UNC Women's Basketball Signs Finnish Forward

Finnish forward Jenni Laaksonen will be a freshman on the UNC women's basketball team in 2001-02.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--Jenni Laaksonen, a 6-2 forward from Finland, has signed a letter of intent with the University of North Carolina women's basketball team, bringing the 2001-02 freshman class to a total of five players.

"Jenni is very versatile and can play a lot of different positions," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "She has a tremendous work ethic and is very strong academically. She has many things to contribute, not just to our program but to the University of North Carolina."

Laaksonen, who is from Helsinki, is a member of the Finnish National Team and has played in 12 games for the squad. Prior to being selected for the National Team in 1999, she represented Finland on the nation's 17-and-under and 20-and-under teams.

In 2000-01, she averaged 10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals for Pussihukat Basketball Club of Vantaa in Finland's Championship League. In 1999-2000, she won the Finnish Championship with Pantterit of Helsinki, averaging 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds and earning Outstanding New Player honors.

"Jenni has tremendous potential, due to her combination of size, speed, agility and fighting spirit," said John Simon, president of the Pussihukat Basketball Club. "She has a lot to learn to adapt to the American game, but she is a quick learner."

Laaksonen graduated this month from Makelanrinne lukio. At UNC, she plans to major in biology.

She will be the first foreign player to suit up for the Tar Heels since Lori Gear, a guard from Canada who played for UNC from 1994-97. Joining Laaksonen in the 2001-02 freshman class for Carolina are Nikita Bell (6-0, F/G, Columbus, Ga.), Kenya McBee (6-2, F, Greenville, S.C.), Leah Metcalf (5-7, G, Charlotte, N.C.) and Tiffany Tucker (6-5, C, Colonial Heights, Va.).


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