Head Coach Brian Neal
April 16, 2014
CINCINNATI - Xavier University head women's basketball coach Brian Neal announced the signing of another student-athlete to a National Letter of Intent. Anniina Äijänen (Tampere, Finland/ Sammon Keskuslukio), a 6-3 forward, will join the Musketeer program for the 2014-15 season.
"On the court, Anniina provides us with a lot of versatility," said Neal. "Defensively, she has the size to play inside, but just as important, she has active feet and can matchup on the perimeter when needed. Offensively, she has good skills, a solid shooting range and an uncanny knack for scoring around the basket."
Äijänen will join the Musketeers after having a successful amateur career in Finland. Last year at the U-18 European Championships she ranked second on the team with 9.3 points and 8.0 rebounds (16th among all players) in just 19.0 minutes for Finland. She also shot 45.8 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from behind the arc and 85.7 percent from the charity stripe during the event. She recorded a pair of double-doubles during the tournament to rank tied for seventh place among all players at the U-18 European Championships, and had solid outings against Israel (18 pts., 14 rebs., 7-of-13 from the field) and Austria (11 pts., 11 rebs.).
In 2012-13 Äijänen played for Tampereen Pyrintö and averaged 11.2 points and 8.5 rebounds, before moving on to play for BC Nokia in Finland. Earlier this month, she earned Most Valuable Player honors of the Eastern Europe Youth Basketball League (EYBL) Super Final after averaging 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds for Mäkelänrinne Sports High School.
Äijänen will look to continue the strong tradition of standout players from Finland, joining the likes of Susanna Stromberg, Taru Tuukkanen and Reetta Piipari. Tuukkanen and Piipari, who helped lead the 2000-01 Xavier squad to a 31-3 record, the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament titles and a berth to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, are members of the XU 1,000 Point Club, finishing their careers in the Blue and White with 1,785 and 1,384 points, respectively.
"Signing Anniina re-opens the Finnish connection Xavier had in the late 1990's, which is an important part of our tradition here," Neal said.
Äijänen is the sixth addition to the 2014 XU recruiting class, which, as of November 2013, was ranked No. 38 in the country by Blue Star Basketball and second in the BIG EAST by Dan Olson of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. She joins transfer Raeshaun Gaffney (Fairfield, Ohio/Fairfield HS/Virginia) and fellow incoming freshmen Jada Byrd (Lithonia Ga./Redan HS), Imani Partlow (Cincinnati, Ohio/Winton Woods HS), Marquia Turner (North Canton, Ohio/Hoover HS) and Kindell Fincher (Fort Wayne, Ind./Canterbury HS), who all signed National Letters of Intent in November.