California University women’s basketball coach Jess Strom will have four new players next season to go with holdovers from last season’s 21-win team.

With four of its top five, and seven of the top nine, scorers returning from a team that won 21 games and made the NCAA Division II tournament, the California University women’s basketball team is not expecting to have many vacancies in its rotation next season.

There will, however, be plenty of competition for those few spots.

California head coach Jess Strom announced the addition of four recruits for next season. They include two transfers and two players who will join the Vulcans from the high school ranks. The transfers are Ciaira Loyd, a 5-5 guard from Lackawanna Community College and Dejah Terrell, a 6-1 forward from Division III Albright. The high school recruits are Julianna Burris, a 5-7 guard from Dublin, Ohio, and Azatah Lawrence, a 5-10 wing from Bloomfield, N.J.

Each player has signed either a national letter of intent or institutional letters expressing their desire to play women’s basketball at Cal.

“I’m really looking forward to getting this incoming class on campus and getting to work,” California coach Jess Strom said. “They all bring something a little different to the team but share in their intensity and the way they play the game with maximum effort and heart. They are special young people who work hard in the classroom and I’m confident they will represent Cal U and our program in the most positive way.”

The Vulcans finished last season with a 21-9 overall record and earned a berth to the NCAA tournament for the sixth-consecutive year.

California will lose guard Monica Burns, who was the team’s leading scorer at 14.2 points per game but injury limited her to only 19 games last season. Loyd could give the Vulcans’ backcourt a boost and take some of the burden off point guard Bianca Jasper.

Loyd was named a junior college second team All-American this year and was the Region XIX Player of the Year. She averaged 12.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game and finished third in the nation in assists per game. She had seven games of double-digit assists.

In high school, Loyd set Scranton’s all-time scoring record with 1,319 points and 110 three-pointers.

“Ciaira has seen a ton of success at the junior college level and I’m excited for her to bring that experience along with her leadership to our team,” Strom said. “She’s an aggressive guard who can score from all three levels and has an uncanny ability to see the floor. Ciaira is a player who makes everyone on the court around her better and I can’t wait to see that translate to our team next season.”

Terrell, a Reading native, is moving up a level of competition after playing Division III ball for two years. This past season, Terrell was a third team All-American and the ECAC Player of the Year. She averaged 21.7 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per game and was third in the nation with 21 double-doubles.

In high school, Terrell helped Berks Catholic reach the PIAA finals.

“Dejah is a gifted athlete who brings us some length in the post position,” Strom said. “She can play inside and outside with the ability to run the floor in transition, finish strong at the rim and also step out and shoot the three. Dejah will fit into our defensive system right away and be a mismatch problem on the offensive end. I’m excited to see her grow and develop over the next two seasons.”

Burris was honorable mention all-state as a senior at Dublin Coffman in Ohio and was one of the top players in the Columbus metro area.

“Juliana is the ultimate worker with a very high basketball IQ,” Strom pointed out. “She is a crafty guard with the capability to finish against bigger defenders. A very unselfish player, Juliana gets the ball to the right person at the right time. I love the tenacity she plays with on the defensive end. I’m looking forward to seeing her work ethic.”

Lawrence played at Immaculate Conception High School in Bloomfield, N.J., where she was first team all-conference as a senior and second team as a junior.

“I’m thrilled to add Z to this recruiting class,” Strom said. “She is going to bring a physical presence to our team on both ends of the floor. She possesses the ability to score from anywhere on the court. In addition to being a tremendous rebounder, Z is a big guard who can post up smaller defenders or shoot from deep. She has exceptionally quick hands on the defensive side of the ball and will be fun to watch for the next four years as a Vulcan.”

Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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