Correction: This article has been updated since it was first published to include Laura Graytok among the players that are eliglible to play an additional season, due to adjusted NCAA guidelines.
The American University women’s basketball team announced its complete 2021 recruiting class last week with the signings of Bailey Garbee and Jordyn Meunier, a pair of lengthy guards who bring a promise of athleticism and shooting ability to the program’s future.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, AU’s staff has not scouted either prospect in person, but is confident in the pair’s talent. Head coach Megan Gebbia said that the staff consistently prioritizes fit within the AU system and shooting during the recruiting process, which made Garbee’s commitment all the more intriguing.
Gebbia said that Garbee is an average 3-point shooter, but not a great one, which could have disqualified a less skilled prospect. But recruiting plans are never written in stone, and the staff felt it couldn’t ignore Garbee’s talent, even if the fit is a little unconventional.
“Bailey brings this athleticism that hasn't been tapped yet,” Gebbia said. “She's so quick at 5'11; she could probably run the floor faster than anyone on our team right now. So she's one of those kids that you can't pass up because you know you could develop that kid.”
Never short on praise, Gebbia said that Garbee could be a future stat-stuffer for AU. While it may take a few years for her shot to bloom, she provides length on the defensive end and the boards and is already a gifted playmaker. The junior averaged 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals per game at Quaker Valley High School in Pennsylvania. During the 2019-20 season, she was selected to the All-Western PA All-Area First Team.
“I’d kind of decided beforehand that if they were to offer me, I was probably going to commit,” Garbee said, after verbally committing in June. “I loved the location and the education it offers. And I liked the culture of the basketball program that they’ve built over the last couple of years.”
Of course, AU’s coaching staff coveted perimeter shooting throughout the recruiting cycle, and Garbee’s addition wouldn’t fill that need. That’s where Meunier comes in. The 5-foot-10 guard is a marksman from the perimeter, scoring 22 points per game as a junior at Williston Northampton School in Massachusetts while knocking down 3-pointers at a 44 percent clip.
Her most valuable skill, according to Gebbia, is her ability to create her own shot on the perimeter. Meunier has stepback and side-step threes in her arsenal, a rare package in the Patriot League — nevermind at the high school level.
“I think she's a piece that we need right away,” Gebbia said. “At Williston, she was the only scorer, so she had to shoot off the dribble, which is rare for kids coming in. It’s a nice bonus because if there's one area that we’re weak as a team, it’s shooting threes off the dribble.”
While the Eagles’ offense is designed to create open perimeter looks, the team converted just 29 percent of its long-range attempts last year, the third-worst mark in the conference. Meunier has the chance to clear that blemish.
Both players will join the team in fall 2021. Under normal circumstances, this would mean they have just one year to play alongside the current junior class. But since the NCAA is extending an additional year to student-athletes who compete during this winter season, the juniors could opt to play a fifth year in 2023 while taking classes in AU’s master's program.
Those players — guards Jade Edwards, Laura Graytok, Emily Fisher and Maddie Doring as well as forward Taylor Brown — are expected to be pivotal rotation players in the upcoming season, save for Doring, who opted out due to a foot injury. Gebbia anticipates that most of them will take the extra year.
The coaching staff is thoroughly scouting the 2022 class, but Gebbia said the Eagles won’t need to sign any of those players if the current juniors opt for a fifth year.
For now, AU’s focus turns to the 2021 season. The Eagles open against Loyola in Bender Arena on Jan. 2 in the first of six scheduled matchups against the Greyhounds.