KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee women's basketball program, currently ranked No. 4/3 in the country, focused on its future Wednesday, announcing the addition of three top-100 players on national signing day.
Second-year head coach Holly Warlick and her staff added to last year's No. 3-ranked signing class by adding the nation's No. 5, 28 and 79 rated players, according to the 2014 HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings – ESPNW 100. That organization is rating UT's class as the No. 6 group in the country thus far.
Tennessee received national letters of intent from Jaime Nared (pronounced NARD), a 6-1 guard/forward from Portland Ore. (Westview H.S.), Alexa Middleton, a 5-9 guard from Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Riverdale H.S.) and Kortney Dunbar, a 6-1 guard/forward from Edwardsville, Ill. (Edwardsville).
"I'm excited," Warlick said about the group that will comprise her freshman class in 2014. "Those are three young ladies we targeted. They have great talent, play with a lot of heart and energy, love the game of basketball and love our Lady Vol program."
Nared, the No. 5 overall player and top-ranked wing in the class, joins fellow Oregonians and former Team Concept AAU teammates Jordan Reynolds and Mercedes Russell at Tennessee. She averaged 23.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.7 steals as a junior for Westview High School in Portland and is a two-time 6A all-state player.
"Jaime is another Oregon player, and I think she is a great, great defender. Not too many kids come around who love to play defense. Jaime loves to play that end of the floor. She's strong, is physical, can shoot the three and (has a) good mid-range jumper. Just a good addition for our basketball team."
Rated the No. 28 player and No. 4 guard nationally among 2014 seniors, Middleton will become the third in-state player on the roster, joining Nashville's Isabelle Harrison and Clarksville's Bashaara Graves. Playing for Murfreesboro Riverdale, Middleton averaged 16 points, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals as a junior to earn all-state accolades for the second time.
"Alexa Middleton is another Tennessee kid," said Warlick. "She is full of energy. Great point guard, can shoot the three, can drive. Just love her game and love that she's from Tennessee and she has a passion for the Lady Vols."
Dunbar, who stands at No. 79 in the rankings but drew notice for her play over the summer, joins Nared in giving the Lady Vols a pair of 6-1 wing players. Dunbar averaged 14.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 steals and 2.7 assists as a junior for Edwardsville High School en route to second-team all-state honors.
"Kortney Dunbar – great three-point shooter," Warlick said. "Catch and shoot – gets the ball off quick and knows the game as well. Has the mid-range, but I think her specialty is the three-point shot. She's worked really, really hard in perfecting her game.
"I'm really excited about these three young ladies."
Lady Vol Freshman Class of 2014
JAIME NARED >> 6-1 >> GUARD/FORWARD >> PORTLAND, ORE. >> WESTVIEW H.S.
* Ranked No. 5 in HoopGurlz Class of 2014 Recruiting Rankings – ESPNU 100
* Rated as a five-star recruit on that list
* Also the top-ranked wing player in the class of 2014
* Rated No. 9 by FullCourt
* Averaged 23.7 ppg., 9.6 rpg., 4.7 spg. as a junior
* Averaged 20.5 ppg., 12.8 rpg., 5.7 apg., 2.4 bpg. as a freshman
* Averaged 18.6 ppg., 10.2 rpg., 3.2 spg. and 2.8 apg
* Two-time 6A all-state player and honorable mention as a freshman
* Two-time Metro League Player of the Year
* Three-time All-Metro League
* Participant in U16 & U17 USA Basketball Trials
COMMENTS FROM JAIME NARED
"I have always loved Tennessee; going to visit just confirmed everything. I love the coaches. They care so much about the players as people first and basketball second while still pushing the players to reach their highest potential. The success of the program is evident but knowing that they are never really satisfied with anything except a national championship shows in every aspect of the team, coaches and school itself.
"The fans there were really amazing. They support Lady Vol basketball to the fullest and having 10,000 a game is sort of cool too! Finally, the tradition. The current players and past players who have gone through the program having that connection to Tennessee is just amazing and to be able to be a part of that has been a dream of mine for such a long time. I cannot wait to get to school; I'm so excited to be a Lady Vol!"
COMMENTS FROM GREG NARED (JAIME'S FATHER)
"I'm extremely happy with Jaime's decision on Tennessee. When Jaime was a sixth grader, her goal was to play at Tennessee. By the beginning of her seventh grade year she knew the Rocky Top fight song. It's awesome to see her work hard to achieve her goals as well as to have the opportunity to play at a university where she will receive a great education, outstanding tradition of women's basketball and a great support unit led by Coach Warlick and her staff."
COMMENTS FROM REIKO WILLIAMS(JAIME'S MOTHER)
"Jaime has loved Tennessee and the women's basketball tradition since elementary school. I'm excited that she'll be playing in an environment where women's basketball is given the credit it deserves."
ALEXA MIDDLETON >> 5-9 >> GUARD >> MURFREESBORO, TENN. >> RIVERDALE H.S.
* Ranked No. 28 in HoopGurlz Class of 2014 Recruiting Rankings – ESPNU 100
* Rated as a five-star recruit on that list
* Is the No. 4-ranked guard in the class of 2014
* Rated No. 32 by FullCourt
* Two-time TSSAA all-state performer
* Averaged 16 ppg., 3.8 apg, 2.5 spg. as a junior
* Four-year starter who has led RHS to a 104-5 record thus far
* 2012-13 Tennessee Miss Basketball Finalist
* 2012-13 TSSAA Mid-State Player of the Year
* 2012-13 Tennessean Mid-State Player of the Year
* Played on 2010 & 2012 Nike Nationals AAU championship team
* Made 2013 Boo Williams All-Tournament Team
* 2013 Battle of the Boro MVP
COMMENTS FROM ALEXA MIDDLETON
"I'm looking forward to joining one of the best traditions in women's basketball. I love the coaches, staff, and players, and I can't wait to be a part of the family next year! #Grindfor9
COMMENTS FROM MICHAEL AND CELESTE MIDDLETON (ALEXA'S FATHER AND MOTHER)
"We are very excited for Alexa and know she will work extremely hard for the Lady Vols. We know that the team expects national championships, and we know that Alexa will put in the work to help get it done. We have been very impressed with the coaching staff and are thankful for the opportunity that they have given Alexa."
KORTNEY DUNBAR >> 6-1 >> GUARD/FORWARD >> EDWARDSVILLE, ILL. >> EDWARDSVILLE H.S.
* Ranked No. 79 in HoopGurlz Class of 2014 Recruiting Rankings – ESPNU 100
* Rated as a four-star recruit on that list
* The No. 22-ranked wing player in the class of 2014
* 2013 A.P. Class 4A All-State Second Team
* 2013 Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 4A All-State Second Team
* 2013 St. Louis All-Metro First Team
* Averaged 14.4 ppg., 8.2 rpg., 3.6 spg., 2.7 apg.
* 2013 Southwestern Conference All-Conference First Team
* 2013 Southwestern Conference Academic All-Conference
* Participated in 2013 USA 3-on-3 U18 Team tryouts
* 2013 MVP of Rock Bridge H.S. (Columbia, Mo.) Tournament
* 2013 All-Edwardsville Tiger Holiday Tournament
* 2013 All-Notre Dame High School Tournament
COMMENTS FROM KORTNEY DUNBAR
"Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of playing under the bright lights, in front of a huge crowd, with teammates and coaches that are some of the best in the country. Well, I guess dreams do come true. I can't wait to attend the University of Tennessee. The tradition is very special, and I am so glad to be a part of it. The fans have already shown so much love and support. I am truly blessed to be a Lady Vol."
COMMENTS FROM MARK AND CHRIS DUNBAR (KORTNEY'S FATHER AND MOTHER)
"We are so excited and honored Kortney will be playing for the University of Tennessee. The unparalleled support she has already received from the Lady Vols and the fans shows us, as parents, she will be in great hands as we 'let her go' to pursue her lifelong dream of playing at one of the most highly-acclaimed programs in the nation.
"It cannot be put into words how fulfilling this experience has already been. The program truly supports each teammate not only as a basketball player, but also as a young woman. We know Kortney will be in the presence of great role models as she continues to grow as a person and begins the next chapter of her life."