Terriers, Blackbirds women’s basketball load up on fresh recruits
Local Women’s Hoops Squads Announce 2017 Recruiting Classes
After going a combined 14-45 last season, the St. Francis Brooklyn and LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball teams are both looking toward what they hope will be a brighter future.
Both squads took steps in that direction this week, announcing their respective recruiting classes for the 2017-18 season.
SFC Brooklyn, which is two years removed from a Cinderella-like run to the NCAA Tournament in March of 2015, continued to bring in fresh talent from “Down Under”.
Point guard Amy O’Neill will arrive on Remsen Street in the fall as the fourth Australian player on the Terriers’ roster.
O’Neill will join fellow Aussies Alex Delaney, Jade Johnson and Meg Crupi this year as SFC tries to begin climbing back to the top of the Northeast Conference after going 8-22 overall and 6-12 in league play this past season before getting knocked off in the opening round of the NEC Tournament.
As a junior college transfer, O’Neill is coming off a solid sophomore season at Cowley College.
She averaged 16.8 points, 4.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. The Melbourne native finished as the 10th leading scorer in the history of the Cowley program.
“She is a solid all around true point guard who scores, gets to the free throw line, distributes the ball and defends aggressively,” Terriers head coach John Thurston said of his 5-foot-6 playmaker.
“We have had all of these things in the past, just not in the same player. I love her attitude, her enthusiasm, her leadership skills and her high level of competitiveness. She played 60 college games in one of the top three JUCO conferences in the country and came out of it as a Third Team All American.”
Forwards Abby Anderson of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Casey Carangelo of Connecticut and Ally Lassen of New Jersey will be incoming freshman later this year, with each standing at least 5-foot-11.
“We got very lucky with Abby as we spotted her in a tournament just after another girl backed out of a commitment,” Thurston said of Anderson, who registered over 1,500 career points during her four years at Holy Cross High School.
“She is a solid all-around player in the mold of Alex Delaney. I am in love with her passing ability but she earned her reputation as a scorer and rebounder in high school.”
Carangelo led Thomaston High School to four straight Connecticut State championship game appearance while amassing a school record 1,578 points.
“Casey had a very successful high school career, but it was in travel team ball that you could see her true versatility,” Thurston noted. “She is strong and aggressive around the basket for a smaller post player, but she also has 3-point shooting capability.”
Lassen arrives in Downtown Brooklyn after a standout career at Point Pleasant Boro High School in New Jersey. She earned Class B South Player of the Year honors from the Shore Conference, and was named to the Shore Basketball Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game.
“Ally is a classic late bloomer,” said Thurston, who remains the only coach in SFC history to take one of the school’s basketball programs to the NCAAs. “She spent the first two years of high school as a 5’8” guard. When we first spotted her in her junior year while watching someone else, she had grown to her current height, but was virtually unknown down on the Jersey Shore.”
The Terriers are hoping this fresh foursome can complement a roster that will be spearheaded by Delaney. The 6-foot junior forward returns as SFC’s second-leading scorer from a season ago, averaging 10.4 points per game.
“We are very pleased with our incoming class of recruits,” Thurston said. “They bring scoring ability, rebounding, size and speed to our roster. They all have a chance to contribute.
“How quickly they adapt to the D-l level of play and our system will determine their roles early on. As with all our players, they have outstanding academic credentials.”
Over at LIU Brooklyn, head coach Stephanie Del Preore announced the additions of forwards Ella Vaatanen of Finland and Destoni Willock of Toronto.
The duo joins fellow newcomers Daisha Davis, Jeydah Johnson and Tia Montagne, each of whom committed to the Downtown Brooklyn school earlier this year.
Väätänen, a 6-1 forward from the Helsinki Basketball Academy (HBA), brings a wealth of experience to the Blackbirds. She has spent years in Finland’s National programs, competing on Under-15 (2011-12), U-16 (2013), U-18 (2015) and Senior National (2016) squads.
Her HBA team also won a European Youth Basketball League title in 2016.
“Ella brings another dimension to our team and university with her experience on the international stage,” said Del Preore, who guided the Blackbirds to a 6-23 mark, including 5-13 in conference play, in her first season at the helm on Flatbush Avenue.
“Her abilities and skill set will bring us to another level. She has the ability to stretch the floor and play multiple positions offensively and defensively. She will fit great in our system.”
Willock, a 6-foot forward/center out of St. John Paul II Catholic Secondary School, spent last season in junior college at Odessa (TX) College. An ESPN three-star recruit and HooptownGTA Fab 48 selection in high school, Willock helped Odessa to a 29-2 record and appearance in the NJCAA Quarterfinals in 2016-17.
“Destoni brings experience at the college level and will make an immediate impact for us,” Del Preore said. “She is a true team player, and will bring a two-way inside presence that will help us. She comes from a basketball family and really knows what it takes to complete at this level.”
Last season, the two local teams split their two meetings with SFC edging LIU, 56-54 on Jan. 14 before the Blackbirds returned the favor at the Pope Center with a 62-58 win on Feb. 20.
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Also this week, SFC Brooklyn’s Sandra Raickovic became the second straight student-athlete to receive valedictorian honors at the Remsen Street school.
Raickovic, a four-year member of the Terriers’ women’s track and field squad, was the Valedictorian for Graduate Program at Wednesday’s commencement ceremony at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Last year, women’s tennis player Dragana Dzigurski was the undergraduate valedictorian.
“St. Francis made my transition from Serbia effortless, because it embraces students from all over the world and it integrates them in its family-like culture,” said Raickovic.
“At St. Francis we all speak the same language — a language of kindness, selflessness, and appreciation.”
Overall, more than 40 SFC student-athletes received their diplomas during Wednesday afternoon’s sun-splashed ceremony.
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