Nelms, a 5-7 point guard, has been a member of the UNC track and field team for the last two years and will continue to compete for that squad. She earned All-America honors last season as a member of the Tar Heels' 4x400 relay team.
At Spotsylvania (Va.) High School, Nelms garnered all-region and all-area honors in basketball and was named district player of the year. As a sophomore, she was the high school national champion in the high jump and she twice earned state championships in the high jump and the 400.
"She's such an athlete, with great speed and quickness," Hatchell said. "She hasn't played basketball in two years, so she'll need to work on her skills, but she learns fast and is very coachable. We're very happy to have her on the team."
Laaksonen, who is from Helsinki, Finland, missed the first several weeks of school while competing in the World University Games in Korea as part of the Finnish National Team. After returning home from the competition, she decided to remain in Finland for family reasons.
Laaksonen appeared in 20 games for the Tar Heels last season and started one. She averaged 2.0 points and 1.1 rebounds in 6.4 minutes of play. "Jenni has been a great member of our team for the last two years and we?re sorry to see her go," Hatchell said. "I know it's been hard for her to be so far away from her family, and we support the decision that she has made."
The Tar Heels open the 2003-04 season on Nov. 21 with a home game against St. Francis (Pa.). Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Carmichael Auditorium.