Western Kentucky University women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard announced the addition of three signees on Wednesday as the NCAA early signing period got underway. WKU was able to address its need for size with 6-foot forward Aleeya Harris (San Antonio, Texas; John Jay HS) and 6-foot-2 Bria Gaines (Glenwood, Ill.; Bloom Township HS).
The Lady Toppers also added some depth in the back court with the addition of 5-foot-4 point guard Kierra Muhammad (Lexington, Ky.; Paul Laurence Dunbar HS).
“I’m really excited about this class, and looking forward to bring them on board with our current team next season,” said Heard. “We were fortunate to be able to sign some great players in the spring when I first got the job, but this is truly our first signing class in terms of kids we were able to have some time with to build relationships.”
Muhammad was the first member of the class to commit to WKU. She averaged 10.2 points per game during her junior season at Dunbar, helping the Lady Bulldogs to a 30-7 record and a berth in the semifinals of the 2012 KHSAA Girls Sweet Sixteen state tournament. During that three-game run to the semis, she averaged 12 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game, earning her a spot on the all-state tournament team. Muhammad earned honorable mention all-state honors, as well as all-city and all-region tournament accolades on the hardwood last season. She was also an all-state track performer.
“I have been able to build a relationship with Kierra throughout her high school career,” explained Heard. “For her to have the trust in us — and the belief in the program — to be the first one to commit was really huge. She is a quick, athletic point guard with a really high basketball IQ and great ball-handling skills. Kierra is a winner, and will provide us with some quickness and depth at the point guard position.”
Gaines averaged 27.3 points, 16.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game during her junior season at Bloom Township HS, recording a double-double in all but one game last season. She led the Blazing Trojans to a 16-9 record, earning second-team all-state honors from the Chicago Tribune and player-of-the-year accolades from the Northwest Indiana Times. Gaines also earned a spot on the Chicago Sun-Times all-area team following her junior season, and was a first-team all-conference pick.
“People are going to be so excited to see Bria play. She definitely has the ability to do a lot of different things on the court, and already has a college basketball body,” said Heard. “She has the ability to finish with both hands around the basket, and has a tremendous knack for the ball. Bria can be a force for us in the paint, and does a great job rebounding at both ends of the floor.”
Harris will join Gaines as another new member of the Lady Topper front court. Harris averaged nine points and 5.6 rebounds per game during her junior season at John Jay High School. She also tossed in 15.5 points, pulled down 10.2 rebounds and averaged five blocks per game for the AAU South Texas Hoyas. Harris plays in the same high school district as current Lady Topper guard Alexis Govan.
“Aleeya is an athletic post player how can jump out of the gym,” Heard said. “She has the ability to run the floor and defend both inside and out. While her size allows her to post up, she can also put the ball on the floor and has great range from 15 feet.
With no seniors on the 2012-13 roster, the Lady Toppers currently have 14 scholarships filled for next season.
“The thing we want to continue to do is add size — not only in the post, but also out on the perimeter,” said Heard. “That gives us the opportunity to match up and do a lot of different things with kids that can play multiple positions.”
This year’s Lady Topper squad picked up an 80-69 victory at Murray State Friday night in the season opener. WKU will play its first game of the year in Diddle Arena on Saturday (Nov. 17) when it hosts Northern Kentucky at 5:30 p.m. (CST) in the 30th Annual BB&T Classic.