Quartet Set To Join Bulldogs Squad for 2011-12 Season
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Chris Gobrecht, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women's Basketball at Yale University, announced today the Bulldogs' Class of 2015. Sarah Halejian, Arrice Bryant, Hayden Latham and Natasha von Kaeppler will all join the Bulldogs' roster as freshmen for the 2011-12 season beginning this fall.
With a roster that already contains a strong core of young talent from the previous two highly touted recruiting classes, the four incoming freshmen are expected to inject another dose of young energy and excitement to a group of players that has the Bulldogs on the cusp of contending for its first Ivy League championship since the 1978-79 season.
"It is another very, very good class for us," Gobrecht said. "I think the most exciting thing about this class is if you name the position, we covered it with this class. I think the personalities in terms of how aggressive these kids like to play is something that I am very excited about. All four of them have the potential to be impact players during their time here at Yale."
Sarah Halejian, a 5-9 guard from Franklin Lakes, N.J., is a two-time North Jersey Player of the Year. The team captain for Ramapo High School, she entered her senior season already atop the school's all-time scoring list with 1,310 points. The Raiders' leader in points, steals and assists in each of her first three seasons, Halejian was a preseason All-American third-team selection for the 2010-11 season. She earned a spot on the All-State first team last season, the all-county first team the past two seasons, and the all-league first team in each of her first three seasons. She was recently ranked No. 7 in MSG Varsity Magazine's Top 100 Players in New Jersey.
"Sarah is a point guard who is excellent at breaking you down and making the kick pass. She also has a great mid-range game and she can hit the three," Gobrecht said.
Also joining the Bulldogs' backcourt is Hayden Latham, from Greenville, S.C. A senior at Christ Church Episcopal School, the 5-9 guard is a two-time captain for the Cavaliers who eclipsed the 1,000-career-point plateau in her junior season. She was named the South Carolina Coaches Association of Women's Sports Player of the Year in Division A in her sophomore and junior seasons, as well as the High School Sports Report Player of the Year in Division A last season. She was also a member of the All-State, All-County and All-Region teams in her sophomore and junior seasons, earning recognition as the All-Region Player of the Year both times.
"Hayden is more of a slasher," Gobrecht said. "She is a big guard. She is tall and long but has ballhandling skills that allow her to play the point, but we could also play her at the 3 (small forward) and even the 4 (power forward) if we wanted to."
The two guards are expected to fortify an already solid group of guards on the Bulldogs' roster.
"The nice thing is that both Sarah and Hayden could play the 1 (point guard) or the 2 (shooting guard). They both have those kind of skills. They have that shooting touch and the range to play the 1 or the 2," Gobrecht said. "They are two very skilled and athletic players that are going to complement so much our fast aggressive game that we want to play, and they are capable of being excellent defenders as well because they are great athletes."
Bolstering Yale's frontcourt is Arrice Bryant, a 6-2 center from Detroit, Mich. The senior at Renaissance High School is ranked No. 39 among the nation's centers by ESPN. A two-time captain of the Phoenix and four-year varsity letterwinner, she was the team's defensive player of the year last season and its leading rebounder while leading the Phoenix to the Detroit Public School League City Championship, the Michigan High School Athletic Association District and Regional championships, and the state tournament semifinals. She was also the team captain for Team Detroit (AAU) from 2007-2010 and was listed No. 43 among the Detroit Free Press' Top 100 Players in Michigan.
"Arrice is strong, has a lot of power and a nice touch around the basket," Gobrecht said. "She can rebound and is a great outlet passer. She is going to be good for our running game because she is a big girl who can run the floor. She is capable of having a dominating presence."
Natasha von Kaeppler, a 6-0 forward from Castilleja High School in Palo Alto, Calif., is a two-time captain for the Gators. Academically, von Kaeppler is a National Merit Semifinalist. On the court, she is a four-year starter for the Gators. Through 17 games this season, von Kaeppler is currently averaging 20.3 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 3.0 steals, and 3.65 blocks per game. She is currently third on the Gators' all-time scoring list (1,487 points). She is the school's all-time leader in rebounds (1,159), double-doubles (56), field-goal percentage (.454), and steals (301), and she is second in blocks (251), trailing only her sister Ericka (271). Academically, von Kaeppler is a National Merit Semifinalist.
"Natasha gives us another forward that gives us some size, but she could play the 4 or the 3 and she is a young player who just gets better and better every time I watch her play," Gobrecht said. "She is a strong rebounder and a very aggressive player."
She joins her sister Ericka von Kaeppler, currently a sophomore forward for the Bulldogs, as the first pair of sisters coached by Gobrecht during her tenure at Yale and the third set of sisters in her coaching career.
"It will be really fun to have Natasha and Ericka on the same team. That will give us a fun dynamic here," Gobrecht said. "I have coached two sets of sisters, one at Washington and one at USC. The ones at USC were identical twins, so that was a challenge, but I had the same situation at Washington that I have here with the von Kaepplers. They were two years apart. It is fun because it is a special experience for them to have."
The Bulldogs are back in action on Friday, Jan. 28, when it tips off its first back-to-back weekend of Ivy League play with a home game against Penn in the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Bulldogs will finish off the weekend against Ivy League defending champion Princeton on Saturday. Both games will tip off at 7 p.m.
Report filed by Jon Erickson Jr., Yale Sports Publicity