BOULDER - Zoe Beard-Fails, Desiree Harris, Haley Smith and Briana Watts have signed National Letters of Intent to play basketball and continue their education at the University of Colorado in 2013-14 head coach Linda Lappe announced on Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA's early signing period.
Colorado's 2013 signing class will add depth at every spot on the court while also providing increased athleticism as the Buffaloes continue to build on their successes during the Lappe era.
"This class includes four special young ladies who are extremely versatile in what they bring on the basketball floor and also who they are as people," Lappe said. "We have enjoyed building relationships with each of them and their families and believe they mesh well with our team."
Beard-Fails, a 6-2 forward from Herndon, Va., is gearing up for her senior season at Georgetown Day School in Washington D.C. She missed all but five games of her junior year with an ACL and meniscus tear, but is nearing full strength as her senior season commences.
She averaged 27 points and nearly 18 rebounds as a sophomore for Georgetown Day in 2010-11, earning fourth team All-Met honors from the Washington Post. Beard-Fails played her freshman season at South Lakes High School before transferring to Georgetown Day.
"Zoe had a great start to her high school career then had an unfortunate knee injury that prevented her from playing the majority of last season which caused her to be under the radar in the recruiting process," Lappe said "She is truly a competitor and works hard at everything she does. As a forward, she has the ability to score on the inside with a variety of post moves but also can step outside and hit from 3-point range."
CU was able to bring Beard-Fails from the east coast in part because she already knew current Buffaloes assistants LaTonya Watson, from her days at American University, and Kelly Rae Finley from her tenure at Harvard.
"I already had a relationship with coach Kelly and coach LaTonya, so I knew what to expect," Beard-Fails said. "But it was amazing when I got there (to Colorado). The girls were super welcoming, the coaches are amazing and the campus was fantastic...it all fit together for me."
Beard-Fails, who played club ball with the Boo Williams program, will be the third player from the state of Virginia to play for CU and the first since Springfield native Jen Terry (1994-97). She is rated as the 51st forward in the nation by ESPN.com's Hoop Gurlz.
"I'm a hard worker on and off the court," Beard-Fails said. "I know coach Lappe and staff is going to push me, and I'll push myself, and I know my new teammates will be there and not let me fall behind."
Harris is a 5-8 guard from Oakland, Calif., who attends St. Joseph Notre Dame High school in Alameda. She averaged 23.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.7 assists as a junior, helping the Pilots to the North Coast Section championship.
"Desiree is a smart, athletic, combo guard who can get to the rim off the dribble as well as hit the 3," Lappe said. "She has very high character and has shown to have a tremendous work ethic. We believe Desiree could bring a defensive presence for us both in defending a point guard and off guard."
Harris was a CIF All-State Division V second team selection as well as a Bay Shore Athletic League second team pick.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity to play at a higher level," Harris said. "It's a dream come true. I've been wanting to play in college since I was young and now I get that chance."
Harris notes her speed and ability to see the floor as her strengths and will use her senior year to work on ball handling and shooting. For her it's a big plus to have signed with Colorado early.
"It's a huge relief to know where I'm going," Harris said. "I'm happy I found a place that is a good fit for me."
Smith, a 6-0 wing from Sammamish, Wash., is getting ready for her senior season at Skyline High School. A do-it-all player for the Spartans, she averaged around seven points, five rebounds and just under two assists and steals per game as a junior.
"I immediately connected with coach Kelly (Finley) and coach Lappe," Smith said. "I felt really at home and comfortable (at CU)."
"To get to see the Flatirons every day, what an awesome view. I'm really excited to get the opportunity to go to school in such a cool place."
Smith is in her fourth varsity season with the Spartans and also has had a successful club career playing with the Tree of Hope program. ESPN.com's HoopGurlz has her as the top prospect in the state of Washington and the 20th ranked wing in the nation.
"As a wing, Haley is a strong, athletic player who elevates over smaller players to score," Lappe said. "She has a drive to succeed in every area of her life and along with that, has the natural ability it takes to be excellent. Her strength right now is to rebound the basketball but as she focuses more on being a wing, she will only continue to improve. "
Smith, who will become just the second CU hoopster from the state of Washington (Shannon Strickland, 1983-84), will work on becoming more of an offensive threat in her senior season, but her ability to play multiple positions is already an asset.
"I'm pretty versatile, pretty long and athletic," Smith said. "I can be out on the wing, take the ball up, post up...being able to play a lot of positions has helped me out a lot."
Watts, a 6-4 center from Fresno, Calif., will make her debut with Clovis West High School this winter after playing her first three years at rival Buchanan. She was the first commit of the 2013 class.
"What we like about Briana is that she is very steady and her demeanor exudes positivity," Lappe said. "She will provide a physical presence down low for us and will be able to hold her own against some of the most aggressive and physical players in the Pac-12. As a post, she has great hands and feet and will only continue to get better."
Watts averaged nearly six points and just over six rebounds per game for Buchanan as a junior, contributing to the Bears' 18-9 record and a spot in the CIF Central Section Division I semifinals. Her transfer to Clovis West, which lost to Buchanan in the section quarterfinals last season, was partially a family move and partially a style of play change to a program that features the post.
"I like to post up, I'm more of a block person," Watts said. "I like to stay down (on the block) and get offensive rebounds."
Watts, who participated in the 2011 USA Basketball Women's U16 National Team Trials, has two younger brothers, a younger sister and an older brother who played football at Utah. She is excited to have her family have the ability to follow her career.
"(Colorado) is far away, but still close enough so my family will be able to watch my games," Watts said. "Boulder is beautiful, the coaches are so nice and the players are so funny...it's just nice out there."
Colorado will graduate three seniors after this season, guard Chucky Jeffery and the Malcolm-Peck twins, Brenna and Meagan. The signing class of 2013 will go a long way in allowing the Buffaloes to keep moving in the right direction.
"At first glance, this class will greatly increase the physicality of our team which is something we were looking for," Lappe said. "Also, they play extremely hard and have high basketball IQ's. We are thrilled to welcome all four of them into the Buff Family."