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March 22, 2017

Minutewomen sign three recruits

Massachusetts women’s basketball coach Marnie Dacko hoped to build a team well balanced in both aspects of the game, and it appears she is continuing with that strategy.

Dacko and her staff were busy during the November early signing period. Within one week UMass already inked three recruits to National Letters of Intent to join the class of 2014.

Yesterday guard Kelly Robinson became the newest UMass signee, while center Sara English signed her letter of intent on Monday and guard Talen Watson became this year’s first commitment last Friday.

The trio has strong offensive potential, but also has the skill set to add to the Minutewomen’s already improving defense.

Robinson, a 5-foot-6 point guard from Queen Village, N.Y., is ranked No. 47 at her position by Hoopgurlz.com. As a junior at Francis Lewis High School, she averaged 10.1 points per game and led the conference with 8.5 assists per-game. In April, she earned the Most Valuable Player award at the Wheelchair Charities High School Basketball Classic.

Robinson is known for her quickness and strong ball-handling. She is not afraid to drive to the basket and has the ability to create her own shots. She also plays alongside fellow signee Sara English for her AAU team, the New York Xplosion Elite.

English was the second recruit signed by Dacko this season. The 6-foot-4 center ranked in the top 10 in Long Island by averaging 11.3 rebounds per-game as a junior at Smithtown West High School in Smithtown, N.Y. She is a solid inside scorer and could help balance the Minutewomen on the offense and defensive sides of the ball.

The first recruit of 2009 for the Minutewomen, Watson could combine with Robinson to become the team’s backcourt of the future.

As a 5-foot-8 combo-guard out of Odenton, M.D., Watson is a strong overall player. Like Robinson, she has the ability to create her own shot off the dribble. However, given coach Dacko’s penchant for improving the defense, her skills as an on-the-ball defender may be her biggest addition to the team.

As a junior, Watson led her team with 105 assists and also helped it reach the state semi-finals with a 22-5 record.

With the influx of freshman and the impending senior departures, UMass could be a young team moving forward. Guards Kim Benton and Diatiema Hill are in their final seasons at UMass, while the careers of guard Dee Montgomery, forward Shakia Robinson and center Jasmine Watson are just beginning.

Factor in the three new signees, and next year’s roster could be evenly split between six underclassmen and six upperclassmen.

Robinson and Watson both made their debuts on Sunday in the Minutewomen’s 79-73 overtime victory over Boston University.

In 16 minutes of action, Robinson made her presence felt by grabbing six rebounds, making a steal and hitting both of her free-throws. Watson had three of the team’s six blocks, and also had two rebounds, two points and an assist. Montgomery did not factor into the UMass rotation.

The Minutewomen are back in action tonight when they host 1-0 St. John’s University. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

Mike Mastone can be reached at mmastone@student.umass.edu.

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