UM Women's Hoops Signs Six

Head coach Katie Meier is pleased to announced the signing of Vitalija Vasciunaite (Charlottesville, Va.), Latoya Drake (Baxley, Ga.) and Diane Barnes (Lakeland, Fla.) to National Letters of Intent to play women's basketball at the University of Miami in 2007-08.

The trio joins Briyana Blair (Orlando, Fla.), Damisha Moore (Cartersville, Ga.) and Epiphany Woodson (Charlotte, N.C.), who signed with the University of Miami in November, as members of the 2007-08 recruiting class.

"First of all, I want to compliment my staff on just a tremendous recruiting effort for this class," said Miami head coach Katie Meier. "These six young ladies all bring successful basketball resumes to our program and will really help elevate it. Each one of them adds a needed dimension to our team, and I expect all six of these young ladies to mesh with our core returners to make Miami successful in 2007-08 and beyond."

Vasciunaite, a 5-8 shooting guard, averaged 21.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game for the Miller School in Charlottesville, Va. As a senior in 2006-07, she led the Red Devils to a 22-2 record and the team's first berth in the Virginia Independent Schools Girls' Basketball Association (VISGBA) Division III State Championships. In the finals, Vasciunaite scored a team-high 19 points en route to all-tournament team, all-state and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division III Player of the Year honors.

Additionally, Vasciunaite is a member of the Lithuanian National Team, and competed with the fifth-placing Under-18 team at the 2006 European Championships in Tenerife, Spain. There, she averaged 7.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists over eight games - including highs of 16 points and six rebounds versus France.

"V is a prolific scorer who brings a tremendous level of maturity to our program," said Meier. "She has competed internationally and will do so again this summer at both the European Championships and the World Championships. She has a tremendous basketball IQ and can knock down the big shot time and time again."

Drake, a rising junior, played two years of basketball at Florida Community College in Jacksonville, earning Honorable Mention All-America Team honors from both Kodak/WBCA and the NJCAA as a sophomore in 2006-07 and First Team All-Mid Florida Conference and Florida Community College Activities Association (FCCAA) Region VIII State/Regional All-Tournament Team accolades as a freshman in 2005-06. This past season, the 6-2 forward/center averaged 19.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game, while shooting 63.6 percent from the field to lead the NJCAA Region VIII in field goal percentage and rank second in scoring and sixth in rebounding.

"We certainly wanted to address our need for improved scoring and rebounding in the paint during recruiting this year, and I believe Latoya is a great answer for us," commented Meier. "Her stats are already impressive right now, but I truly believe her best basketball is ahead of her. She is just one of those players who is determined to be great, and I think we are very fortunate to be adding her to our program."

Barnes, a rising sophomore, will transfer to Miami after playing one year at Trinity Valley Community College (Texas). The 6-2 forward was among the NJCAA Region XIV's leaders in both field goal percentage and scoring, averaging better than 10 points per game at higher than a 55-percent clip. She helped her team to the top of the regular-season standings in the conference with a 24-7 overall record and a 15-3 Region XIV mark. A native of Lakeland, Fla., Barnes played prep basketball for Kathleen High School and was named to the Florida Sports Writers Association Girls Class 4A Honorable Mention All-State Team as a senior in 2005.

"Diane is the consummate worker who brings true passion every time she competes," said Meier. "She simply will not be outworked and has a way of inspiring her teammates - as well as her coaches. She is a very special athlete who played for one of the best junior college programs and coaches in the country. Her improvement in just one year there is extremely impressive, and I expect great things from her here at Miami."

Since signing in November, Blair and Woodson have continued to rack up the accolades in completing successful prep careers.

Blair, a 5-10 guard/forward at Orlando's Boone High School, averaged 13.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a senior to lead the Braves to the semifinals of the Class 6A state tournament and earn First Team All-State honors by the Florida Sports Writers Association.

Woodson, a 5-8 guard at Providence Day in Charlotte, averaged 7.5 points, 5.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game to lead her team to its third-straight North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) 3A title. She was selected Mecklenburg County's Player of the Year and was named to the All-Observer Team, All-Mecklenburg County First Team, All-CISAA Team, All-NCISAA Team and North Carolina Associated Press All-State Second Team.

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