PISCATAWAY, NJ – Matee Ajavon (Newark, NJ), Essence Carson (Paterson, NJ) and Charese “Tudy” Reed (Chicago, IL) have signed national letters of intent to attend Rutgers and play for the Scarlet Knight women’s basketball team beginning with the 2004-2005 season, ninth-year head coach C. Vivian Stringer has announced.
Together, the three form a recruiting class that has already been ranked third nationally by the All Star Girls Report and seventh in the country by Blue Star.
“If I could choose any three perimeter players in the country to add to our program, I would choose Matee, Essence and Tudy,” said Stringer. “That’s how excited we are about this group. Each one is extremely special in her own right, so together they make for a very exciting and explosive group. They all have been well schooled on the fundamentals, and each one comes from a very successful program, so we know that they will be able to contribute quickly as freshmen.”
Ajavon, a 5-8 point guard, was named a third-team All-American by Street & Smith’s last season as a junior at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. A USA Today Sophomore All-American, she played on the 2003 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival East Team that won a gold medal. Ajavon averaged 15.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.9 steals per game in 2003, earning her second first-team all-state certificate from the Associated Press. Ranked as the 12th-best prospect nationally by the All Star Girls Report and 20th by Blue Star, she was an honorable mention Street & Smith’s All-American in 2001 and 2002 and was named to this year’s USA Today Super 25. At the adidas Top Ten All-America Camp, she was the co-Most Valuable Player of the 2002 Underclassmen Game and was named to the Super Six of the 2003 Senior All-Star Game. Last season, she scored 26 points and added four assists and three steals to lead Shabazz to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title, the first state title for a boys’ or girls’ team from Newark. She played club ball with the New York Gauchos.
“Matee is an extremely versatile guard who’s explosive and quick, has great court vision, and can effectively penetrate,” said Stringer. “She was the best three-point shooter at the USA Basketball camp last summer, so she will bring some much-needed outside shooting to the team. Plus, she’s been a winner her whole life and comes from a very successful program at Shabazz and a great coach in Coach (Vanessa) Watson. She reminds me of (former Rutgers All-American) Tasha Pointer in terms of her ability to move the ball and see the floor, but Matee has a bigger body.”
Carson, a 5-10 guard who attends Rosa Parks High School but competes athletically at Eastside High School, averaged 19.8 points, 15.0 rebounds, 4.5 blocked shots and 3.4 steals per game to lead Eastside to the 2003 Passaic County and North 1, Group 4 titles. A fourth-team Street & Smith’s and Parade All-American last season, she is rated 11th nationally by the All Star Girls Report and 12th by Blue Star. A member of the 2003 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival East Team that won a gold medal, she also is a two-time all-state honoree, the 2002 Herald News Player of the Year and was named to the 2003 adidas Top Ten All-America Camp Super Six of the Senior All-Star Game. Selected to this year’s USA Today Super 25, she also is an all-state volleyball player and a gifted musician who plays the piano, bass and saxophone. She played club ball with the New Jersey Pioneer Elite and the Jersey Pioneers, winning state titles in 2002 and 2003.
“Essence is a pro-size guard who has a great handle, is quick and explosive, and can jump to the sky,” Stringer said. “She could easily play at point guard. But, she also has great range and can dunk, which speaks to her timing and athletic ability. She is well-grounded, is a great student and great player, and she received tremendous coaching from Coach (Ed) Black at Eastside. The fact that Essence and Matee chose to stay home and help make Rutgers a perennial power brings a smile to my face. Essence sees the game through the eyes of a coach and point guard, and that should put her light years ahead of a typical freshman next year.”
Reed, a 5-11 guard/forward, averaged 16.4 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 blocked shots per game as a junior last season at John Marshall High School. An honorable mention All-America selection by Street & Smith’s last season who played club ball with the Chicago Blaze, she is rated the 28th-best prospect nationally by the All Star Girls Report and the 34th-best recruit by Blue Star. In her first three seasons at Marshall, she helped lead the Commandos to a 79-12 (.868) record, the 2001 and 2002 city championships and the 2003 regional title. Reed will be reunited with former Marshall teammate and current Rutgers junior All-American Cappie Pondexter (Chicago, IL).
“A lot of people don’t know much about Tudy because she didn’t play much during the summer due to an injury,” said Stringer. “But, after playing in one tournament, she went from an unknown to a top-30 player on the national recruiting lists. That says a lot about her ability. She’s a pro-size guard who can shoot the ball well, has a good handle, is able to create and can dunk. Coach (Dorothy) Gaters at Marshall is in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, and she has long produced some of the finest players in the nation, including Cappie and Tudy. Tudy may not have gotten as many headlines yet because of all the other great players at Marshall, but I think everyone is going to know about her by the end of this season.”
Ajavon, Carson and Reed committed during the NCAA’s early signing period, which concludes Nov. 19.
Rutgers, ranked 16th by the Associated Press and 17th by ESPN/USA Today/WBCA
in the groups’ preseason polls, made the most dramatic turnaround in
Division I last season, improving from a 9-20 record in 2001-2002 to 21-8 and
a trip to the NCAA Tournament’s second round. The Scarlet Knights will
officially begin the 2003-2004 season Friday, Nov. 14, when Rutgers hosts Saint
Peter’s in the first round of the Preseason WNIT at 7:30 p.m.