Brooklyn Boro

Terriers ink N.J. hoops star to National Letter

Middletown North high school standout headed to Brooklyn Heights

May 24, 2019 JT Torenli
New Jersey high school standout Rob Higgins will begin his collegiate playing career at SFC Brooklyn in 2019 after signing a National Letter of Intent to play for the diminutive but historic Brooklyn Heights school. Photo Courtesy of SFC Brooklyn Athletics
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You don’t just replace a player like Glenn Sanabria.

The former St. Francis Brooklyn grad student guard was tabbed All-NEC Third Team, NABC All-District 18 Second Team and DI-AAA ADA Scholar-Athlete Team member during his final campaign with the Terriers here on Remsen Street.

Sanabria, who became the 32nd member of the program’s 1,000-point club this past season, was as valuable in team huddles and practices as he was on the court, where he averaged 12.3 points and 3.1 assists per game this past season to help the Terriers to a five-game improvement over their 2017-18 finish.

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But SFC head coach Glenn Braica can no longer rely on Sanabria’s contributions going forward, so he found a player he feels can begin to fill the sneakers of one of his most valuable performers over the past five seasons.

Rob Higgins, a well-decorated player at Middletown North High School in New Jersey, signed a National Letter of Intent last week to come play in Brooklyn Heights over the next four years.

And Braica couldn’t help comparing his newest recruit to Sanabria.

“We’re excited to add Rob to our program, and we feel that he is a good combo guard similar to Glenn Sanabria early in his career,” noted Braica, who guided SFC to an 18-win campaign in 2018-1 9 before the Terriers were bounced from the NEC Tournament by Robert Morris in overtime.

“Rob can really score the basketball and is going to be a very good defender,” Braica added. “Although he hails from New Jersey, he has family roots here in Brooklyn, and we look forward to him having a fantastic career in Brooklyn Heights.”

Higgins, who stands at 6-foot-1, spent the past four seasons on the varsity squad at Middletown North while also playing AAU ball for New Heights NYC.

The Jersey Shore native finished his high school career with 2,278 points, ranking third in the history of the Shore Conference. He also became the first student-athlete ever to lead the Shore Conference in scoring three times in row, averaging better than 28 points per contest in each of his last two campaigns.

Higgins was named the B North Player of the Year for 2019, and was selected to the Shore Conference First Team, Asbury Park Press All-Shore First Team, 11th Team All-State, All-State Group 3, and All-Shooter Third Team.

He will join future backcourt mate Trey Quartlebaum on the list of new recruits for Braica, who hopes to lead SFC to its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth in 2019-20 after the Terriers were invited to the CIT Postseason event a season ago.

* * *

Though they finished a win shy of their ultimate goal — a trip to the NCAA Regionals — the LIU-Brooklyn women’s softball team still had plenty to celebrate in 2019.

Four of the Blackbirds were honored this week by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association as it revealed the 2019 NFCA Division I All-Region accolades.

Freshman pitching sensation Elena Valenzuela received first-team honors while junior Patricia Griffin was named to the second team.

Sophomore Alina Castillo and freshman Samantha Garcia both received third-team honors, providing long-time LIU head coach Roy Kortmann with a quartet of returning stars who have already proven they can be big-time performers and quality students at the Division I level.

“It’s a terrific honor for these four Blackbirds to cap off a very special season for our program,” said Kortmann, who hasn’t had this many players recognized by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association since 2010.

Freshman pitching sensation Elena Valenzuela and a trio of her teammates were honored by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association for their contributions to the LIU women’s softball team this past season. Photo Courtesy of LIU-Brooklyn Athletics
Freshman pitching sensation Elena Valenzuela and a trio of her teammates were honored by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association for their contributions to the LIU women’s softball team this past season. Photo Courtesy of LIU-Brooklyn Athletics

Valenzuela, the Northeast Conference’s Pitcher of the Year, became LIU’s first first-team selection since 2017, and the school’s first pitcher named to the squad in nine years.

The Whittier, Calif. product went 19-4 with two saves, a 2.19 earned run average and 81 strikeouts in 166 1/3 innings this past season. She also pitched an eye-popping 17 complete games, including seven shutouts, en route to five NEC Pitcher of the Week awards and four Rookie of the Week nods.

She led the NEC in wins, ERA, complete games and shutouts while ranking second in innings and batting average against (.232).

A two-time All-NEC performer, Griffin was a first team All-NEC honoree this season as she was the major catalyst for the LIU offense.

The Marlton, N.J. native hit .353 in the leadoff spot with team highs of 65 hits and eight stolen bases, while ranking second with 37 runs scored.

Castillo, who earned Most Improved Player honors from the NEC this year, was rock solid as the Blackbirds’ third baseman. The Sacramento, Calif., native was the team’s most consistent hitter all season, ending the year with a .372 batting average.

She was awarded back-to-back NEC Player of the Week honors this year while riding a 15-game hitting streak. Castillo also led LIU in total bases (84) and ranked third in runs scored (35) and RBIs (33).

Garcia, a freshman from West Covina, Calif., was a second team All-NEC honoree. The first-year catcher hit .286 and led the Blackbirds with seven home runs in her first season behind the plate in Brooklyn.

She had two homers and six RBIs two weeks ago in the NEC Championships and was named to the All-Tournament Team.

The NFCA awards honor softball student-athletes from the Association’s 10 regions with first, second and third-team selections.

NFCA member coaches from each respective region voted on the teams, and all the honorees now become eligible for selection to the 2018 NFCA Division I All-American squads.

The 2019 NFCA Division I All-America teams will be announced at approximately 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 29, via

* * *

Over at Brooklyn College, the Bulldogs’ women’s tennis team saw its historic breakthrough campaign end with a loss to 16th-ranked Skidmore College earlier this month in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tennis Championships in Manchester, Connecticut.

Despite a 5-0 loss to the Thoroughbreds, Bulldogs head coach David Wallis was extremely proud of his players, who won the program’s first-ever CUNYAC title to advance to the NCAAs.

“It has been a great run,” Wallis, who just completed his third year in charge of both men’s and women’s tennis at the Brooklyn school, noted.

“Skidmore was the sharper team today and made us pay for our errors,” he added. “With that, it was still a great experience against a high-caliber program and wrapped up a memorable season.”

Perhaps most memorable was the brilliance of CUNYAC Women’s Tennis Player of the Year Ievgeniia Kostenko, who went a perfect 23-0 in singles over the past two seasons.

The senior psychology major also boasts a 3.55 GPA in the classroom, making her one of four Bulldogs to receive Honor Mention honors at last week’s 33rd Annual CUNYAC Michael Steuerman Scholar-Athlete Awards Dinner at John Jay College.

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