SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Back in November, the Santa Clara University women's basketball program drew praise from ESPN HoopGurlz. The online publication ranked SCU's incoming recruiting class No. 56 nationally.
That freshmen group arrived on the Mission Campus this week to begin taking summer courses and participate in offseason conditioning. All four were McDonald's All-America nominees as prep seniors and each carried high school GPA's of 3.6 or higher.
The newest additions to the Bronco basketball family are pictured from left to right: 6-foot-4-inch post Vanessa Leo (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty High School), 5-foot-2-inch guard Tyler Woods (Corona, Calif./Corona Centennial High School), 5-foot-7-inch guard Nici Gilday (San Jose, Calif./Presentation High School) and 6-foot-3-inch forward Colleen Rooney (Centennial, Colo./Regis Jesuit High School).
Vanessa Leo is the younger sister of current SCU junior Lindsay Leo. Both played at local Division II power Archbishop Mitty, where Vanessa helped the Monarchs win two Central Coast Section (CCS) Division II titles. She averaged nearly three blocks per game as a senior and was recognized as one of the CCS's top defenders.
Nici Gilday - the San Jose Mercury News 'Senior of the Year' – and Leo are no strangers to their new home at SCU. The pair squared off in the CCS Final at the SCU Leavey Center in March. Gilday scored a game-high 16 points to lead Presentation past Mitty and advance into the NorCal playoffs.
Gilday joins Bronco sophomore, Ricki Radanovich, as one of the most accomplished local guards to play at SCU in recent memory. Glenn Nelson of ESPN.com wrote: "Every team needs players like (Gilday). She has a good mid-range game. She's not afraid to challenge bigger defenders off the bounce or even finish with her left hand in traffic. She also can pull off the dribble and is developing a nice tear-drop shot in the lane. She has good ball skills, obviously thinking one pass ahead at all times." Gilday was an all-state selection by Cal-Hi Sports and MaxPreps.
Signing local players has been a priority for Bronco head coach Jennifer Mountain since taking over the program in 2008. She believes this class is going to allow the Broncos further growth, building on momentum gained from last year's strong finish.
Mountain and her staff continue to tap into some of Colorado's best high school programs as well. Meagan Fulps (Highlands Ranch) and Ruta Zurauskyte (Regis Jesuit) signed with SCU prior to the 2009-10 season. Now add Rooney to that list. Like Zurauskyte, the 6-3 forward starred at Regis Jesuit, where she helped Regis claim the Colorado Class 5A state championship as a sophomore.
At 6-foot-4 (V. Leo and Zurauskyte), 6-foot-3 (Rooney) and 6-foot-2 (L. Leo), Santa Clara now has significant size and length in the frontcourt to complement the proven backcourt of Fulps, Radanovich and Alyssa Shoji.
Southern Calif. native and Centennial High School graduate, Tyler Woods, rounds out the class. Woods promises to be a big part of the Broncos' future, as she becomes one of the only young point guards on SCU's roster.
Woods enjoyed a terrific prep career at Centennial where she averaged 16.4 points per game, 6.2 assists, 6.1 rebounds and 4.1 steals as a senior. She helped transform Centennial from a 13-win team her freshman year to a 20-win team as a junior and senior. She earned First Team All-Big VIII league honors all four seasons.
Santa Clara University's academic Summer Session II runs through the end of August. Following a break, the student-athletes will report back to campus for fall classes in mid-September. Official team practices in preparation for the 2011-12 season are scheduled to begin in mid-October.