for next year in addition to red-shirters Monica Uhlrig, a 6-3 center, and forward Brianna Thompson, a six-footer.

“We’re going to be young, but more talented,” Elliott said. “It’s pretty unusual to have that many new players.” Though Elliott isn’t worried about assimilating her new players, she indicated that it will be the responsibility of current players to help in the transition.

The biggest change from last year’s roster is all of the added scoring threats. Klamath Falls High School star Jennie Ritter is just one of many new options. “Jennie just has a scorer’s mentality,” Elliott said. She called Ritter’s signing a coup for Portland State. “She is just a tremendous talent.”

University of Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti’s daughter Keri Bellotti is also a key signee. Elliott covets her court smarts and shooting touch and envisions her seeing time at this point. “Keri understands the recruiting process,” Elliott said. “It speaks highly that she chose to come here.”

The Vikings got much bigger inside, an area where they had little depth last season and needed to improve upon if they are to be competitive. The addition of California native Necolia Simmons should go a long way in establishing an inside presence. “She is going to be difficult to stop,” Elliott said of the six-foot center. “Both on the boards, but also on offense down low.”

The more dynamic offense should keep some of the pressure off of Viking star Heather Arns, who led the team in every relevant offensive and defensive category in 2004-2005.

Arns, despite averaging over 15 points a game and leading the Big Sky in steals, was slighted when the all-conference team was chosen. “Heather was extremely consistent last year and of course she was disappointed,” Elliott said. “This is just motivation for the future.”

Not that anyone on this Viking team needs motivation. The Vikes suffered through a challenging 3-23 season, including several close losses. “I wish I had a dime for every time people said ‘you play so hard,'” Elliott joked. Now there is potential for hard work to pay off in wins, though there is still room for improvement.

“They all have to improve on their own over the summer,” Elliott explained. Coaches aren’t allowed to interact with players from the time school lets out until fall. “No one can afford to take the summer off, or they’ll come in behind.”

An unprecedented five of seven signees are Oregon players. Elliott cited Oregon coaches for “laying the foundation” for talented players. “I’ve gained an incredible amount of respect for Oregon girls’ basketball,” she said. “It just makes sense to recruit from Oregon.”