Aug. 25, 2005
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Emily Niemann, a 6-1 junior forward from Houston, Texas, has accepted a scholarship offer to study and play basketball at UC Santa Barbara, head coach Mark French announced Thursday.
Niemann played the last two seasons at Baylor University, averaging 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 48.4% shooting in 71 career games. She was instrumental in the Lady Bears' 2005 national championship run, scoring 19 points and draining five three-pointers in their 84-62 victory over Michigan State in the NCAA title game on April 5. In addition, Niemann amassed 14 points in the national semifinals against LSU, helping her earn a spot on the Final Four All-Tournament team. Those are two of her 33 career double-digit scoring efforts. Niemann's 45.1% career three-point percentage ranks first in school history, while her 153 baskets from beyond the arc are third-most. Seventy-five of those trifectas came during her freshman campaign in 2003-04, establishing a new single-season Baylor record. An excellent defender as well, she led BU with 32 blocked shots last year and has 60 swats in her career.
Pursuant to NCAA Division I transfer rules, Niemann must sit out the upcoming 2005-06 season at UCSB, but is permitted to practice with the team. She will have two years of eligibility with the Gauchos beginning in 2006-07.
"We are elated to welcome Emily into our Gaucho basketball family," French said. "She was looking for a program whose philosophy resonated with her, and I think she's eager to reach her full potential at UCSB, both on and off the court,"
"From a strictly-basketball perspective, Emily brings a wealth of experience and is one of the best shooters in the country, and it will be very exciting to factor her into our offensive schemes. I know the redshirt year will be frustrating for her in terms of missing the competition, but it will give her an opportunity to develop other parts of her game. I'm particularly excited about working with Emily to help her develop her low-post offense, defense and rebounding."
Niemann is a 2003 graduate of Westbury High School in Houston, where she was named the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' Private School Player of the Year as a senior. She averaged 24 points, 12 rebounds and 2.5 blocks that season while leading the Wildcats to their third 3A state championship during her prep career. A four-time All-State selection, Niemann also received many national honors including All-American acclaim from both Nike and Street and Smith's in 2002. That same year she was invited to USA Basketball's Youth Development Festival. Niemann - whose older brother Jeff won an NCAA baseball title at Rice in 2003 and currently pitches in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization - was also a three-year member of the National Honor Society and a finalist in the 2003 International Open Poetry Contest.
"After spending time with the players and coaches during my visit, I was really impressed with the integrity of the program," Niemann said. "They've had a lot of success here at UCSB, and I'm just hoping I can fit in well with the system Coach French has established. I'm really excited to be a Gaucho - to play with the team and learn from the staff - and I can't wait to get started."
She will join a UCSB program that posted a 21-9 overall record in 2004-05 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the ninth straight year. In addition, the Gauchos captured an unprecedented 10th consecutive Big West Conference regular season title, giving them the longest current streak of outright league titles in the country. Santa Barbara's .804 winning percentage (205 wins, 50 losses) since the start of the 1997-98 campaign ranks fifth-best nationally over that span.
Ironically, Niemann's final opponent last season will be UCSB's first in 2005-06, as the Gauchos begin the year at Michigan State on Friday, Nov. 18.