Gold Nuggets welcome back Robinson, announce four newcomers

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana women’s basketball announced Friday four signees for the 2021-22 season and the return of a letterwinner from five years ago.

The Gold Nuggets’ newcomers are:

• A’nya Banks, a 5-foot-8 guard from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and a transfer from two-year Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Ala.
• Halei Gillis, a 6-4 center from Asheville, N.C., and a transfer from NCAA Division I Northwestern State.
• Jordyn Manning, a 5-9 forward from Canton, Miss., and a transfer from two-year Holmes Community College in Goodman, Miss.
• Zaire McNeal, a 5-7 guard from Philadelphia and Mastery Charter North-Pickett School.

The blast from the past is Kiera Robinson, a 6-foot forward from Arlington, Texas, and Mansfield High School and a key contributor to the Nuggets’ 2015-16 team that won the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament and qualified for NAIA nationals.

Banks averaged 18.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game this past season for a Bishop State team that was 14-6. Banks was NJCAA Region 22 Player of the Year. As a freshman Banks averaged 13.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.9 steals.

As a senior at Tuscaloosa’s Hillcrest High School, Banks helped her team reach the Class 6A state quarterfinals.

Gillis began her college career at NCAA Division I Fordham, where she played 26 games over two seasons (2017-19) for teams that won a combined 49 games, reached the 2018 WNIT round of 16 and qualified for the 2019 NCAA Tournament after winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. Gillis then moved to Northwestern State, where she sat out the 2019-20 season because of NCAA transfer rules, then opted out of the 2020-21 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Asheville’s Carolina Day School, Gillis averaged 11.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game during her final three seasons. She was all-state in basketball and track and field (discus).

Manning averaged 12 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game this past season for Holmes and was second-team all-conference. As a freshman Manning averaged 10.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

As a senior at Canton High School, Manning averaged 12.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 3.7 steals per game, was first-team all-district for the second consecutive season and was class valedictorian.

McNeal was Penn-Jersey League Blue Division Player of the Year as a junior for Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School in 2019-20. That year she set a school record of 50 points in one game. As a senior at Mastery Charter North, McNeal was second-team All-Public League and helped her team finish second in the conference.

Robinson averaged 6.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game and shot 55.3 percent from the floor for a XULA team that won 22 games in 2015-16 and was in the top 25 in 8-of-13 polls. Robinson was a finalist for the school’s Female Newcomer of the Year award.

Robinson was on the Nuggets’ 2020-21 roster during the spring semester but did not play because of injury.

The XULA women were 13-7 this past season, won the GCAC Tournament for the first time since 2016 and reached the second round of NAIA nationals for the first time since 2014. The Gold Nuggets qualified for nationals 21 times in the past 26 seasons.

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