Today was the early national signing day for several sports. The Nebraska women’s basketball team received four letters from high school seniors in Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana. Two of the signees are forwards and two are guards. One player, Brown, continues the recent trend of 6 foot+ tall guards joining the Nebraska squad.
The Husker recruiting class was ranked No. 20 in the nation by ESPN as of today (this could change when some uncommitted players sign their letters). Coach Amy Williams' first Nebraska class, which consisted of current Husker freshmen Taylor Kissinger and Kate Cain, was also ranked No. 20 nationally, giving the second-year Husker head coach and her staff back-to-back top-20 classes.
“We are really excited about this entire group of high-achieving young women,” Nebraska Coach Amy Williams said. “They not only have had strong careers so far, but they are all on track to have great senior seasons. They have all shown an impressive commitment to our program during the recruiting process. They are high-character individuals with incredible work ethics and competitive spirits. We are looking forward to helping them achieve their goals on and off the court.”
6-2, Forward, Sioux Center, Iowa (Western Christian)
The headliner of the class and Williams’ first commit to the Huskers, Ashtyn Veerbeek (pronounced VER-beek) made her commitment to Nebraska in December of 2016. The 6-2 forward out of Western Christian High School in Sioux Center, Iowa, is ranked as the No. 55 player in the nation by Blue Star, No. 66 by Prospects Nation and No. 68 by ESPN, which also ranked Veerbeek as the No. 9 forward in the Class of 2018.
Veerbeek, who earned first-team Iowa Class 2A honors as a junior in 2016-17, comes to Nebraska from the same high school that produced Husker volleyball All-American and U.S. Olympian Nancy Metcalf Meendering.
“We have known Ashtyn for a long time and we are so excited she was the first player to commit to this class,” Nebraska Coach Amy Williams said. “She is a strong, yet agile athlete who is an extremely talented basketball and volleyball player. She is a fierce competitor who simply knows how to win. She really exploded onto the national scene this past summer, competing at a very high level with her club program. She understands what it means to work hard, and we are looking forward to the growth she will continue to make here at Nebraska.”
Veerbeek led Western Christian to Iowa Class 2A state title in 2017, by averaging 22.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while shooting 80.3 percent from the free throw line as a junior. She was the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association Class 2A Player of the Year and the captain of the Class 2A All-Tournament team while leading the Wolfpack to the 2017 state title. She played her club basketball for the All Iowa Attack under Coach Dickson Jensen.
Veerbeek is also a three-time volleyball letterwinner who helped Western Christian to a pair of state volleyball titles. She was a first-team Class 2A all-state selection in volleyball and a two-time member of the Class 2A All-Tournament team. Her mother, Tammi, is the head volleyball coach at Western Christian.
“I chose Nebraska because the coaching staff is one of kind and genuinely cares about me as a person,” Veerbeek said. “The top-notch facilities and fan support are incredible, and it just felt like home.”
6-1, Guard, Auburn, Indiana (DeKalb)
One of the top players in Indiana, Leigha Brown (pronounced LEE-uh) averaged 22.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 blocks as a junior for Coach Brett Eltzroth at DeKalb High School in 2016-17. The 6-1 guard earned Indiana Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Supreme 15 Underclass All-State honors. She was a second-team Class 4A all-stater after averaging 17.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game as a sophomore in 2015-16. She claimed honorable-mention all-state recognition as a freshman when she captured the first of three straight first-team all-area honors. She was also ranked as the No. 21 forward nationally by ESPN.
Brown, who entered her senior season with 1,238 points, 580 rebounds, 225 assists and 128 steals, has her final year at DeKalb off to amazing start, averaging 43.5 points, 22.0 rebounds, 7.0 steals, 3.0 steals and 2.0 blocks through the first two games. She opened her senior season with 34 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple-double in a Halloween win over Heritage High School, before exploding for a career-high 53 points, 24 rebounds and four assists in a win over Lakeland High School on Nov. 3.
Brown played her club basketball for Always 100 coached by Julius Smith.
“We are so excited for all that Leigha will bring to our program. She is a versatile guard with good size and has the ability to score at all three levels,” Nebraska Coach Amy Williams said. “She understands how to work and fits the culture we are establishing at Nebraska. Each time Leigha steps on the court, she plays like she has something to prove, and we will welcome that sense of urgency into our program.”
The daughter of Jenese Brown and Nate Brown, Leigha was born July 14, 2000 in Auburn, Ind. She has a younger sister, Jayla. Leigha chose Nebraska over Xavier, Belmont, Western Michigan, Wright State, Indiana State, Youngstown State, American and IUPUI.
“I believe it is a perfect fit for me,” Brown said. “The coaching staff, fans and the opportunities that the school provides were exactly what I was looking for in a school.”
5-9, Guard, Moorhead, Minnesota (Moorhead)
An outstanding all-around athlete, Sam Haiby (pronounced HY-bee) was ranked as one of the top 125 players in the nation by both Blue Star and Prospects Nation. She was also the No. 28 guard in the nation according to ESPN. Despite those rankings, Nebraska coaches feel that Haiby flew relatively under the national recruiting radar. Haiby is coming off a big junior season when she averaged 22.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 4.1 steals as a 5-9 point guard at Moorhead High School.
In addition to playing basketball, Haiby was a starting shortstop and pitcher on Moorhead High School’s baseball team in the spring of 2017. She was the first pitcher to ever throw a pitch in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, taking the mound for the Spuds against the Sartell Sabres at the home of the Minnesota Vikings and the upcoming Super Bowl in the Twin Cities. She also became the first female in history to pitch a scoreless inning in a Minnesota High School boys baseball game last spring.
“Sam has a great feel for the game. Her athleticism and explosiveness allow her to make plays for herself and others,” Nebraska Coach Amy Williams said. “She has incredible potential on the defensive side of the basketball, as she has deceptive length and quickness. Her experience with her high school and summer programs have prepared her to play at the next level.”
Haiby, who chose Nebraska over Minnesota, Arizona, Creighton, North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State, said she chose Nebraska because of the overall feel of the program.
“It felt like home,” Haiby said. “I formed a great relationship with the coaches, and the support from Husker Nation is unbelievable.”
6-3, Forward, Chanhassen, Minnesota (Minnetonka)
Kayla Mershon (pronounced MER-shawn) will come to Lincoln as one of the top players in the state of Minnesota. The 6-3 forward from Chanhassen, Minn., was Nebraska’s second commit in the class, making her plans known to attend Nebraska in February of 2017. Mershon was ranked as the No. 132 overall player in the nation by Prospects Nation and the No. 14 wing nationally by ESPN.
As a junior, Mershon averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds in 2016-17. As a sophomore, she helped Minnetonka High School to its first-ever state championship in 2016. A five-time high school basketball letterwinner, Mershon was a first-team All-Lake Conference selection for Coach Leah Dasovich.
Mershon also has played club basketball at the highest level for Coach Gerard Coury and the North Tartan program, which has won the Minnesota State AAU title seven years in a row. She was named to the all-tournament team at the Georgia Super Showcase. She was also invited to Nike All-American National Elite Camp in 2014, and advanced to the second round of tryouts for USA Basketball in 2016. She also has competed internationally with North Tartan in Europe against national teams from France and the Netherlands.
“Kayla Mershon has great length and a strong all-around skill-set, and we are excited about her versatility,” Nebraska Coach Amy Williams said. “Kayla has shown some unique natural gifts, but she is also a tremendous worker and has a great attitude. She has played for a state championship high school team, and an extremely competitive summer team, and she is eager to compete at the highest level. We can’t wait to see all she will accomplish here in a Husker uniform.”
An honor roll student, Kayla chose Nebraska over Indiana, Iowa, Arkansas, Oregon, DePaul, Utah, Minnesota, Princeton, Wake Forest, Colorado, Creighton, Saint Louis, Drake and South Dakota State.
“I chose Nebraska because I felt most at ‘home’ when I visited,” Mershon said. “The coaches and players are amazing, the campus itself is beautiful, and I love the Haymarket area right next to it. Not to mention the fan support is insane, and I can’t wait to be a Husker.”