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Women’s Basketball: Gauchos Sign Trio of SoCal Standouts

Joining the UCSB program will be guard Destini Mason, guard Briahna Richardson and forward Grovinya “Sweets” Underwood.

As Gauchos fans begin to learn more about first-year women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb, one thing they don’t need to fret about is her ability to recruit.

In her first recruiting class at UCSB, Gottlieb secured three standout Southern California players who will be part of the Gauchos’ 2009-10 team.

Joining the UCSB program will be guard Destini Mason from Perris High, guard Briahna Richardson from Pacific Hills School and forward Grovinya “Sweets” Underwood from Compton Centennial High.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my first recruiting class at UCSB,” Gottlieb said. “This is a group of young women that will bring energy, enthusiasm, effort and talent every time they step on the floor at the Thunderdome. More importantly, they are outstanding people off the court. Our fans and the Santa Barbara community will really enjoy Sweets, Destini and Bree, and my staff and I can’t wait to coach them.”

Mason is a 5-foot-10 guard who averaged 12.3 points per game as a junior at Perris High, while also pulling down 3.7 rebounds and handing out 2.8 assists per game. She also shot 31 percent from three-point range and averaged 1.7 steals per contest. Mason has the ability to create with the ball and is great in the open court in transition. Compared with current Gaucho Whitney Warren in terms of her intensity on the floor, Mason is the first in her family to attend college on a basketball scholarship.

“Destini Mason is a guard that changes a game with her defensive intensity and ability to break down opposing defenders and get to the rim,” Gottlieb said. “She can handle the ball, she shoots it well and she’s so athletic. Destini has a bright and engaging personality to go along with that talent, and she’ll be a terrific addition to the Gaucho family.”

The daughter of former NBA player Pooh Richardson, Briahna — also known as Bree — Richardson comes to UCSB with a variety of skills. In her junior year at Los Angeles’ Pacific Hills School, Richardson averaged 13.3 points, 5.4 assists, 4.4 steals, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. A combo guard who can run the point or shift to shooting guard, Richardson should add to the already talented UCSB backcourt.

“Bree Richardson is a true combo guard that will add a new element to our backcourt,” Gottlieb said. “She can handle the ball at the point or shift to the off-guard and use her scoring ability. She has a great length for a guard and a terrific court sense. She shoots the ball well, can slash to the hole and can really defend. The sky is the limit for Bree. She is a natural leader and I’m looking forward to seeing her in the blue and gold.”

Underwood is just coming into her own as a basketball star as the Compton’s Centennial High student just started playing basketball two years ago. The 6-foot forward was previously a track star, and now Underwood is a dynamic athlete and a versatile post player who can also handle the ball up and down the floor. A finesse player, Underwood averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and three steals in her junior season. With a GPA of 3.8, like Mason she is also the first in her family to receive a scholarship from college to play basketball.

“I’m excited for the women’s basketball world to really see Sweets Underwood play,” Gottlieb said. “She has flown a little bit under the radar, but she is truly special. She is off-the-charts athletic, she is versatile enough to play inside or out and she’s incredibly determined to succeed. Her skill level is tremendous considering that she only gave up track and picked up a basketball two years ago. Sweets is the first female from her high school to receive a basketball scholarship. I’m proud of what she has already accomplished and I know she has a bright future ahead.”

The Gauchos open their regular season at 2 p.m. Sunday against the University of San Diego at the Thunderdome.

Matt Hurst is a UCSB assistant director of athletics communications.

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