A quartet of talented newcomers comprise the incoming freshman class for the Valpo women’s basketball program in 2020-21, as head coach Mary Evans received signed National Letters of Intent back from four members of the Class of 2020 over the past week.
Leah Earnest – 5-10 – G/F – Stevens Point, Wis. – Stevens Point Area Senior High
Currently in her fourth season playing for the Panthers, Earnest was a First Team All-State selection by the Wisconsin Coaches Association last year and earned Honorable Mention All-State honors from the AP. The Panthers’ all-time leading scorer, she set conference records last year for points per game and rebounds per game in a single season in helping lead Stevens Point to its second straight conference and regional titles. She has been an All-Conference selection each of her first three years and was Conference Player of the Year last year as a junior. A versatile athlete, Earnest was a First Team All-State selection on the softball diamond last season and advanced to the state tournament in golf this fall as well.
Evans on Earnest: “Leah is a really competitive player who really loves Valpo. When we first saw Leah play, her aggressiveness and how she attacks the basket really stood out to us. I challenged her to become a better shooter, and she responded and shot the ball extremely well last year. Leah brings a ton of tenacity to the court when she plays. She is a three-sport athlete at SPASH who has had a ton of success not just in basketball, but in softball and golf as well, and has also excelled as a student. I am excited to have her join our program.”
Lauren Gunn – 5-9 – G/F – Fishers, Ind. – Lawrence North H.S.
Currently in her fourth year playing for the Wildcats, Gunn was a critical component of last year’s squad which won sectional, regional and semi-state titles and finished with an appearance in the state championship game – the best finish to a season in program history. An Honorable Mention All-State and an All-Conference honoree, Gunn has appeared in the IBCA Top 100 showcase and has played in the Indiana Elite North vs. South game. A talented athlete, Gunn is also a four-year letterwinner in track and finished in third place as part of the Wildcats’ 4x400m relay squad at the 2018 state meet.
Evans on Gunn: “I am excited to have Lauren join our program. She plays at one of the best high schools in the state of Indiana and for one of the best AAU programs in the country (Nike Lady Gym Rats). I love the versatility that Lauren will bring to our program. She is an extremely athletic player, and will bring a competitive mindset with her that has been honed by playing at such a high level. Lauren is also a great student and extremely involved in her community, and will be a great fit at Valpo.”
Ava Interrante – 5-9 – G – McHenry, Ill. – McHenry H.S.
A two-year team captain for the Warriors, Interrante has played varsity basketball since her freshman year. Last season, she racked up All-Conference and All-Area accolades as she averaged 14.1 points, 4.5 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Interrante has been a part of two regional championship teams as well as a pair of conference title-winning squads during her high school career.
Evans on Interrante: “Ava is a knock-down shooter who will help stretch the floor within our offense. She has played with a very good AAU program out of Illinois (Illinois Elite). She is a great student and comes from a great family, and we are excited to add someone with her character to our program. I am looking forward to watching her continue to grow within our program.”
Jayda Johnston – 6-0 – F – Roseville, Minn. – Roseville Area H.S.
Johnston is currently in her fifth season of playing for the Raiders and has been an Honorable Mention All-State honoree each of the last two seasons. She averaged better than 13 points and five rebounds per game last year in helping lead her team to 21 wins, in the process surpassing 1,000 career points. She averaged 12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds as a sophomore in 2017-18 as Roseville won a sectional championship and placed fourth in the state. A two-year captain for the Raiders, Johnston was named to the All-State Tournament Team in 2018, and has also been an All-Conference recipient each of the last three years.
Evans on Johnston: “Jayda is a tremendous young woman. She is graduating early from high school and has been really involved in her community. Jayda spent the summer playing with an elite AAU program (North Tartan) and had the opportunity to compete with and against some of the best players in the country. She will bring a toughness to our program – she loves to rebound and is continuing to extend her offensive game. I am excited to have her join our program and to witness her continued growth on the court.”