What Three Junior College Signees Means for the Development of UTEP Women’s Basketball
There were some question marks surrounding the UTEP women's basketball program leading into the offseason, especially with the news of leading scorer Zuzanna Puc transferring from the program.
But most questions appeared to have been answered with head coach Kevin Baker and his staff's latest recruiting efforts.
We knew that UTEP women's basketball would be getting four high school standouts in fall with Katia Gallegos (Franklin High School), Avery Crouse (Sachse High School), Arina Khlopkova (Christian Academy of Louisville) and Tatyana Modawar (Carondelet High School). But it takes time to develop young players right off the bat and it's hard to place high expectations on true freshmen athletes in any sport.
Yesterday though, coach Baker announced the signings of three top-100 junior college players, who are each available to play immediately and will have two years of college eligibility.
The 10th ranked JUCO player in the nation in junior forward DeJaNae Roebuck of Hutchison Junior College highlights the early signing class for the Miners. She's a 6-foot-0 small forward that led the team in both scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg). For her efforts last year, she was named third team All-American and first team All-Region. Roebuck is someone that can make an immediate impact on the floor for the Miners in the fall.
“DeJaNae is a player that we have had our eye on for a couple of years," said Baker in a release. "She was terrific at Hutchinson as a freshman and had an equally great sophomore year. She is very versatile and can do so many things to help our team. DeJaNae is skilled as a guard and can also play power forward. She will have an immediate impact on our team. Not only is DeJaNae a great player, she also possesses the intangibles. She is a winner and always has been. We are proud to add her our team."
Having played alongside Roebuck at Hutchison, junior point guard Tia Bradshaw will look to add some experience and depth to the Miners' backcourt. She was a two-year starter and ranked as the 55th-best JUCO player and 12th best guard according to Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. Bradshaw is a nice two-way guard that nearly averaged seven points, three assists and two steals per game with Hutchison.
“Tia is the definition of solid point guard. She is strong, steady, and a threat to score from the lead guard position," Baker said in a release. "Tia is a great team leader. That has shown as she navigated her team’s path to the Final Four this season. She will be able to push our team to greater heights with her ability, leadership, basketball IQ, and her overall ability to play the game. We are so excited about adding a player like Tia to our roster.”
Rounding out the junior college signees is junior Michelle Pruitt of Miami Dade College. She too is a top-100 JUCO recruit and is a 6-foot forward that can score (16.4 ppg) and rebound (10.4 rpg) exceptionally well. While Roebuck is more of a small forward, Pruitt plays as a power forward and will add some quality depth to UTEP's frontcourt.
“Michelle will add size, scoring and rebounding to our team," Baker said in a release. "She has an incredible ability to use her body inside and create scoring chances. She is a force on the boards and will help our team greatly in that category. We were very fortunate to add Michelle to our team. She plays with heart and uses her instincts well. We are so pleased that she has chosen to be a Miner.”
We knew that the Miners had a tough 2018-19 season, especially after only suiting out seven players for the last stretch of the season. Injuries piled up but the Miners still managed to qualify for the C-USA Tournament and even steal a game from Marshall in the opening round.
Now Baker has more chess pieces to work with. He can play with different rotations, different schemes and not have to force any of the true freshmen players out on the floor when they might not be ready. He can integrate the JUCO players in with the returning players and sprinkle the freshmen group in whenever he sees the best fit.