UTRGV women’s hoops adds five to 2021 signing class

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UTRGV women’s basketball head coach Lane Lord, who is entering Year 3 at the helm of the program, announced the addition of five players to the Vaqueros’ roster for the 2020-21 academic season.

It’s a balanced five as each signee plays a different position from one through five — point guard Jena’ Williams, shooting guard Jordan Lewis, small forward Arianna Sturdivant, power forward Jessica Martino and center Afiya Vincent.

“We’re really excited about this signing class. I think we’ve really filled our needs with specific positions,” Lord said. “I’m really excited about this class and what the future will be for them and how we can get them to interact with our team as we go forward.”

The 5-foot-8 point guard Williams is transferring into UTRGV after spending her freshman season at Nevada in the Mountain West Conference.

Williams racked up a number of awards during her high school career in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, earning 2019 conference Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors, and was named to the USA Today Team in 2018.

“Jena’ is a true point guard that has outstanding court vision and a top-level basketball IQ,” Lord said. “Jena’ is also a scoring point guard with the ability to shoot the three, drive and pull up or finish at the rim. A proven winner, Jena’ will make her teammates successful with her unselfish play and tenacious will to compete. Jena’ will be an outstanding addition to the women’s basketball program and V Nation.”

Lewis, a combo-guard and native of Detroit, Michigan, is a junior college transfer coming in from Grayson College where she averaged 6.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists as a sophomore. As a freshman, Lewis averaged 12.3 points and 6.1 boards per game. Lord said having already played 62 collegiate games in her career gives Lewis plenty of experience as she joins UTRGV in the Western Athletic Conference.

Martino is another versatile piece added to the puzzle at UTRGV as a 5-foot-10 forward who is transferring in from Labette Community College in Kansas.

Martino helped lead her team to the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference championship and a National Junior College Athletic Association Region IV Championship. Martino, who’s originally from Manhattan, New York, averaged 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds as a sophomore after averaging 11 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a freshman.

“Jessica Martino is a phenomenal forward. She will bring us experience in the front court,” Lord said. “She is a left-handed player that can play inside-out. She is a real physical player that can get downhill and make plays. She played for one of the best teams in Kansas, in junior college. They won their region and were on their way to the National Tournament when their season was cut short. She is a proven winner and a big-time player that will make an immediate impact.”

Sturdivant, a 5-foot-8 small forward and four-year letterman at Houston’s George Bush High School, is set to begin her collegiate career as a freshman with UTRGV. During her high school career, Sturdivant was a four-time First Team All-district honoree and a three-time Defensive MVP. She is also the school’s all-time leading scorer.

“Arianna can flat out shoot the basketball. She is a good sized guard that can play the two or three spots for us,” Lord said. “She broke all her school’s records in scoring and is one of the best players in the Houston area.”

Vincent, a 6-foot-4 power forward originally from Trinidad and Tobago, will allow Lord to roll bigger lineups out onto the floor this season. A transfer from Colby Community College, Vincent started 20 games and averaged 5.6 points and 7.4 rebounds as a sophomore last season.

“We have 6-foot-5-inch Burcu Soysal coming back, we’ve added 6-foot-4-inch Afiya Vincent. We’re really excited about having that kind of twin tower look, something that we haven’t had our first two or three years here is that rim-protector,” Lord said. “Now we have a couple girls coming in here that can fill that void for us.”

UTRGV finished the 2019-20 season with a 13-17 overall record and fourth in the WAC with an 8-8 conference record. Lord hopes the new group of Vaqueros can help improve on that mark next season.

For the “2020-21 signing class, we’re looking for bigger and better than ever and we’re excited to get this season going. V’s up,” Lord said.

bramos@themonitor.com