Mekia Valentine, a 6-foot-4 forward/center from Greensboro, N.C., has committed to transfer to UCSB and play basketball for the Gauchos, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb announced Thursday.

Valentine spent the last two seasons at Wake Forest University, where she earned ACC All-Freshman honors after averaging 5.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 2006-07. She shot a team-high 46.8 percent from the floor in her first season with the Demon Deacons and set a freshman record with 50 blocked shots. Valentine blocked a school-record nine shots in a game against Western Carolina on Nov. 14, 2006.

The forward followed her tremendous rookie season with a solid performance in 2007-08, averaging 6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 30 games for Wake Forest. Valentine again led the squad in field goal percentage, shooting an impressive 47.7 percent from the floor.

She was one of just three players to appear in all 59 games for the Demon Deacons the past two seasons.

“I am ecstatic that Mekia is our newest Gaucho,” Gottlieb said. “Her talent, work ethic and leadership abilities will make her a great asset on and off the court. She has competed on the highest level of women’s college basketball and will bring a competitive edge to our team, as well as fulfilling a need in the frontcourt. Above all else, she is an absolutely outstanding young woman. I couldn’t be happier to welcome her to UCSB.”

Pursuant to NCAA Division I transfer requirements, Valentine will sit out the 2008-09 season and will be eligible to compete with the Gauchos beginning in 2009-10. She will have two years of eligibility remaining and is permitted to practice with the team when workouts begin in the fall.

The forward will help fill the void in the front court with the departure of All-Big West selections Jenna Green and Kat Suderman after the 2008-09 campaign.

Valentine had a very successful high school career, earning McDonald’s All-American distinction after her senior season at Dudley High School. She was named the team MVP and was recognized as the 3A Conference Player of the Year. Valentine, who also earned three letters in track and fielder as a prepster, was the 23rd-ranked high school recruit overall in 2006 and third-ranked at her position according to Full Court Press: The Women’s Basketball Journal. She chose Wake Forest over Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Syracuse and Vanderbilt.

Valentine joins a Gaucho squad that returns all but two players from last year’s squad that went 23-8 overall and won a 12th Big West Conference championship in the past 13 years. UCSB returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005, losing to fourth-seeded Virginia in the first round of the Greensboro Regional.

Ryan Hall is a UCSB assistant media relations director.