BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Clearly Arkansas women’s head basketball coach Mike Neighbors isn’t limiting his recruiting footprint to just the United States.
Netherlands native Phoenix Stotijn became the second international player in as many years to pledge to play her college basketball for the Razorbacks when she did so on Sunday.
Stotijn, a 5-9 guard from Haarlem, joins 6-1 Granada, Spain guard Cristina Sanchez, who will be a Razorback freshman, this season to give the program some international flavor.
“Coach Neighbors is really great, just seeing how the team plays and how he gives practice and coaches them is exactly what I was looking for,” Stotijn said. “Also as a person, Coach Neighbors is just great and he is also very real and will just be very honest with you. He is very motivated to make me better and get me where I want to be, which is exactly what I was looking for in a coach.”
Stotijn is excited about playing in the SEC.
“The staff is really great and I can’t wait to have them as all my coaches next year,” Stotijn said. “I have always dreamed of playing in college at the highest level and being able to play in the best conference is just the best. I cant wait to compete against all these good teams.”
Sanchez actually hitched a plane ride to Fayetteville with her new Arkansas teammates on Monday as the Razorbacks returned from a 3-0 Europen tour to Croatia and Greece.
Neighbors went to watch Stotijn play for the Netherlands National 18-and-under team in this year’s European Championships and also in the 3-on-3 World Championships in Hungary.
She averaged 15 points and 2.4 assists in the European Championships, shooting 31.9 percent from 3-point range, including hitting 7 of 9 triples in a 27-point performance against the United Kingdom on July 7.
Stotijn got an offer from Arkansas on April 5 and took an official visit to Fayetteville in early August.
She also visited West Virginia and Central Florida and chose the Razorbacks over those two teams as well as Arizona, Central Florida, Georgetown, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech and Washington State.
“The thing that made Arkansas stand out was really the style of play and all the staff and team everyone was just great and I felt comfortable right away,” Stotijn said. “I just knew it was the place I wanted to continue my career at.”
Stotijn is used to playing with older players as she competes for the Triple Threat Under 21 team and also in the professional Dutch Basketball League.
“I play with a U21 team and a pro team at home,” Stotijn said. “We have won the championship once with the U21 and just came short this past year.
“This upcoming season we are for sure going to get the championship with the new team we have and with the pro’s we play with. A very young team but it consists of 10 youth national team players so we should do pretty well.”
She sized up the strengths and weaknesses of her game.
“I think the best parts of my game are playing 1 on 1 and coming off of the pick and roll,” Stotijn said. “I would love to improve my shooting and finishing (and) just overall being more consistent.”
Sanchez was unable to play with the Razorbacks in Croatia and Greece because she was still playing for the Spanish National team.
She will start school in a couple of weeks and is one of five newcomers on the Arkansas roster along with fellow freshmen Taliah Scott, Jenna Lawrence and Maryan Archer and sophomore junior college transfer Carly Keats.
Sanchez played 26 games last season with Segle XXI while averaging 6.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Photo courtesy of University of Arkansas