Watkins gives Arkansas a pair of power posts

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Forward Sarah Watkins signed her National Letter of Intent to play women’s basketball for the University of Arkansas, head coach Tom Collen announced Thursday.

One of the nation’s top 50 players, the 6-3 Watkins gives Arkansas a pair of top-flight post players in the 2009 recruiting class. California post player Darshea Burnside opened the early signing period for the Razorbacks last week.

“Our fans are going to love Sarah Watkins,” Collen said. “She’s tough, physical, smart, and loves to compete.”

Watkins is rated top 50 or top 100 by almost every notable girl’s basketball service. ESPN listed the versatile center as the No. 42 recruit in the country (and the No. 7 forward in the country), touting her ability to score from two feet to 24 feet.

“One of them described her as the Tyler Hansbrough of women’s basketball,” Collen said of the national rankings. “She can play the post or the power forward positions due to her solid three-point range and passing skills.”

Already a 1,000-point career scorer by the close of her junior year, Watkins led Houston High in Germantown, Tenn., to the 8-AAA regional championship in basketball. Watkins averaged 23 ppg, 10 rpg and 5 blocks last season. She broke the HHS single-game scoring record last year with 43 points against rival Germantown, pulling down 18 rebounds with eight blocks.

“She’s tough, physical, smart, and loves to compete,” Collen said. “She is the most underrated player in the country in the 2009 class. I had more top 10 coaches compliment me this summer for her verbal commitment to Arkansas than any kid I’ve signed in 25 years of coaching.”

As a junior, Watkins was named MVP of the regional tournament, along with all-metro Memphis and several other tournament teams. The 6-3 post was also selected for both Nike Skills Academy and adidas Top Ten.

Her AAU team, Memphis Elite, is a fixture on the national tournament scene.

Along with her basketball talent, Watkins is a member of Houston High’s two-time district and regional golf champion squads. As a senior, she was a scoring member of HHS team that was third at the state Class AAA championship; seventh her junior year.

The post player combo of Watkins and Burnside gives Arkansas a strong start to the 2009 recruiting season.

“We really like this fall signing class,” Collen said. “They are all big, strong, physical players that will allow us to compete with other top 25 programs in the SEC. We still have one scholarship open in the spring and continue to recruit a player that could be impactful, regardless of position.”

SLAM magazine listed Watkins as its No. 60 prospect with Burnside at No. 82. The post duo was top 100 in several other on-line and recruiting publications.

The Razorbacks continue a three-game home stand in the space of five days with Southern Methodist at Bud Walton Arena on Friday night at 7 p.m.