PHILADELPHIA - Head Coach Mike McLaughlin and the University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team officially welcome the program's five newest members on Wednesday. Sade Gibbons, Jackie Falconer, Melanie Lockett, Stephanie Cheney and Sydney Stipanovich join the Quakers as members of the Class of 2017.
"This is an exciting class for us," said McLaughlin, who enters his fifth season at the helm of the Quakers. "We are really fortunate with this group. We were able to satisy a lot of needs, and at the same time, bring in accomplished, quality players who can make an impact."
Each of Coach McLaughlin's first three recruiting classes produced the Big 5 Rookie of the Year. Prior to his tenure, only one Penn player had ever earned the award. The Class of 2017 is another well-decorated group featuring a McDonalds All-America nominee, two state champions, four 1,000-point scorers, four all-state honorees and a valedictorian.
The class consists of three forwards (Falconer, Gibbons and Cheney), one guard (Lockett) and one center (Stipanovich). The class represents four different states. Stipanovich has the longest trip to Philadelphia from St. Louis, Mo., while Falconer hails from the home state of Pennsylvania (Mechanicsburg). Lockett (Monsey) and Gibbons (Springfield Gardens) are both New York natives, and Cheney travels past the beltway and up I-95 from Falls Church, Va.
In addition to the five incoming freshmen, Penn returns all five starters from the 2012-13 squad that earned the program's first-ever postseason victory and reached the semifinals of the Women's Basketball Invitational. Penn's 18 wins tied for second-most in program history and the team's nine non-league wins matched the school record set in 1999-00. Penn's 18-13 overall record marked the first winning season since 2004-05 and the team's best record since the 2000-01 team set the school standard with 22 wins.
A full individual bio, as well as insight from Coach McLaughlin is available below for each of the members of the Class of 2017.
Class of 2017 Individual Bios
#10 STEPHANIE CHENEY
George Mason High School
Falls Church, Va.
George Mason HS: Four-year letterwinner ... Served as captain as a senior ... Four-time district champions ... Three-time regional champions ... Two-time state champions (2010, 2012) ... 2013 State Player of the Year ... 2011 Regional Player of the Year ... Three-time District Player of the Year ... Three-time first-team all-state ... Three-time first-team all-district and 2010 second-team all-district ... Finished with 2,087 career points, 1,167 career rebounds and 422 career blocks ... Class Valedictorian.
Personal: Daughter of Sandy Lewis and Craig Cheney ... Brother, Jordan, plays basketball at Swarthmore ... Enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Coach McLaughlin on Stephanie: "Stephanie is extremely competitive. She finds ways to score and has a knack for the ball. Stephanie is a winner. She is a player that good teams need to have because she finds ways to get it done."
#2 JACKIE FALCONER
Cumberland Valley High School
Cumberland Valley HS: Three-year letterwinner in basketball ... Served as team captain for two years ... Named first-team all-state in 2012-13 and third-team all-state in 2011-12 ... Two-time Patriot News Big 15 team ... 2012-13 Sentinel Player of the Year ... Two-time all-Sentinel first team ... Two-time Mid-Penn Conference All-Star ... 2013 John Travers Award finalist ... 2012-13 Cumberland Valley Outstanding Senior Award ... 2013 Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete ... Also a two-time letterwinner in cross country.
Personal: Daughter of Lori and Keith Falconer ... Has two younger siblings, Jennifer and Robert ... Father played soccer at Navy and the University of Albany ... Enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Coach McLaughlin on Jackie: "Jackie is a pretty versatile player. She has good size and can score the ball multiple ways. She can shoot three and I think she is someone who can really fill a role for us."
#15 SADE GIBBONS
Long Island Lutheran
Springfield Garden, N.Y.
Long Island Lutheran: Served two years as team captain ... Team won the 2013 New York State 'A' Federation championship and the 2011 New York State 'B' Federation championship.
Personal: Daughter of LaVerne and Carlo Gibbons ... Has three older siblings, Carlo Jr., Taikia and Tier ... Enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Coach McLaughlin on Sade: "Sade has a tremendous upside. She is athletic, determined, competitive and well-coached. She has a great work ethic. She always wants to be better and is willing to work hard to get there. With the intangibles she has, I think she will have a bright future here."
#11 MELANIE LOCKETT
Academy of the Holy Angels
Academy of the Holy Angels: Four-year letterwinner ... Served as team captain for two years ... Finished career with 1,217 points ... Three-time first-team all-county ... 2009-10 third-team all-state freshman team ... 2010-11 third-team all-state sophomore team ... Averaged 17.0 points per game as a junior and 15.3 as a senior ... 2013 New Jersey North vs. South All-Star Game ... 2013 Bergen vs. Passaic County All-Star Game.
Personal: Daughter of Jackie and Phil Lockett ... Has an older brother, Steven ... Father ran track at West Point ... Enrolled in School of Arts and Sciences.
Coach McLaughlin on Melanie: "Melanie is a really skilled player. She sees the floor well and is great in transition. She is able to get in the lane and pull up, and she is able to attack the basket. I think skill-wise, she is prepared for the college game."
#13 SYDNEY STIPANOVICH
St. Louis, Mo.
Saint Joseph's HS: Four-year letterwinner ... Served as captain for two seasons ... 2013 McDonald's All-America nominee ... 2013 Miss Missouri Show-Me Player of the Year (Class 5) ... Three-time first-team Missouri Sports Writers and Sportscasters ... Named four-time all-state by the Missouri Coaches Basketball Association ... Four-time first-team all-district and all-conference ... Finished with a school record 1,352 career rebounds and 707 career blocks ... Also finished third in school history with 1,618 career points.
Personal: Daughter of Janice and Mike Stipanovich ... Has three older siblings, Nick, Matt and Paige; and a younger brother, Ryan ... Matt is a member of the water polo team at Loyola Marymount ... Uncle, Steve, played basketball at the University of Missouri (1979-83), was the second overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft and spent five seasons with the Indiana Pacers (1983-88) ... Enrolled in School of Arts and Sciences.
Coach McLaughlin on Sydney: "Sydney was highly recruited coming out of high school. She is very long and very skilled. She can score with both hands and step out to make a 15-foot jump shot. Defensively, she is mobile and changes a ton of shots in the lane. We are hoping she can make an impact pretty early in her career."