SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In her first recruiting class as UC Santa Barbara's new head coach, Carlene Mitchell officially inked three standout players as high school players signed their National Letters of Intent this week.
The Gauchos will welcome Jasmine Ware, Kendra Morrison and Jessica Pino to their team next season and all three will be big additions to the defending Big West regular-season champions.
"Taking this job in late May it was a unique recruiting process for our staff," Mitchell said. "Without hesitation, we know we signed three young women that will help us establish the strong foundation we wanted in our first recruiting class. Our priority when evaluating during July was to find players with a tireless work ethic, a blue collar mentality, and those who were willing to do all the team things and who could provide us with versatility. We found these traits in Kendra Morrison, Jasmine Ware and Jess Pino."
Ware is a highly-regarded guard from Sacramento High as she was tabbed by ESPN-HS as the 85th best guard in the nation. The 5-foot-10 native of Sacramento averaged 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 1.2 assists per game last season. Ware shot 63 percent from the floor last season and has the ability to play both up top and down low. She once pulled down 17 rebounds in a game last December.
"Jasmine Ware will give us a long athlete with the ability to guard any perimeter player," Mitchell said. "Her explosive first step will allow her to attack the rim or pull up and knock down the mid-range jumper. Every game we watched, our staff consistently noticed Jasmine and how she could control games with her defensive mindset. Her work ethic and desire to grow will put her in a position to be a great player at the college level. She comes from a program that is recognized on a national level – Sacramento High – coached by Michele Massari."
Morrison will join the Gauchos out of Eastlake High in Sammamish, Washington. A 6-foot-1 wing player, she averaged 16.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game last season. According to her club coach, Morrison had over 20 scholarship offers from Division 1 schools before settling on UCSB. Morrison can play guard or forward, can shoot outside and she handles the ball extremely well.
"Kendra Morrison adds a versatile wing player that can score a variety of ways, but her ability and willingness to rebound separated her from other players we evaluated," Mitchell said. "Her Way 2 Win AAU program competed in all the elite summer tournaments and Kendra consistently stood out. A high basketball IQ and desire to do all the small things for the team's success will allow her to fit right in with our style of play. Her versatility will allow her to push the ball in transition and at times post up smaller guards."
Rounding out the trio of terrific players is Pino, a 6-foot-3 forward from Temecula's Chaparral High. Pino chose UCSB over four other schools who were heavily involved in the recruiting process and was also being recruited for her volleyball prowess. Ranked by MaxPreps as the 73rd-best player in California, Pino averaged 12.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.5 blocks, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season to lead her team to a 24-3 overall record.
"Jess Pino adds much-needed size to our roster and she is a very skilled player that can also play multiple positions at 6-foot-3," Mitchell said. "Coached by her father at Chaparral, she has been taught the game of basketball and has the fundamentals that will put her light years ahead of most freshman. With the ability to shoot the 3-point shot and with the passing skills of a small forward, she will be asked to play multiple positions for our team. Her volleyball background and explosive leaping ability will allow her to be very successful inside in the Big West."
The three players, all entering their senior seasons in high school, will join the Gauchos for the 2012-13 season.
"I am honored these young women would believe in our vision and that their parents and coaches trust in me and my staff to take care of them as people first," Mitchell said. "Each will represent the tradition and greatness of so many great players before them that have worn Gaucho uniforms."
UCSB opens its 2011-12 season on Friday at Seattle. Season tickets are available by clicking here or calling 893-UCSB (8272). The Gauchos host their home opener on Thursday, Nov. 17 against St. Mary's at 6 p.m.