I took a trip over to the team camp at Red Bank Regional this week to check out some of the local girls basketball teams this summer, including St. Rose, Rumson-Fair Haven and Red Bank Catholic, who were the class of the field during the week. Southern was also solid behind Kristen Sharkey but did not have its full team.
St. Rose looked outstanding according to the coaches I spoke with, and I saw them roll past an Ocean team that has lost a lot to graduation, particularly in the scoring department, and is trying to mold a supporting cast around senior forward Annie Farrow. St. Rose sophomore center Samantha Clark has looked outstanding, and she has received interest from Seton Hall, American University and Monmouth University. She is still so young that by the time she is a senior, she should be getting interest from some major programs because she is nearly 6-3 and has the ability to play in the post and knock down shots from behind the arc. She told me that this summer she is working on being able to put the ball on the floor to beat defenders and add that wrinkle to her game, which will allow her to back down smaller defenders or face up bigger defenders and drive by them.
Guard Alison Sweeney, who has drawn some interest from Bryant University, also has looked good and should be a solid scoring threat. Another talented guard, Alexx Hall, was not there when I saw them but is another returner. The Purple Roses have seven players coming back from their regular rotation. Guard Kasey Chambers has missed the whole summer because she had surgery on her ankle to repair torn ligaments but is expected to be back in about a week, according to Purple Roses coach Joe Roman.
Clark, Hall, Sweeney, Chambers and junior forward Nicole Donahue, the younger sister of Freehold Township athletic director Brian Donahue, all play on the same AAU team, the 17U Central Jersey Hawks, which recently won the prestigious U.S. Junior Nationals Silver Division title. That AAU team also includes the St. John Vianney crew of juniors Jackie Kates, Katie O’Reilly, Missy Repoli and Arron Zimmerman and sophomore Zoe Otterman, as well as Middletown South’s Meghan McGuinness and Howell’s Sara Olson. Zimmerman did not participate because she was in Israel as part of the gold medal-winning USA team at the Maccabiah Games in the junior girls bracket. The Maccabiah Games are essentially like the Jewish Olympics, featuring Jewish players from around the world competing in various sports. I have to admit it’s kind of weird seeing a Jewish player starring in the Maccabiah Games while attending a Catholic high school, but it’s not totally out of the ordinary, considering that when I played at a Catholic school in the early 1990s, our center was Jewish and our football team had a pair of Muslims on it.
Also, a quick disclaimer – if any other AAU programs out there would like to e-mail me their accomplishments (firstname.lastname@example.org), feel free and I will post them. I know AAU teams fight for talent and can be aligned against one another, so I’m not playing any favorites, I’m just reporting the accomplishments of these teams. If it’s highlighting a job well done by local athletes, I’m all for it. Just make sure they are in high school, as I don’t want to get into the U5 teams or the Embryo Division champions.
Now, on to some more impressions from the Red Bank event, which was in its inaugural year. While St. Rose looked very good, I thought RBC was also very solid. They beat Rumson in their final game, but RFH didn’t have junior guard Ashley Cooper. Cooper, from all I’ve heard, has had a tremendous summer and is getting on the radar of some solid Division I programs. She appears ready to accept the mantle as “Rumson’s Next Great Player,” worn previously by the likes of Kate Miller, Caitlin Hyduke and Chrissy Fisher. Rumson struggled to score without Cooper, but the way that they play defense, scoring is not as big of a deal for them as it is to most elite teams.
I also heard good things about Marlboro’s performance, although I didn’t get to see the Mustangs when I stopped in on Thursday, so keep an eye on them as they compete in the always-tough Class A North after losing 1,000-point scorer Meghan Reilly to graduation. Freehold Township was also solid and is yet another tough team in Class A North. Toms River North and Toms River East struggled and did not have all their players there, while Red Bank was solidly in the middle of the pack and held its own against some good teams. Head coach James Young is looking to expand the camp to more teams next season, so this could be an event that becomes a regular destination to see how the girls teams are stacking up in the offseason. The main problem is that AAU commitments often ensure that teams will not have all their talent present.
RBC seems re-energized, as even though it was the summer, there were bodies flying all over the floor against their old rivals, RFH. The Caseys pushed the ball whenever they could, and center Sam Guastella looked outstanding. She does a good job of coming down with offensive boards and going right back up with it so that smaller guards can’t strip the ball from her, and she has a solid touch around the basket. She also challenged every shot in sight on defense. I also liked what I saw from guard Cydney Mooney, who is quick and showed solid 3-point range. RBC is a very guard-oriented team and returns almost everyone, as they were playing all freshmen and sophomores last year for the most part. They showed a lot of aggressiveness offensively, which is a good sign after a year in which they struggled to score against top opponents.
Guastella looks to be their main post presence with the departure of junior forward Chyna Golden. That situation is growing increasingly interesting, as her transfer to Neptune could tip the balance of power statewide if it goes through. If she does not have to sit out a year at Neptune, you could argue that the Scarlet Fliers are the No. 1 team in the state with Shakena Richardson, Sehmonyeh Allen and Syessence Davis back as starters along with sharp-shooting guard Morgan Thompson. RBC coach Joe Montano, who is also the school’s athletic director, said the transfer papers for Golden have not been sent to RBC yet, so nothing is official, meaning there is nothing to comment on as of now. By NJSIAA rule, the school that the player is leaving has to sign off on that player’s transfer to make it official.
As for whether that form gets filled out, the NJSIAA rule states that “if the PREVIOUS SCHOOL does not have any evidence of recruitment or athletic advantage being involved in the transfer, they will complete the forms.” Considering forward Marley Mauvais graduated and left an open spot as Neptune’s main post presence, which Golden would slide right into on a loaded team, that would be an argument for athletic advantage, although it remains to be seen how that argument would hold up. If the two schools go back and forth on the transfer and don’t agree, it eventually goes before the NJSIAA’s eligibility committee in a hearing to decide if Golden will sit or not.
That situation could get interesting because from everything I understand from talking to multiple people familiar with the situation, Golden does not currently live in Neptune’s sending district, so her family would have to move. It could be a real fight between Golden trying to be eligible immediately without sitting and having to sit a year.
The new thing that many parents are doing to get around the transfer rule is transferring guardianship to another family member. In other words, if there is a grandmother or aunt who lives in Town X (like say, Neptune), the parents allow that person to become the player’s legal guardian to establish residency to go to Town X High School. It’s not clear in the NJSIAA rule whether a player would have to sit or not if she moved in with an aunt, uncle, grandmother, whatever, and had that person become her legal guardian. I know that arrangement exists for some other athletes in the Shore, but it was done before they got to high school so that they could attend a certain school, not switched midstream to accommodate a transfer. Plus, I’d like to see how many times that player is actually sleeping at the grandmother’s house or the aunt’s house as opposed to their parents’ house.
Another loophole that I am wondering about is non-NJSIAA schools. It’s not abundantly clear that if a player goes to Hun School, Peddie, Lawrenceville or one of these other prep schools that aren’t under NJSIAA jurisdiction, whether she can then transfer to a local public school without having to sit out. I could see a scenario where a player goes to a prep school for a semester, declares she doesn’t like it, and then transfers to the school that was the real destination the whole time.