Women’s basketball signs two highly-touted recruits

John Hageman

Days before the Minnesota women’s basketball team will begin their 2010 regular season, head coach Pam Borton announced the signing of two of the most talented players not only in Minnesota, but the nation.

Rachel Banham, a guard, and Kayla Hirt, a forward, signed their letters of intent Wednesday, and will represent the Gophers’ 2011 recruiting class.

Banham led Lakeville North to a 32-0 record last season and the Class AAAA championship with 25 points in the title game. She was ranked as the 19th best player in the country by ESPN, and fifth best at her position.

Borton has high expectations for both players, but compared Banham’s potential to that of Gophers great Lindsay Whalen.

“I don’t know if there’s been this kind of player in the state of Minnesota since Lindsay Whalen; [a player] that’s able to make other players better than they actually are on the court, to be able to score and to be able to impact the state of Minnesota like both of these players will be able to,” Borton said.

Hirt averaged 26 points and 14 rebounds last season for Bemidji and was ranked as the 74th best player in the country and at No. 20 at her position.

Borton added that keeping these players in the state is important for the program’s growth.

“We’ve had players like this, national-caliber players in the past and we saw what they were able to help us do,” Borton said. “I think they’ve really committed and they’re loyal to their home state and their fans for us to be able to accomplish that again.”