Youngstown State head women's basketball coach John Barnes is excited to announce that five talented Ohioans have signed a National Letter of Intent to continue their careers at YSU starting in the 2015-16 academic year.
The five signees are Bre Berryman (Wintersville, Ohio/Indian Creek High School), Jill Blacksten (Granville, Ohio/Newark Catholic High School), Marissa Brown (New Albany, Ohio/Bishop Hartley High School), Alison Smolinski (North Royalton, Ohio/North Royalton High School) and Melinda Trimmer (Beloit, Ohio/West Branch High School). Berryman and Brown are post players, Blacksten and Smolinski are wings and Trimmer is a point guard.
Two prominent women's basketball recruiting services have ranked YSU's class among the top 25 percent in the country. Blue Star Basketball gave the class honorable mention recognition, ranking it among the top 64 recruiting classes nationally and ahead of 28 schools from major conferences. YSU's class ranked ahead of eight American Athletic Conference teams, five teams from both the Big East Conference and SEC, four teams from the Pac 12 and two from the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC. All Star Girls Report ranked the class as the 76th-best in the nation in August.
"I'm extremely excited about the 2015 class, and I'm grateful that these five student-athletes and their families have trusted us with their futures," YSU head women's basketball coach John Barnes said. "We've addressed every position on the court, and we think we have become stronger at each one with these five signees. Not only are each of them very good basketball players, but all five are terrific young ladies who work hard in the classroom and on the court."
"My staff has worked extremely hard throughout the recruiting process to build what we think can be one of the best recruiting classes in our program's history," Barnes added. "I'm really grateful for all of the hard work that my assistant coaches and supporters across campus put in to help improve our program."
The class could potentially bring the number of Ohio players on the 2015-16 team to 10, and every player on the current roster is from Ohio or a bordering state. That will give the Penguins a hometown feel for the foreseeable future.
"The fact that all of these outstanding players are from Ohio shows that the program keeps making steps forward," Barnes said. "It's exciting that high-level players in our state want to compete at Youngstown State."
Another noticeable trait in the class is the height of the student-athletes as Berryman, Blacksten and Brown range from 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-2. Latisha Walker is the lone player on the current roster who is 6-foot-2, YSU had no active player taller than 6 feet as recently as 2012-13.
"Adding size was a big matter of importance in this class," Barnes said. "With three incoming players being 6-foot-2 or above, it will definitely change the way we look and play. We hope that it will allow us to have an edge in the paint both offensively and defensively."
Bre Berryman (Indian Creek High School)
Berryman is a highly-touted 6-foot-5 center from Indian Creek High School who has been an All-Ohioan in each of her first three seasons. ESPN has Berryman ranked as a five-star recruit, the 17th-best center in the country, the 21st-best player in the region and the third-best player in Ohio. Berryman is ranked as the 142nd-best overall player in the country according to Blue Star Basketball.
Berryman averaged 24.9 points as a freshman when she was a First-Team All-Ohioan at Division II, and she has averaged 22.2 points the last two seasons as a second-team all-state honoree. Berryman added 18.4 rebounds per game and became the first player in school history to surpass 1,000 career points as a junior.
"To bring a post player who is 6-foot-5, is very mobile, has very good hands and has touch around the basket is very exciting," Barnes said. "We think her presence as a shot blocker will create a lot of havoc on the defensive end, and she can change a game with her mobility and size. Being able to get a commitment from her when we were up against offers from Big Ten and ACC schools is special."
Jill Blacksten (Newark Catholic High School)
Blacksten is a 6-foot-2 wing who has been a First-Team All-Ohioan at Division IV in each of the last two seasons at Newark Catholic High School. As a junior she was the Central District Division IV Player of the Year, averaging 22.5 points and 12 rebounds while leading the Green Wave to their third straight league and district titles. Blacksten led the Newark area with 154 free throws, making 82 percent of her attempts, and she also sank 26 3-pointers. She is just the second player in school history to score 600 points in a season.
Newark Catholic has gone 73-7 in basketball in Blacksten's tenure, and the Green Wave also advanced to the final four in volleyball this season.
"Jill is very versatile for her size," Barnes said. "She creates tough matchups because she can play inside and has range beyond the 3-point line. She's a very good passer and an extremely good rebounder. Her overall athleticism is evident with her success on the volleyball court, and she does very well in the classroom."
Marissa Brown (Bishop Hartley High School)
Brown is a 6-foot-3 post player who was named Special Mention All-Ohio at Division II her junior year at Bishop Harley High School in Columbus. She averaged 16.1 points and 7.5 rebounds while also being named first-team all-district and first-team all-league in 2013-14. Basketball runs in Brown's family as her father, Leo, played at Michigan from 1979-83.
"Marissa is a very mobile post player who runs the floor well for her size," Barnes said. "She has a very physical presence and isn't afraid to bang around in the post. She's worked extremely hard to improve her game, and playing at a very high level of club basketball will help her make the transition to our level. She was at our elite camp this summer and stood out against high-level competition."
Alison Smolinski (North Royalton High School)
Smolinski is a versatile 5-foot-9 guard who averaged 15 points per game while earning Special Mention All-Ohio honors at Division I as a junior. The Plain Dealer lists her among the top 10 Cleveland-area players to watch this season, and writers have suggested she is the most complete player in the area. Smolinski was also an Honorable Mention All-Ohio selection as a sophomore for North Royalton.
"Alison is a very talented perimeter player who can play any of the guard positions," Barnes said. "We really like her toughness and her blue-collar work ethic. She can score in a variety of ways, from shooting the 3 to attacking the basket. She is the type of person and teammate who is going to be able to help lift our program to another level."
Melinda Trimmer (West Branch High School)
Trimmer is a 5-foot-7 point guard who was a Second-Team All-Ohio selection at Division II as a junior when she averaged 17.8 points. She is a three-time First-Team Northeastern Buckeye Conference selection, and she was the conference player of the year as a sophomore. Trimmer has led the Warriors to a 67-11 record in her first three seasons, and she is already West Branch's all-time assists leader while ranking second in school history in points.
Trimmer comes from a Penguin family as her two brothers and her father have attended Youngstown State.
"Melinda is a point guard who possesses a very high basketball IQ," Barnes said. "She comes from an extremely successful high school program and has been coached by very good coaches throughout her career. She has the unique ability to make everyone else around her better. Her 3-point range creates close-out situations where she can get to the paint and make things happen. She's also an off-the-charts student, and we are excited about how much she wanted to be part of our program. That's a great quality to have from someone in our area."