Illinois signing caps Turner's rapid rise to volleyball heights

John Carroll standout leads large local cast as early signing period opens

High Schools

November 12, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Kayani Turner didn't become a big-time Division I volleyball recruit overnight. It just seemed that way.

When Turner, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter from John Carroll, signs a national letter of intent today to play volleyball for the University of Illinois, it will cap a meteoric four-year rise in which she has gone from a volleyball novice to a blue-chip recruit wooed by nearly 100 schools.

Turner chose Illinois over Arizona, Penn State, Washington, California and Maryland. After committing orally to the Fighting Illini more than a month ago, Turner will sign at 4 p.m. today in front of family and friends at John Carroll.

Other area athletes will also sign today -- the first day of the early signing period -- acknowledging acceptance of scholarships to NCAA Division I programs.

The signing period, which extends through next Wednesday, is for basketball, baseball, lacrosse, softball and other sports.

"It really is amazing," said Turner, 17, who led John Carroll to a 19-1 season and an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title earlier this month. "When I came to John Carroll, it was all basketball. I always wanted to go to Tennessee and play basketball. I never, ever thought about a volleyball scholarship. It was just a complementary sport."

Through high school and her three years in the highly successful Time Out club program, Turner has become a solid all-around player, whose ability to put the ball down from all over the court makes her nearly impossible to block.

"It's unheard of to pick up volleyball at the point she did and excel so quickly," said Patriots coach Greg Cullison.

With Turner in the Patriots' lineup over four years, John Carroll was 56-12 and lost just twice in the past two seasons. She led the metro area in kills last season with about 4.6 a game, and averaged six a game this season.

Returning All-Metro boys basketball forwards Rudy Gay (6-8) of Archbishop Spalding and Will Thomas (6-7) of Mount St. Joseph will sign with Connecticut and George Mason, respectively.

Gay, who is considered one of the nation's top 10 high school players, chose the Huskies over Maryland. Last season as a junior with the Baltimore Catholic League runner-up Cavaliers (26-7), Gay averaged 13.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. Thomas led the Gaels (29-5) to their first BCL regular season and tournament titles, averaging 16.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. He was named regular season and tournament Most Valuable Player.

In girls basketball, Roland Park's Dani Kell, a 6-foot All-Metro first team guard, will sign with William & Mary.

In boys lacrosse, Calvert Hall attackman and All-Metro Player of the Year Kevin Huntley, who has 155 career goals and who led the Cardinals to last year's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title, is going to Johns Hopkins.

Loyola's All-Metro attackman tandem of Ben Rubeor (Virginia) and Andrew Baird (Georgetown) each will be signing, as will All-Metro goalkeeper Grant Zimmerman of Gilman, and second-team All-Metro defender Tim Kaiser of Loyola, each with North Carolina.

Headed for Maryland to play lacrosse are All-Metro faceoff midfielder Will Dalton of St. Mary's, who led the Saints to an MIAA A Conference runner-up finish, and his goalkeeping teammate, Jason Carter.

In girls lacrosse, All-Metro first-teamers Jamie Hanssen, of Notre Dame Prep, and Kelly Kasper, of Century, lead a long list of early signers. Hanssen is headed to North Carolina while Kasper will play at Maryland.

Kasper and Knights teammate Lauren Schwarzmann, who is headed for Hopkins, are the first Century athletes to sign with Division I programs.

In baseball, All-Metro catcher Chad Durakis, who has led St. Paul's to two straight MIAA A Conference titles, will sign with Maryland.

Two-time MIAA A Conference golf champion Greg Rodgers of St. Paul's, last year's All-Metro Player of the Year, will sign with Notre Dame.

Sun staff writers Rick Belz, Katherine Dunn, Glenn P. Graham, Edward Lee, Pat O'Malley and Lem Satterfield contributed to this article.


Below is a list of local high school seniors who plan to sign national letters of intent to NCAA Division I programs during an early signing period for baseball, basketball, lacrosse, gymnastics, softball and tennis. The signing period extends from today through next Wednesday. (Also includes seniors who are declaring early decisions.)


Player School College

Steve Clevenger Mt. St. Joseph SE Louisiana

Chad Durakis St. Paul's Maryland

Gavin Swanson Calvert Hall George Wash.

Boys basketball

Justin Drummond McDonogh Wagner

Rudy Gay Spalding UConn

Jason Loughry Spalding Mt. St. Mary's

Jamal Smith Towson Cath. Wagner

Will Thomas Mt. St. Joseph G. Mason

Leon Williams Gibbons Ohio U.

Girls basketball

Timisha Gomez Long Reach St. Joseph's

Dani Kell Roland Park William & Mary

Heather Landis Chapelgate Rider

Shadae Swan St. Frances Del. State

Whitney Ward Long Reach G. Mason


Emily Pavesich Maryvale Penn State

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