Youngstown State head women's basketball coach John Barnes is excited to announce that Amara Chikwe, Chelsea Olson, McKenah Peters and Anne Secrest have each signed a National Letter of Intent to continue their academic and basketball careers at YSU.
The signing class is a balanced group with two guards and two forwards, and four different states are represented. Chikwe is a forward from Michigan, Olson is a guard from Wisconsin, Peters is a guard from Ohio, and Secrest is a forward from Indiana.
"We are thrilled to have Amara, Chelsea, McKenah and Anne officially join our program," Barnes said. "They are each very good players, and they are also very good students who will help us maintain our great tradition of having one of the top GPA's in the country. I want to thank my staff as well as our signees' families and coaches for their help throughout the recruiting process."
Chikwe is a 6-foot-1 forward from Westland, Mich., who plays for Wayne Memorial High School in the Detroit area. She averaged 10.4 points, 13.7 rebounds and five blocks in helping the Zebras to a 16-5 record as a junior. She was named All-KLAA, Second Team All-Observer and honorable mention all-area by the Detroit News. She transferred from Huron High in Ann Arbor and helped Wayne Memorial to the district semifinals after the program was winless the previous season.
"Amara is an outstanding young lady both on and off the court," Barnes said. "She has played a high level of basketball for several years, and she will bring athleticism and a rebounding punch to our front court."
Chikwe said she felt an immediate connection with YSU on her first visit.
"As soon as I had my first visit to Youngstown, I knew instantly this was the right place for me," she said. "It felt right. All the coaches, players and staff made me feel at home. I wanted to become a part of something special."
Olson is a 5-foot-10 combo guard who plays at Westby Area High School in Westby, Wis. Olson was named honorable mention all-state, the Coulee Conference Player of the Year and All-Lacrosse Tribune First-Team as a junior when she averaged 20 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.4 steals and 3.1 assists. She shot 58 percent from the floor and 39-percent from 3-point range, and she has already surpassed 1,000 career points.
"Chelsea is a long combo guard who can shoot the ball from deep," Barnes said. "She sees the floor extremely well and can make everyone around her better. Her basketball IQ will help raise the level of our program."
Olson said finding the right fit at YSU was key in making her decision.
"I chose YSU because it really fit me, and everything about YSU is amazing," she said. "The coaching staff, the players and the school in general was everything I was looking for. It was a perfect fit for me."
Peters is a 5-foot-9 shooting guard who plays at Keystone High School who verbally committed to become a Penguin prior to her junior season. As a junior she was named MVP of the Patriot Athletic Conference, and she earned Second-Team All-Ohio accolades for the second consecutive year. Last year she set Keystone's record for career points while averaging 21 points. She averaged 17.7 points and eight rebounds while leading Keystone to a conference title. She played AAU ball with current Penguin Alison Smolinski.
"McKenah is a very good shooter and has a scorer's mentality," Barnes said. "She's a gym rat who constantly works on her game. She has a great drive to be the best she can be."
Peters said playing close to home was important for her.
"I chose YSU because it was the perfect match for me," Peters said. "It is close to home and has my major. I am blessed to have the opportunity to continue playing the game I love."
Secrest is a 6-foot forward from Claypool, Ind., who verbally committed more than a year ago.
Secrest was the Ink Free News Player of the Year as a sophomore when she averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds in leading Tippecanoe Valley High School to the Class 3-A state championship game. As a junior she was voted to the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association/Subway Supreme 15 Underclass team when she averaged 17.5 points, eight rebounds, 2.7 steals and 1.6 blocks. Secrest was given a scouts grade of 88 and a three-star ranking on espn.com.
"Anne is a very strong and physical power forward who can post up or step outside and shoot," Barnes said. "She is relentless on the boards, and she's a very good finisher around the basket."
Secrest said YSU offered the full package of what she was looking for in a university.
"The reason I chose YSU is because it had everything I wanted. It was somewhere I could see myself going and fitting in with the basketball program as well as being successful. YSU felt like home, and I can't wait to be a Penguin."
Youngstown State will begin the 2016-17 season on Friday as it hosts American at 7 p.m. The Penguins are coming off their second consecutive 21-win season and a semifinals appearance in the Women's Basketball Invitational postseason tournament.