MARION — Kiah Stokes moved closer to her dream of competing for a NCAA title by giving her verbal commitment to Connecticut on Thursday.
The 6-foot-3 senior center picked the Huskies during an afternoon news conference at Linn-Mar High School. Stokes picked Connecticut over Iowa, as well as Tennessee, Maryland and Georgia.
“Good old hometown Iowa,” Stokes said. “It was a real hard decision between the two of them, but they were definitely second.”
She will join a Connecticut team that has won the past two NCAA titles, has won 78 games in a row, and is the preseason No. 1. UConn has won seven national titles overall.
“They are good,” Stokes said. “They know how to win, obviously. They’ve been doing a good job of that.
“I think they will push hard to get the best out of me, which is what I want.”
Stokes said she informed UConn coach Geno Auriemma on Thursday morning after making her final decision late Wednesday night.
“He was like, ‘Oh, I thought you were going to call me last night, so I was kind of nervous,’” Stokes said. “But he was really excited for it, and the assistant coaches were in the background, and they were screaming. It’s a good feeling that they still wanted me.”
Connecticut has two centers on its roster, 6-3 sophomore Heather Buck, and 6-5 freshman Stefanie Dolson.
Stokes joins a recruiting class that includes the No. 1 player in the country, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, a 6-foot wing from Mater Dei High School in California, and Brianna Banks, a guard from Georgia ranked 24th overall in the country.
Stokes is ranked No. 42 overall by ESPN HoopGurlz.com, 14th by Blue Star Basketball, and ninth by All-Star Girls Report.
The all-state center said it was hard to call Iowa coach Lisa Bluder and tell her the Hawkeyes finished second.
“It was very tough,” Stokes said. “Hometown school and their program is great, and they are definitely building.
“I called them this morning, and you could hear the disappointment in their voice, which always sucks.”
Stokes said she like the strides Iowa has taken lately under Bluder, winning a Big Ten title in 2008, winning an NCAA Tournament game last spring and getting a verbal commitment from the No. 10 player in the country, Samantha Logic, this fall.
Some thought the daughter of Greg Stokes, one of the Hawkeye men’s basketball greats, wouldn’t be able to turn down his alma mater. There were “Iowa!” chants before she started her news conference.
“I feel bad for her, “ Greg Stokes said. “They are going the right direction, and had they gotten her, it would have helped them get to where they want to go.
“But it’s her decision, and I support her. She is playing for one of the best coaches in the country, if not the best, how can you be upset with that?”
Kiah felt some of the pressure to stick with the hometown, home state team.
“Dad told me to just go with what I felt,” Stokes said. “Don’t go somewhere just to please other people. I’m the one that’s going to be living it.”
Linn-Mar starts practice Monday to defend the Class 4A title. Stokes and the Lions also play in the 4A volleyball tournament next week in Cedar Rapids.
The early signing period starts Nov. 10.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball