Justine Hartman. took the circuitous road to Cal. She initially verbally committed to Boston College, but later signed a letter-of-intent to Nikki Caldwell’s fast-rising UCLA program. But Caldwell’s sudden departure to LSU forced Hartman to reconsider, and after a Memorial weekend visit Cal became her 3rd and final choice.
The 6’2’’ Hartman is a consensus top-10 prospect in the nation despite missing her junior season with a knee injury. That tells you a little something about her talent that injury concerns and a missed year of development didn't stop her from earning a top 10 national ranking. However, it does mean that video and highlight films are significantly harder to come by. There is this video, all about Hartman's commitment to . . . UCLA. Oh well, we'll take what we can get:
What is the theme when scouts and coaches talk about Hartman? Well, there isn't one. That's because Hartman seems to have a pretty complete game. Most of Cal's bigs have a particular quality that stands out. Gennifer Brandon's 'bounciness.' Talia Caldwell's ability to use her size to rebound. Reshanda Gray's athleticism. With Hartman, she's getting praise across the board. Including the video above, many people are impressed with her hands.
Said Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan: "A dominant big girl with great hands and a great touch. You just don't see that anymore.
In Justine, we are getting a skilled, strong, smooth and versatile post player with a high basketball I.Q.
She finished better than any of the posts here and mixed in some mid-range scoring as well.
Put it all together and it's not hard to understand why Hartman is the highest rated recruit ever to commit to Cal. Essentially the only concern is her injury history, but she successfully played through her entire senior season without too much trouble, facing all kinds of elite competition along the way. I have no doubt she's ready for the collegiate level.
The raves she's received for her hands and ability to catch and control the ball perhaps excite me the most because of Cal's recent difficulty with turnovers. It's no secret that entry passes to bigs has been a challenge over the last two years. What better solution than a tall, athletic forward with glue-for-hands?
Hartman's stats aren't as eye-popping as her decorated classmates, but Brea Olinda played one of the toughest schedules in the country with a number of games against top-ranked national programs like Long Beach Poly and Mater Dei. For that reason alone I'm inclined to guess that Hartman will have the easiest learning curve of the freshman foursome.
It's going to be too easy for Cal fans to compare her to DeNesha Stallworth because the announcement of her commitment to Cal came not long after Stallworth left for Kentucky, when Cal seemingly had a huge void at forward. That's not fair, in part because I would guess that a healthy Gennifer Brandon will be starting alongside Talia Caldwell to begin the season. While it sounds like Hartman has a similar skill-set, I think she is more well-rounded compared to Stallworth as a freshman. But for now all she needs to do is impress off the bench and let the game come to her.
Welcome to Cal Justine!
. . . Is it basketball season yet?