Louisville basketball may have women’s hoops’ next great star on its hands in elite 2020 recruit Hailey Van Lith.
Louisville basketball fans may only have to wait one year before the Cardinals women’s team has their next big-time star at its disposal.
On Saturday, Washington state product and elite stand-out guard Hailey Van Lith pledged to the Cards.
Louisville women’s basketball didn’t have much historic success prior to Jeff Walz’s arrival on campus. But since landing players like Angel McCoughtry, Shoni Schimmel, and Asia Durr, the Cardinals have soared to new heights, going to three final fours and two national title games in the last decade.
Now, the Cardinals have reeled in perhaps their biggest fish yet in Van Lith, a 5’7″ combo guard from Cashmere high school in Wenatchee, Washington. Walz and the Cards have been in on Van Lith for some time now, and since this summer it has seemed like a foregone conclusion that the 2020 product would choose Louisville over Baylor.
This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Walz on the recruiting trail. Schimmel was ranked as high as No. 6 as a recruit, and Durr was widely considered No.1 in the 2015 class. However, Van Lith- ranked 2nd in the nation by prospectsnation.com- could bring the most exciting style of play yet.
Van Lith’s game is the complete package. The first thing any basketball junkie would notice watching her highlights is how polished her game looks starting with her smooth ball handling. She is strong and confident with the ball and can get to the bucket with extremely strong handles and an advanced repertoire of moves.
Take a minute to watch her game, and you’ll see Van Lith stop and pop, go baseline, drive the lane from the wing, and from the top of the key. She doesn’t need momentum to beat her opponent off the dribble and she finishes strong at the basket every time.
Van Lith has mentioned in multiple interviews that it was never a necessity growing up to become a shooter, but over the last two years has developed a deadly jump shot. She has effortless range from beyond the arc and is smooth in the mid-range as well.
She prides herself on defensive effort and intensity, averaging 5.2 steals per game during her junior season, and you can see as games wear on she begins to take over on both sides of the ball.
Maybe the most important part about the Cards landing Van Lith is that she appears to be physically and mentally ready to be a college star right now and she is still 6-8 months away from arriving on campus in Louisville.
Van Lith commands the attention of her teammates, both on her Cashmere high school team and as a member of Team USA’s U19 team and U18 3×3 team where she brought home two gold medals.
Her charismatic personality on and off the court caught the attention of Slam, who spent a day with Van Lith in Cashmere.
“My generation? We’re a little more saucy,” Van Lith explained to Slam. “We’re evolving to (be like) the boys. We want to score and we want all of those flashy plays, like, we’re making them give us attention.”
Just a few minutes of watching and listening to Van Lith, her maturity and understanding of the sacrifices it takes to make it on the next level is eye-opening. The Slam interview highlights her “hour and a half to two hour” practice sessions with her father after team practices. According to the USA Basketball team website, she holds a 4.0 GPA, is involved with tutoring and volunteer programs.
But still, Van Lith brings the “sauce” on the court. She has an advanced array of dribble-drives, side-steps, euro steps, no-look passes, step-back floaters, and everything in between.
There’s certainly room for improvement. Like any player from their senior year of high school to freshman year of college, her transition period will be critical. When she matures and grows in a college training program facing elite athletes on a daily basis, she has the potential to be the next truly special player to put on a Louisville uniform.
Van Lith is part of potentially the best recruiting class in school history. She is joined by fellow team USA gold medal recipient and instant-impact contributor Olivia Cochran. The Carver, Georgia product from the same high school that gave the Cardinals Puma and Khane Pass is a 6’3″ forward with an elite-level interior game on both sides of the ball.
They will be accompanied by Canadian sensation and future fan-favorite Merissah Russell and UCLA transfer Ahlana Smith. Additionally, Louisville’s Nyah Green, a 2019 McDonald’s All-American, is redshirting this season, meaning Louisville will likely have three fresh-faced McDonald’s All Americans on an already-loaded squad next season.
Walz has things rolling in The Ville, but intuition tells one that the Cardinals may be able to reach new heights with their newest, “sauciest” addition.