McDouble: Lady Bulldogs hit milestone with two McDonald's All-Americans

Georgia 2022 signees Reigan Richardson and Jillian Hollingshead were two of the 24 players named to the team.

ATHENS, Ga. — Whenever you ask Joni Taylor about the culture of her program, she’ll start preaching about the approach to recruiting. It’s the lifeblood of any college program, the level of talent and development determines your success and it’s a tireless task to add targeted prospects.

At Georgia, the approach has always been unique to recruiting. You hear the sixth-year head coach use the word “fit” a lot. A recruit must possess those qualities of strong character, and that sometimes holds a heavier weight than talent.

Simply put, the Lady Bulldogs will pass on a player if that needed connection isn’t there.

“You can look across the country and there are McDonald's All-Americans stacked down the roster. For some reason, it doesn't fit,” Taylor said last Thursday. “We would love to have McDonald's All-Americans, but if she isn't the right fit for Georgia basketball, then we pass.”

The Lady Bulldogs already had their Big Mac combo meal with a four-deep 2022 recruiting class led by five-star guard Reigan Richardson and four-star forward Jillian Hollingshead. On Tuesday, that got supersized and maybe with an apple pie to go with it.

Taylor got the character fit and the accolade.

“I’m lovin’ it,” Taylor tweeted.

Richardson and Hollingshead were named to the 24-player roster for the McDonald’s All-American Game. The game will not be played this season due to Covid-19 protocols, but the honorees will participate in a ceremony.

Georgia hadn’t signed a McDonald’s All-American out of high school since Ronika Ransford in the 2010 class, who later left the program. A player with the accolade has brought Georgia success, however, as some of its legendary players (Ashley Houts, Tasha Humphrey and Angel Robinson) previously played in the game.

Georgia junior guard Mikayla Coombs, a former five-star guard out of Buford, Ga., played in the game before signing with UConn. She is in her first eligible season as a Lady Bulldog. Former point guard Taja Cole, who came to the program from Louisville and later transferred to Virginia Tech, was also a McDonald’s All-American.

“To be considered among the top 24 players in the country is a testament to how hard they have worked to get where they are today. I have no doubt our fans will enjoy watching them play over the next four years,” Taylor said in a statement issued by a team spokesperson on Tuesday. “More important than any honor or stat is who they are as people, and I truly mean that. Our staff has been so impressed with their maturity and commitment to earning an outstanding education at the University of Georgia.”

Georgia finished third-best in having the most signees named to the McDonald’s All-American Game. South Carolina had four while UConn had three.

Richardson, the North Carolina product who plays for Team Curry AAU, has been on a tear for her high school team before earning the honor. On senior night, Richardson posted a triple-double with 49 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a comeback victory. Her coach and trainer, Ashley Rivens, praised Richardson’s ability as a three-level scorer.

After earning the All-American accolade, Richardson got a shoutout from Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who owns her AAU program.

Hollingshead was named to the McDonald’s All-American Game as a 6-foot-4 forward out of McEachern. She is a four-star prospect and was the last to sign and complete Georgia’s 2022 haul — which also includes three-star Kimora Jenkins and Netherlands product Alina Sendar — back in November.

Georgia has recruited Richardson and Hollingshead since middle school, Taylor said.

“The relationship piece and loyalty piece was huge in being able to sign both of them,” Taylor said.

Georgia got its award for a character-first recruiting approach. Two of their biggest additions were honored on a prospect’s biggest stage on Tuesday afternoon.

One more question, though: Apple pies or hot fudge sundaes? A pair of awards, however, should probably get both for the Lady Bulldogs.

“We are obviously delighted (for them) and thrilled that Jillian and Reigan are part of the Lady Bulldog family,” Taylor said.