Aztec Basketball Signs Five To National Letters of Intent
Nov. 15, 2010
San Diego State women's basketball head coach Beth Burns announced the signing Monday of forwards Erimma Amarikwa (Vacaville, Calif.), Chairese Culberson (Oakland, Calif.), Khristina Hunter (Fairfield, Calif.) and Deajanae Scurry (Los Angeles, Calif.) and point guard Ahjalee Harvey (Mountain View, Calif.) to National Letters of Intent. The five high school seniors, who are each ranked among the top recruits in the nation, will join the Aztecs in 2011.
"An obvious dividend of our most recent success is in the recruiting process," Burns said. "Our early classes came to build a program. As we continue to aim higher and accomplish more goals, this next generation of Aztecs is coming to meet the challenge of not only sustaining, but elevating our program to new and better heights."
Erimma (Emma) Amarikwa attends Vanden High School in Fairfield, Calif., where she led the team to a 26-6 overall record last season, garnering conference MVP honors. She was also named a second-team all-state underclassman by Cal-Hi Sports.
"Emma is a big, strong and powerful forward, who we have targeted for over two years," Burns said. "She's a great rebounder, is passionate about the game and has great hands and quick power. We think she can be really special on both ends of the floor. Just as important is her energy and personality; Emma will be an impact both as a player and a teammate. She is an excellent student who will be an asset to SDSU."
The 6-1 forward averaged 17.3 points a contest, including a career single-game high of 40 points as a junior. The Vikings, under head coach Allison Johnson, have won their league title in each of her three campaigns.
"Emma is a lot of fun to coach," Johnson said. "She is a leader, not a follower, and she is all about the team competing and improving. This is only the beginning for her and I am so confident that she will continue to blossom (at San Diego State)."
"I knew I wanted to come to San Diego State, because the coaches and the team were so welcoming," Amarikwa said. "They also have a great nursing program, I loved the campus and the weather is the best."
"Emma is strong, athletic, runs the floor well and is a hard worker," said her NorCal Elite club team coach Michele Massari. "She will fit in perfectly with how San Diego State likes to use its forwards."
Chairese (Dezi) Culberson was rated seventh nationally at the wing position and 46th overall in the recruiting class of 2011 by ESPN's HoopGurlz website. The 6-0 forward is a three-time all-league honoree at Berkeley High School and was a second-team all-state underclass pick last season by Cal-Hi Sports.
"Dezi is a fantastic athlete with quick, explosive power, who will be a true rebounding small forward," Burns said. "She is a high energy player and person. Dezi is highly motivated to excel and has worked tirelessly on her game. Her enthusiasm is contagious; she makes teams better with her confidence and toughness alone. As she continues to learn and grow, she has the ability to be a dominant, exciting player for the Aztecs. She also is an excellent student, interested in the medical field."
Culberson has helped the Yellowjackets to their league title in each of her three seasons and averaged 14.4 points and 11.6 rebounds as a junior.
"I knew that even on my worse day, San Diego State would be a place where I could be happy," Culberson said. "I love the coaching staff and coach Burns. Plus, I love the sun and the beach, so I knew it would be a great fit for me."
Culberson, who will major in communications at SDSU, competes for the California Ballaz club team under head coach Leroy Hurt. During the summer of 2009, she was named to the all-tournament team at the prestigious End of the Oregon Trail, while also picking up MVP honors in her bracket at the Nike Summer Showcase in Chicago.
"In Dezi you're getting an explosive athlete, who is redefining her perimeter game and will develop into an outstanding (collegiate) wing player," Hurt said.
Ahjalee Harvey is a 5-6 point guard who stars at Eastside College Preparatory in East Palo Alto, Calif. She averaged 18.9 points and 4.8 assists per game as a junior, when she was tabbed her league's co-MVP and is a two-time all-conference pick.
"Ahjalee is a lighting quick pressure guard, and is comfortable and confident as a leader on the court. She has consistent range to three, and is left-handed." Burns said. "Her intellect and attention to detail, coupled with her basketball skills, give her an opportunity to immediately make an impact at the next level. Ahjalee is a fierce competitor and is a high-energy player. She is perfectly suited to a fast-paced, up-tempo game. An exceptional student, Ahjalee will be an asset to our SDSU College of Business as well."
Harvey earned four out of five stars and was ranked as the 31st best point guard in the 2011 recruiting class by HoopGurlz. She helped Eastside to a 24-5 record, two league titles and the CIF Central Coast Section championship as a freshman under head coach Donovan Blythe.
"(Ahjalee) is a very special young lady," Blythe said. "She's very well-rounded and is not only a good basketball player, but a great student. She will fit right into the style that coach (Burns) likes to play and I know that she will do well there."
A member of her high school's honor roll, she intends to major in business/entrepreneurship at San Diego State.
"San Diego State had all the elements of support that I was looking for in academics, the school of business and with the basketball program and coaching staff," Harvey said. "I had a good feeling when I came to campus and I felt that I could see myself going there."
Harvey will be the third Aztec, joining Kiyana Stamps and Chelsea Hopkins, who played club basketball with West Coast Premier (WCP) under head coach Brian Crichlow. Harvey scored 13 points in the final to lead WCP to the overall title at the 2010 End of the Oregon Trail, earning all-tournament honors.
"Ahjalee possesses a high basketball IQ and is just as dedicated to succeeding with her school work," Crichlow said. "She has a good shot, is patient and is a hard-nosed defender. She was the glue to our team and was a piece to the puzzle in helping us be successful this past summer."
Khristina Hunter will join her prep and club teammate Culberson on the Aztecs' roster in 2011-12. Hunter is a 6-1 forward who will play her senior year at Berkeley High after transferring there earlier this spring.
"Khristina is bright, strong and skilled. She can pound in the paint, an area of need for us, yet is light on her feet and can play an open floor style," Burns said. "She has solid fundamental skills, wants to be great, and we think she can really develop into an excellent player for us. Khristina is an impressive student and aspires to study in the medical field."
Hunter was rated a three-star recruit by HoopGurlz and is ranked 60th at the forward position nationally. She averaged 18.7 points as a junior, highlighted by a school record of 33 points in a single game.
"(SDSU) was the right fit for me, I felt at home," Hunter said. "I liked the coaches and the players and the (San Diego) area made me feel like it was the place for me."
Hunter has picked up all-league accolades on two occasions and was named her school's student-athlete of the month. She is interested in studying sports medicine at San Diego State and has played during the summer for the California Ballaz for two years.
"Khristina is a very skilled front court player, who brings a lot of versatility," Hurt said. "She can play on the low block, post up, run the floor and is a solid passer."
Deajanae (Nae Nae) Scurry is the third Aztec signee to be named to the all-state underclass second team by Cal-Hi Sports this past May. A 6-1 forward, she plays at Inglewood High for coach Tony Scott, posting 11.2 points and 8.6 rebounds an outing as a junior.
"We see Deajanae as a `what can and will she be' type player," Burns said. "Her upside is limitless; she loves the game and is a tremendous athlete with crazy physical potential. As she continues to learn and develop, Nae Nae will be fun to watch. Her versatility will allow us to use her in a lot of different ways. She's a great fit for our preferred style of play."
Scurry is a four-star recruit and rated 31st nationally at the forward position by the HoopGurlz website. She was a first-team all-CIF selection in 2010, and posted a 35-point, 15-rebound performance in the playoffs in 2010.
"(Deajanae) is an explosive scorer, who has a good outside shot and has been working in the offseason on her 3-point range," Scott said. "She has a high basketball IQ, high court awareness and plays well beyond her 6-1 height."
Scurry was named to the all-tournament squad at the Battle at the Beach and led the Sentinels to a 30-5 overall record and a spot in the regional championship game a year ago.
"I liked the team's chemistry and the coaching staff (at SDSU)," Scurry said. "Plus, it's not too close to home, but not too far either so that my family is still able to come see me play."
Scurry, who is planning to major in kinesiology at SDSU, is a member of the Cal Sparks Gold club team during the summer under coach Elbert Kinnebrew.
"I am very excited that DeAjanae "Nae Nae" Scurry will be joining the San Diego State Aztecs," Kinnebrew said. "Nae Nae's ultra-athletic skill set will fit right in with the exciting style of play that coach Burns has planned for Viejas Arena. Her ability to rebound from the big wing position, as well as guard taller players in the Mountain West, makes her an excellent addition to an outstanding roster. Nae Nae also comes from a club team, Cal Sparks that has had 10 players signing with Division I schools this year."
Besides the five current high school seniors, SDSU will also add Chelsea Hopkins to the mix for next season after the Duke transfer and 5-8 guard sits out this year due to NCAA guidelines.
"With our graduation of Paris (Johnson) and Jessika (Bradley) and with Kalena Tutt and Candace Chambers going to be seniors, we were looking for front-line help with our 2011 recruiting class," Burns said. "We really wanted to address rebounding and overall speed and power in our front line. Emma, Dezi, Khristina and Nae Nae, all have strengths unique to them that collectively, are exactly what we wanted to bring in.
"We also felt that adding a young point guard, one who can lead and grow with this talented group of forwards, was just as critical. Ahjalee has the chance to be a great one. We are thrilled with the versatility and personality that we have in this class and the chemistry that they have with each other. They have set high goals for themselves both scholastically and athletically.
"Our recruiting coordinator Jualeah Woods (coach Y) has done an amazing job year in and year out, but the numbers and talent in this class is unsurpassed. We are all hungry and excited to continue to win championships at San Diego State and hope our signees are all battling for a state championship come March!"
The Aztecs continue their 2010-11 season with their second consecutive home game, when first-time foe Cal State Bakersfield comes to Viejas Arena for a 7 p.m. tip-off on Wednesday. Tickets are available for as little as $8 through ticketmaster.com.
2010-11 Aztec Basketball Signees