From accounts of people who know them well, University of Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden has picked up a couple of gems for his 2005 recruiting class.
Because of NCAA rules, Marsden is not allowed to comment on recruits until he receives a signed letter of intent, and those can't be autographed until the early signing period Nov. 10-17.
But Puget Sound Gymnastics coach Brad Loan, a 30-year veteran who coached former UCLA NCAA champion Onnie Willis, says Kristina Baskett is better than Willis was.
"I've had like 15 elites, and without a doubt, she's the most talented. I will be surprised if she doesn't end up an NCAA champion," Loan said in confirming that Baskett had given an oral commitment to the Utes over her other favorite, UCLA.
And Janet Duscio, manager of World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas, home to 2004 Olympic all-around champion Carly Patterson, confirmed that Nina Kim, 16th in the 2004 national championships and a favorite of teammates, staff and national media who visited that gym, has also committed to Utah.
"She doesn't quite have Carly's talent, but she's a special kid," Duscio said.
Duscio said Kim has a good personality, being silly at appropriate times and keeping everyone together. "She's an awesome gymnast," Duscio added, noting that Kim just missed making the 2004 Olympic trials.
Duscio said many colleges wanted Kim.
Both gymnasts would enroll at Utah next fall, if they follow through and sign their letters of intent. If both sign, they will complete Utah's recruiting class as the Utes have two scholarships for that season.
Both seem happy with their choice of the Utes after visiting recently on the same weekend and making commitments before returning home.Comment on this story
They became good friends on the recruiting trip, said Loan, saying that made their decision easier. "They really bonded."
He said Baskett could be among the national team's top 10 or 12 this winter, after many of the Olympians retire or go to college. She is outstanding in three events but a little afraid on bars which isn't the only way that she reminds folks of 2004 Ute grad Melissa Vituj, a fan favorite who learned to love bars.
Like Vituj, Baskett loves the idea of competing in front of Utah's 10,000 fans. "She likes to show," Loan said, also calling her "a delight as a person."Baskett missed the national championships due to a fall in a qualifying meet and missed last year's championships with broken toes. That leaves her hungry for recognition, much like many of the athletes Marsden recruits. "She wants it real bad. I can almost predict she'll make the guy (Marsden) famous," Loan said.