Four high school prospects and one JUCO prospect make up a deep class of 2016 for Keitha Adams and the UTEP women's basketball team.
Signing letters of intent to start the early period were JUCO forward Axelle Bernard, and high school prospects Faith Cook, Jakeria Ford, Roeshanda Patterson, and Rachel Tapps.
The 6'2 Bernard is off to a great start in her sophomore season for Seward County Community College. Through four games she is averaging 15.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 2.3 blocks.
As a freshman she earned both All-Jayhawk West and All-Region VI honors recording eight double-doubles including a single-game school-record 21 boards in a Region VI Tournament First-Round victory against Neosho Country.
"She is a hard-working and competitive young lady that we have had our eyes on for long time." Keitha Adams said. "She's a post player that can score the 15-foot shot and around the basket. She is an excellent passer and decision maker and an outstanding teammate. We're thrilled about her decision to join us."
Cook (5'3) is rated as the No. 27 point guard in the nation according to ESPN's HoopGurlz the class of 2016 and received a scouts grade of 90 from the organization. She was also 2014-15 Max Preps 5A Player of the Year for the state of Texas and secured Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC) All-Region and Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA) All-State accolades as a sophomore and junior as a three-year varsity starter.
"She is a young lady that has spent a lot hours in the gym to develop her game. Adams said. "She's a point guard that can handle the basketball and she can shoot the basketball. She's very competitive. We look forward to her being on our team."
The 6'1 Ford is a highly regard prospect, and is the prize of the class. She ranks as the No. 16 player in the state of Texas for the class of 2016 by Premier Basketball Report. Ford is a three-year varsity standout, and in 75 career games, averaging 16.9 points, 9.2 rebounds.
She has averaged a double-double the past two seasons and chose UTEP over offers from Texas A&M, LSU, California, Louisiana Tech and Houston.
"She gets every ounce of ability because of her work ethic and is one of the hardest working basketball players I've ever seen, she's really worked at her craft." Adams said. "She is very polished, very smart. She's an excellent shooter who knows the game. She does what's necessary. If she needs to score she can do that, and if she needs to be passer to get her teammates involved she can do that too."
Patterson is a 5'8 guard from Midland, Texas and is Two-time (2014 and 2015) National Christian Home School All-American honoree. She averaged 33.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game as a junior.
UTEP continues the Houston pipeline in adding 5'9 guard Rachel Tapps. Tapps is expected to play a big role, especially on the defensive end, for Cypress Ranch High School. She is considered one of the fastest players on the court and viewed as a great defender
With seven seniors this season, UTEP could possibly have another pair of available scholarships for the late signing period.
UTEP opens their 2015-16 season this Sunday against Houston Baptist in the Don Haskins Center.