Gophers Add Three to High-Caliber Class of 2018
Nov. 8, 2017

Three future Golden Gophers have signed National Letters of Intent (NLI) to join the University of Minnesota women’s basketball team. Delaynie Byrne (Arvada, Colo.), Lesila Finau (Dublin, Calif.) and Jaidah Stewart (Kirkwood, Mo.) will be eligible to compete starting in the 2018-19 season.

“We are thrilled to welcome this trio to the Gopher family,” head coach Marlene Stollings said. “Each of these student-athletes bring a wealth of top-notch, competitive experience from high-level programs along with an outstanding academic pedigree.”

Delaynie Byrne | 6-2 | F | Ralston Valley High School | Arvada, Colo.
Byrne, a forward, earned a No. 21 ranking from ESPN at her position. She has played for BC Denver’s Elite team on the AAU circuit throughout her high school career. Byrne will finish her prep career at Ralston Valley High School, where she sat out last season due to transfer rules. She averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Broomfield High School.

"I chose Minnesota because of the perfect balance of academics and athletics and I feel at home amongst the basketball family. I think the University of Minnesota will challenge me as a student and I know the coaches will help develop me into the best athlete and person I can be. I'm so grateful for this opportunity and I can't wait to see what my future holds as a Golden Gopher!"

“Her size, skill package and versatility can impact a game in many different ways. She can score in the post and step out to the 3 with great accuracy. Delaynie’s ability to score and her high basketball IQ make her a great addition to our program.”

Geoff Golden, BC Denver Coach:
“Delaynie is a first-class kid. She has been a model of hard work, commitment and character throughout her high school career. As a player, her size and versatility on both ends of the court make her unique and a very difficult match-up for opponents. We could not be more excited for Delaynie and her decision to play for Coach Stollings and the University of Minnesota.”

Jeff Gomer, Ralston Valley Coach:
“Delaynie is a very grounded and focused individual who possesses an excellent work ethic. She has been a pleasure to coach.”

Lesila Finau | 5-10 | G/F | Dublin High School |Dublin, Calif.
Finau, a senior guard/forward at Dublin High School, also played for the Cal Stars on the prestigious Nike EYBL circuit. Her team was the only one to go undefeated (10-0) during the 2017 girls’ EYBL regular season. Finau was ranked 67th at her position by ESPN. She has received All-East Bay Athletic League, all-metro and all-state recognition. As a junior at Dublin, Finau averaged 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 4.4 steals per game.

“Selecting Minnesota was an easy choice for me. I felt it as soon as I stepped in the Barn! The opportunity to play for a coach like Coach M doesn’t come around often. It was really a no-brainer. The academics, resources and top-of-the-line facilities available to a student-athlete at Minnesota are second to none. And to top it off, being able to play for an amazing fan base and community like Minnesota is a dream come true. Ski-U-Mah!”

“She is a multi-purpose guard that can create scoring opportunities for herself and her teammates. Her size, versatility and athleticism are going to be an asset for our program both offensively and defensively. Her best basketball is ahead of her and she can be as good as she wants to be at this level.”

Kareem Summerville, Dublin Coach:
“Minnesota is getting a hidden gem, hands down! Sila is incredibly competitive in the classroom and on the basketball court. She is extremely disciplined and has set very high goals for herself personally, academically and athletically. Minnesota was the perfect place to help her attain her goals with their tremendous academic support system, Coach M and her staff and cutting-edge facilities. Sila is without question one of the most all-around players I have ever coached. She can play multiple positions, her IQ is through the roof and she is all about one thing: winning. Coach M and her staff will be getting a player that wants to be the best and will give everything she has every time she steps on the floor. Go, Gophers!”

Kelly Sopak, Cal Stars Nike Elite Coach:
“Sila is a skilled, versatile player who loves to compete. She can play multiple positions, which is going to serve her well at the University of Minnesota. Sila’s best attribute is her work ethic and constant drive to get better. Above and beyond her great skill set, Sila is a pleasure to coach and she is a tremendous teammate on and off the court.”

Jaidah Stewart | 5-9 | G | Kirkwood High School | Kirkwood, Mo.
Stewart was 28th at position by ESPN, and played her AAU basketball for the EYBL’s Missouri Phenom. She will close out her prep career at Kirkwood High School, last year’s Class 5 Missouri state championship team. Stewart previously compiled more than 1,500 points during her time at Webster Groves High School, eclipsing that mark in the last game of her junior season. Missouri high school coaches have selected Stewart to their all-state team the past two years. The all-conference and all-metro honoree averaged a team-high 18.6 points per game last season before scoring 26 in the Statesmen’s sectional game.

“I am very excited about being a Golden Gopher and competing in one of the best conferences in the country, the Big Ten! To play for Coach M and her staff, earn a prestigious degree from Minnesota and enjoy the cutting-edge facilities of the Athletes Village is a dream come true. I can’t wait to begin the next chapter of my life.”

“She is a highly competitive and versatile guard who has proven her ability to impact the game on both ends of the court. Jaidah’s athleticism and ability to score will put her in a position to make an immediate contribution to our program.”

Travis Wallace, Missouri Phenom Nike Elite Coach:
“Some coaches are blessed to have good players. I had to the pleasure of coaching one of them in Jai. She is a very good basketball player and student, but she is an even better person. In all of my years of coaching Jai is by far the most humble, unselfish and coachable kids. She is the kid we refer to as a ‘go getter.’ Her versatility will allow Jai to have an immediate impact at Minnesota.”




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