Nov. 15, 2001

NORMAN, Okla. - The University of Oklahoma head women's basketball coach Sherri Coale announced Thursday the signing of five high school standouts to national letters of intent for the 2002-03 academic year. Coale inked a well-rounded core of players including two Oklahomans and top players from nearby states. The Sooners' five signees include Laura Andrews (Washington, Okla./Washington HS), Erin Higgins (Oklahoma City, Okla./Westmoore HS), Becky Preston (Albuquerque, N.M./LaCueva HS), Casey Walker (Houston, Texas/The Woodlands HS) and Chelsi Welch (Plainview, Texas/Plainview HS).

Wednesday was the first day of the November early signing period, which runs through November 21. With these five commitments, Oklahoma has concluded its' signing for the November signing period.

"We are extremely excited about the young women we added to our program," said Coale. "They are five quailty individuals who fit our program and our system. We believe they make up perhaps our most dominant top-to-bottom recruiting class yet."

Coale added speed and quickness to next year's roster by signing Oklahoma's own Andrews and Higgins. As a junior, Andrews, paced her team with an impressive 22.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. The three-time Little All-City first team selection also averaged 5.0 assists per game for Washington High. The 6-0 guard ended last season by earning All-State Tournament first team honors.

Higgins, a 5-9 guard and four-year starter, will leave Westmoore High as the school's all-time scorer. After averaging 14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg and shooting 48.0 percent from the three-point line, she was named to the Mid-State All-Conference and All-Big City first teams.

"Laura Andrews and Erin Higgins are local players who have each led their respective high school teams to successive state tournaments," said Coale. "Laura is an athletic, slashing guard who has scarcely begun to tap her potential. She is a wonderful kid who has her priorities in order and has a chance to be an outstanding college basketball player.

"Erin is a shooter. She makes herself perhaps better than she should be because she understands the game. I've watched her improve dramatically in various phases of the game over the last couple of years. She moves well without the ball and is tough competitor. Erin has what few players anywhere have, an uncanny range and accuracy shooting the basketball. She will fit perfectly into our motion offense."

Probably the most skilled and athletic player OU signed is Welch, out of Plainview, Texas. She ranks as the ninth-best guard in the country and tops all guards in the state of Texas according to the All-Star Girls Report. Welch averaged 16.0 points, six rebounds and three assists per game for Plainview High last year. The Texas Player of the Year candidate also is an All-State first team pick that lead her junior team to a 4A state title, earning her state tournament MVP honors. She also earned district and regional MVP accolades as a junior. In addition, Welch was voted to the Amarillo Globe News and Texas Sports Writers Player of the Year last season.

"I think our fans are in for a treat with our signing of Chelsi Welch," Coale said. "She is so much fun to watch. Chelsi is absolutely one of the toughest competitors I've seen in a long, long time. She has a sincere confidence and the skill to back it up. Her personal statistics speak for themselves; she is an offensive gem. People often say she plays like a guy -- athletic, strong, skilled. She is fun to watch and I think she's even going to be more fun to coach."

Considered by some as the top player in New Mexico, Preston adds immediate size and depth to Oklahoma's post positions. As a junior, the 6-3 forward/center led her team to state runner-up honors and an impressive 24-2 overall record. For her efforts, she was named to the State All-Tournament team and was voted to the All-State first team. Preston averaged a double-double (15.0 ppg/10.0 rpg) for LaCueva High, earning her all-district and all-conference accolades last year.

Walker, another solid post player for the Sooners, earned all-district and all-region honors a year ago. The 6-3 forward/center contributed 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots per game. She also nailed 57.0 percent of her shots from the field.

"We have signed two post players," said an excited Coale. "Casey Walker is a 6-3 center from Houston, Texas who will give us some immediate relief in the post. She's a big, strong kid who runs very well and should adapt well to Division I basketball. Beky Preston is a 6-3, finesse post player. Beky has a chance to be an excellent collegiate player. She is skilled and smart and she's a presence on the block who can score in a variety of ways."

Oklahoma's 2002-03 Signees

Student-AthleteHt.Pos.Hometown (High School)PPGRPGAPGOthers
Laura Andrews6-0FWashington, Okla. (Washington HS)22.47.75.0
Erin Higgins5-9GOklahoma City, Okla. (Westmoore HS)14.06.03.048.0 3-ptFG%
Becky Preston6-3F/CAlbuquerque, N.M. (LaCueva HS)15.010.01.5 blks.
Casey Walker6-3F/CHouston, Texas (The Woodlands HS)10.08.02.0 blks. 57.0 FG%
Chelsi Welch5-9GPlainview, Texas (Plainview HS)16.06.03.0