Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer has stressed that he plans on building a championship program at Mississippi State. Following a stellar initial recruiting class last season, the next brick in the foundation was added Wednesday as the Bulldogs inked five standouts to one of the nation’s top signing classes.
Mississippi State landed two of the country’s top players in Scott Central High School’s Victoria Vivians and Florida forward LaKaris Salter along with local Dandy Dozen guard Blair Schaefer, Texas all-state guard Kayla Nevitt and Alabama standout guard Morgan William.
“First of all, this class is the culmination of a lot of hard work and many, many hours put in by my staff. It’s (assistant coach) Aqua Franklin’s first as recruiting coordinator, and her, (associate head coach) Johnnie Harris and (assistant coach) Brittany Hudson are to be commended,” Schaefer said. “This class has a five-star, a four-star and three three-star recruits in it. It’s an impact class. All five players will impact this program for the next four years. They are all difference players, but they are also difference people, young ladies who will impact this campus and this community for years to come in a positive way.
“These five players are the focal points of their teams, and the beauty of college is great players want to play with great players. We just added five great players to play with each other as well as our current team,” Schaefer said. “This class adds to the foundation established by last year’s class, our first here at State, with high character, work ethic and skill set being a focal point in our recruiting efforts. There will be no more double-teaming (as in high school) with this class. They all can play!”
The five signees place Mississippi State at No. 18 nationally by both ESPN/HoopGurlz and Dan Olson’s Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
Victoria Vivians – F, 6-1, Forest, Miss. (Scott Central HS/N.M.B. Hoop Dreams)
Mississippi’s reigning Miss Basketball and the state’s 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year, Vivians earned All-America honors from MaxPreps after leading Scott Central to the Class 2A state championship with a 39.7 scoring average that rated second in the nation.
The five-star prospect, who has scored over 4,200 points in her illustrious career, enters her senior season rated No. 6 in Full Court’s Fresh 50 and No. 24 nationally by both ESPN/HoopGurlz and Dan Olson’s Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.
“When I first took the job here, as I was going down the runway after my press conference to go to the Sweet Sixteen at Texas A&M, the first call I made as the Mississippi State head coach was to Victoria Vivians’ high school coach Chad Harrison. To know the work we have put in as a staff, and to know the impact she is going to have on this program the next four years is exciting,” Schaefer said. “She is such an explosive player, but is also a great young lady with a tremendous family. Her skill set is off the chart, and she has the ability to play multiple positions.
“Victoria is an impact player that all the young basketball players across the state can look up to knowing she stayed home to represent “Our State” here at Mississippi State,” Schaefer added. “Victoria will not only have a chance to etch her name in Mississippi State history, but she will also have the chance to do it in the Southeastern Conference record books, which includes some of the best players this game has seen. She’s that talented, and it’s our job now to continue to develop her and put her in a position to do that. She will probably be the all-time leading scorer in high school girls’ basketball history nationally, and I feel that her college career can be much the same. She has led her high school team to the state championship, so she knows only one thing, winning. Coach Harrison has done an incredible job developing her as a leader as well as a great player. He too is to be commended. We are excited and feel very blessed that she is going to be at Mississippi State the next four years.”
The nation’s seventh-best wing, Vivians claimed a third-straight Dandy Dozen selection from the Clarion-Ledger as she enters her senior campaign 887 points shy of passing former MSU standout Mary Kathryn Govero’s state high school scoring record and 1,296 points from breaking the national high school top mark.
“I’m excited to be going to Mississippi State,” Vivians said. “We're going to win. The signing class that we have right now is going to be a part of a great team.”
Last summer she was selected to play in the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star Game, where she claimed MVP honors after scoring 23 points.
Last season’s 39.7 average, which included a 62-point effort against Lake on Jan. 11, set a new state standard, passing Govero’s 37.6 points per game during the 2006-07 season.
“They got a good one. I am really happy that she has decided to stay in Mississippi and grasp on to the vision that Vic Schaefer has there. She is a difference maker, and I believe one of the best players in the country hands down,” Harrison said. “You hear coaches talk all the time about kids being good kids, well Victoria is a special young lady from a special family. She will be a great ambassador for Mississippi State, and as a player, her motor runs from the word go.”
Although heralded for her offense, the three-time all-state selection and four-time all-district selection averaged 15.1 rebounds, four steals and one block per game last season in helping her team win the program’s first state title since her freshman season.
Vivians was named the state championship MVP, an honor she also earned following a freshman season that saw her average 24.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.3 steals per contest in leading the Lady Rebels to the championship.
Vivans’ junior scoring average followed a sophomore campaign that saw her top the country with a 37-point clip en route to earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors.
Kayla Nevitt – G, 5-10, Houston, Texas (Andy Dekaney HS/Texas Elite Adidas Simmons)
Nevitt is a standout shooter and competitor who helped guide Dekaney High School to a third-straight District 13-5A championship last season.
She enters her senior season rated a three-star prospect by ESPN/HoopGurlz and 18th nationally at her position, as well as the ninth-rated player in Texas and No. 87 nationally by Premier Basketball Report.
“Kayla is a big two guard out of Texas. I remember watching her play as an eighth-grader with my daughter for Joey Simmons, and I thought to myself ‘If I’m still in the business, I’m going to be recruiting that kid,’” Schaefer said. “Kayla has a tremendous frame and a motor that runs at a high level. She is a great competitor who has a big-time shot.
“She comes from a tremendous high school, Dekaney High School, in Texas, and is coached by a great high school coach in Stacey Stroman. She’s played for a state championship in the highest classification in Texas, and she’s ranked 18th nationally at her position,” Schaefer said. “We appreciate the trust her family has in sending their daughter out of state. They know that we will take care of her and develop her into a great SEC player.”
Nevitt paced the Lady Wildcats in scoring as a junior, pouring in 11.1 points, including 43 3-pointers, as Dekaney finished the year 34-4 and 16-0 in district play. She scored 16 points and finished with seven rebounds and six assists in the district title game.
“Kayla is solid fundamentally and plays hard on both ends of the floor. She fits Vic’s system very well because she works so hard on the defensive end,” Simmons, her coach with Texas Elite Adidas Simmons, said. “Kayla is one of those kids who can play offense, but she plays defense very well also.”
After winning the district crown, Nevitt helped take the Lady Wildcats to the regional final of the UIL State Playoffs, where there season ended with a 68-59 setback to Pflugerville.
“I’m so excited. It became surreal when I got the papers last night. I woke up at 7:05 this morning and signed them. I’ve been texting all the girls, and we are excited to officially be a part of the family,” Nevitt said. “I already had a relationship with Coach Schaefer, Blair and Mrs. Holly (Schaefer) but I fell in love with the campus and players. I was going to wait until after my official visit to commit, but during the week before my official visit, I decided to go ahead and commit.”
Her stellar junior campaign earned her Class 5A, District 13 Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors and a spot on the Texas Basketball Magazine’s All-State Team. She was also selected to the VYPE’s All-Greater Houston Girls’ Team.
Nevitt’s Offensive Player of the Year honor was the second of her career, as she also earned the accolade as a freshman.
Her standout 2012-13 campaign came on the heels of a sophomore season that saw her average 12.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest.
Lakaris Salter – F, 6-1, Tallahassee, Fla. (Florida A&M Developmental Research School/Essence)
Salter enters her senior campaign at Florida A&M Developmental High School in Tallahassee, Fla., as a four-star prospect that ranks No. 89 nationally and 18th at the forward position by ESPN/HoopGurlz.
Dan Olson’s Collegiate Girls Basketball Report puts the 6-0 forward at No. 90 in the nation and No. 20 at her position following a stellar junior campaign that saw her guide FAMU to a second-straight Florida Class 2A state championship.
“When I look at Lakaris, I see another young lady who was a tremendous player for me, maybe the best player I have ever coached. Lakaris has all the tools to be that same player for us here at Mississippi State. She is a great ball-handler with outstanding vision. She sees the floor very well and can put a pass on a dime where it needs to be when it needs to be there. On top of that, at 6-1 she can shoot the three or post low and run the floor very well,” Schaefer said. “Lakaris is going to be a tremendous player for us at the four position, which is the second-most important position on the floor for us behind point guard with everything we do offensively and defensively. It’s very important we have a player in that position that can do many different things, and Lakaris is that type of multi-talented player. She is currently ranked 89th nationally in the Top 100, and she comes from a great AAU program in Florida, Essence, and has had a tremendous coach working with her in Kim Davis-Powell.”
Salter, who averaged over 16 points and 11 rebounds per game as a junior, paced the Baby Rattlers with 18 points and 11 boards as Florida A&M defeated Academy at the Lakes 57-34 to finish the season with a 25-4 record.
“I’m excited to be a Bulldog. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. It was a great day,” Salter said. “I loved how everyone at Mississippi State supported the team. It felt like home. It was a beautiful campus, and the coaching staff was great.”
Her stellar junior campaign earned her Florida Association of Basketball Coaches Class 2A Player of the Year honors for the second-straight season and all-state honors from the association every year of her prep career.
Salter’s team rolled to the 2012-13 state title a year after she dribbled the length of the court and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to defeat Hollywood Christian 55-53 for the team’s first of back-to-back titles.
“Lakaris is the ultimate teammate,” Davis-Powell said. “She’s very unselfish and gets everyone involved. She loves the game and her teammates, and she pushes them to motivate them. If she needs to pass she will pass. If she needs to shoot she will shoot. She is willing to do whatever the coach needs done for the team to be successful.”
Against Hollywood Christian, Salter scored 25 points, including 14-straight over a seven-minute stretch, and added 18 rebounds. The title-winning performance capped a sophomore season that saw her average over 19 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Salter guided FAMU to district titles each year and regional crowns the past two seasons after claiming runner-up honors in 2010.
Blair Schaefer – G, 5-7, Starkville, Miss. (Starkville HS/AL Southern Starz)
Schaefer, a three-star prospect and 55th-rated guard by ESPN/HoopGurlz, signed to play for her father following an all-state inaugural campaign at Starkville High School.
“I thank the Lord every day that I’m going to have the opportunity to coach my daughter. It’s an incredible blessing and tremendous credit to her and her work ethic that she has had throughout her life,” her father said. “That work ethic hasn’t just happened in the last year or two; Blair Schaefer has worked her tail off her entire basketball career from the time she scored 60 points as an 8-year-old in Little Dribblers to today playing for Starkville High School. Being a Dandy Dozen and earning second team all-state a year ago in a new state could be difficult for some, but she handled it like a champ and her high school teammates and her coach, Kristi Williams, are to be commended in easing her transition.
“To see her maturity and growth in basketball and as a young woman is rewarding as a parent and a college basketball coach needing a two-guard that can absolutely make shots,” Schaefer said. “Blair Schaefer can make shots; I’ve seen her make some unbelievable shots in her career. Her range is deep and she keeps improving her ball handling to go along with great court vision. She has more than earned this opportunity.”
Schaefer made an immediate impact on the court with SHS, averaging 22.8 points, 4.6 assists, 2.6 rebound and 1.9 steals in leading the Yellowjackets to the Mississippi Class 5A North State Tournament.
Her outstanding efforts last season earned her second team all-state accolades and a spot on the North roster for the Mississippi Association of Coaches’ All-Star Game, where she scored a team-high 17 points in the game, won the free throw competition and took second in the three-point contest.
Schaefer’s win in the free throw contest came after she connected on 87.7 percent of her attempts during the 2012-13 regular season.
“I’m so excited to have finally signed. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. I’ve always been watching players sign for my dad, and I’ve always hoped to become one of those great players. Now that I’ve finally signed those papers for all of my hard work and dedication, I’m glad to be finishing one chapter so I can open up a second chapter with the other great players in this Top 20 recruiting class,” Blair Schaefer said. “It is extremely special, and I’m so thankful and honored to be able to play for my dad. I know it’s going to be challenging, but I’m willing to accept the challenge because many people don’t have the opportunity to play for their dad. I’m so excited to be able to play for my family and stay with my family. I’m looking forward to everything to come these next four years.”
Schaefer joined fellow signee Victoria Vivians on the Clarion-Ledger’s 2013-14 Dandy Dozen. That selection followed a stellar summer that saw her help the Huntsville, Ala.-based Southern Starz AAU squad to an 8-0 record and the AAU National Championship in Orlando, Fla.
“I was very appreciative to have Blair play with our team,” Southern Starz coach Doug Bush said. “She brought a lot of intangibles to our team. She’s a great player and shooter, but she’s also a high IQ player who is very competitive. She was a key part of our starting lineup. We came close to winning the national championship the last two years, but I think she really helped us take that next step and win AAU nationals.”
Prior to joining the Southern Starz, Schaefer played for Al Coleman’s Cy-Fair Shock and alongside Nevitt for Joey Simmons’ Texas Elite Adidas squad.
“There’s no doubt Vic is Blair’s dad. She’s a hard worker who is tenacious on defense,” Simmons said. “She is also a great scorer who can hit the three and run the floor well. She’s an extremely smart basketball player.”
Schaefer made the move to Mississippi after establishing herself as one of the Top 10 players in Texas and the 117th-best player nationally by Premier Basketball Report while playing for A&M Consolidated High School.
She finished her sophomore season with A&M Consolidated by earning First Team All-District 12-5A and All-Region accolades.
Morgan William – G, 5-5, Birmingham, Ala. (Shades Valley HS/Alabama Tar Heels)
William will look to use her tenacious defense and quickness to benefit Mississippi State the way it has running the point for Shades Valley High School.
The three-star prospect and No. 24 point guard by ESPN/HoopGurlz enters her senior season looking to build on a stellar junior season that saw her lead Shades Valley to a 31-2 record and a second-straight Northeast regional final appearance in the Alabama Class 6A playoffs.
“Morgan William is the closest thing to (MSU assistant coach) A’Quonesia Franklin I could find. She is going to be a tremendous point guard for us. She has great ball-handling skills and is an unbelievable competitor,” Schaefer said. “She plays with a real passion for the game, and she impacts the game at her position, which is a very important one. Her high school coach, Tonya Hunter, along with her stepfather, who is also her AAU coach, have developed one heck of a competitor and player.”
“I love Morgan’s tenacity, and she brings a skill set to the point guard position that we are very excited about,” Schaefer added. “She will make everyone around her better, but more importantly, she will make them want to play harder because that’s what she does.”
Last season, William paced the Mounties with 14.1 points per game and made an outstanding 53 percent of her attempts from the field.
In addition to her 14.1 scoring average, William also collected 4.1 assists per contest and had 158 steals.
“I’m really excited to be coming to Mississippi State. I know we have a good class, and I am glad to be a part of it,” William said. “The coaching staff has been great. I immediately clicked with them, and from talking to Coach Aqua (Franklin), I knew it was going to be hard to say no to them. I really enjoyed my visit to campus. It’s a beautiful campus and it feels like home to me.”
William’s stellar 2012-13 season earned her North/East Player of the Year accolades from the Birmingham News and Alabama Sports Writer’s Association Class 6A All-State honors.
It was the second-straight all-state accolade for the AWSA “Super 5” Team selection following a sophomore campaign that saw her tally 14.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 173 steals, the 11th-most in state history.
In addition to her first all-state honor, the outstanding 2011-12 campaign earned her Birmingham-Metro Player of the Year accolades.