Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Fond Farewell as MAAC Blog Comes To An End

And now, as famous crooner Frank Sinatra sang, the end is here.

This will be the last posting on Keepin' Track of the MAAC (although all the achieves will remain on line for your eternal enjoyment).

As they say, all good things come to and end. The sincere hope is that you thought Keepin' Track of the MAAC was a good thing, because that was the intent.

This space has been the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's "official" blog since November 2008. But, word came down from on high recently that the blog was to be discontinued. It has become a victim of downsizing for financial reasons.

As it is in just about every aspect of our modern era, finances are stretched. The MAAC is no different.

My "stipend" for producing this blog over the years, close to 300 items annually, was by no means exorbitant. Calculated on a by-hour rate, compensation was below minimum wage.

But, the guess here is that MAAC administrators are seeking alternative avenues to spread the word of the league. Much of that will come via expanded TV packages, whether on cable networks or direct internet streaming.

That doesn't come for free. And the written word, it seems, doesn't carry the clout of TV. That's understandable.

There are certainly no hard feelings. It has been an enjoyable six seasons serving as your blogger, bringing you news, notes, insights and a variety of other things in this space.

I am fortunate that other opportunities have come up. Last year I became a columnist at The Troy (N.Y.) Record newspaper. My columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday ( and, at least during basketball season, a lot of my work will continue to touch on college basketball and the MAAC. So, I hope you'll check in there to read.

And, that forum allows me (unlike this one) to be critical of MAAC happenings that I don't agree with. There aren't many (ahem ... placing the post-season tournament in Springfield, Mass.?), but there's no filter when I do columns for The Record.

I'll also continue to work as the radio color commentator for Siena women's games, which will enable me to get to every school in the league and maintain contacts, relationships and, in many cases, friendships throughout the MAAC.

There are more than a few people to thank, and I know I'll miss a few.

We'll start at the top. Many thanks to commissioner Rich Ensor, who is absolutely terrific at what he does. It was his idea to bring me aboard six years ago. Rich has kept the MAAC on the right track in terms of doing things the right way while expanding the proverbial brand and developing ever-growing interest in the conference.

Thanks to former league media relations director Jill Skotarczyk for being among those who hatched the idea for this blog. If nothing else, she was the one who first reached out to inquire about my interest in doing the blog. Jill had been around the MAAC for many years before moving on and she was outstanding in every role she undertook.

Thanks to just about everyone in league administration, whether within league hierarchy or at the individual schools, for accommodating me at games, for providing advice, insight and expertise on league issues, and direction, when needed.

Thanks to every single coach in the MAAC for full cooperation any time I reached out, and to sports information types throughout the league for always making coaches, players and administrators available whenever the request came in.

Of course, they all knew the resultant publicity would always be positive. The blog was meant to publicize the league in positive fashion.

Still, that was rarely a stretch. Almost universally the league operates the right way. OK, nothing is perfect. There were a few "knuckleheads," if you will. But those were very rare and will remain nameless. This space will remain positive to the end.

I have been covering the MAAC in some form or other, either for newspapers, on radio or via this space, since its inception in 1981. Through all that time the league and its membership has never wavered in recognizing the importance of the "student" aspect of the student-athlete equation.

The league has also never exceeded its grasp, never sought to elevate its "level" at the expense of stretching the boundaries either of its core philosophy, its resources or the NCAA rule book for the benefit of on-court success.

The MAAC is what it is ... a collection of smaller institutions with similar philosophies and resources. It creates a setting that we all should be proud to follow.

That's not to say the league doesn't produce its share of very good players, very good coaches and a very good level of play.

OK, it's not the ACC or the Big East. But, it's still an enjoyable brand of the sport. The league provides good, competitive basketball. It's the type of play that's a pleasure to watch. It's played by real students that we should be proud to claim as products of their schools and of the league.

And, watching all of that in venues like the Taps Gallagher Center, Draddy Gymnasium, Alumni Gymnasium at Rider and a few other small, venerable facilities when seats are filled and the confined space amplifies a crowd's sound ... that can't be duplicated by leagues where teams play in antiseptic and large arenas.

I could continue to gush about the relationships the blog has enabled me to have, and I will mention a few that have really been particularly enjoyable over the years.

Start with former Siena women's coach Gina Castelli, who became a great source of support and a very close friend (and remains so) through a difficult personal period exactly when this blog began. And, in a rare editorial opinion within this space, your blogger still views Siena's firing of her as a major mistake.

Not far behind, back then, was former Siena men's coach Fran McCaffery and his successor Mitch Buonaguro, who is one of the all-time nicest guys to ever work a college basketball sideline.

Former Niagara coach Joe Mihalich has always been a personal favorite, as has current Siena coach Jimmy Patsos, even during his Loyola years.

Other "favorites" include former Manhattan coach and good guy Barry Rohrssen and current Saint Peter's coach John Dunne, who knew a phone call was coming whenever his team had some success.

Marist coach Brian Giorgis, one of the best at his job at any level of the college game, has been an absolute pleasure to deal with over the years He has been a great source, and a much-respected one, for his insights.

The same goes for Tony Bozzella, the former Iona women's coach who is now having success at Seton Hall. And Lynn Milligan at Rider, Joe Frager at Fairfield, Kendra Fausti at Niagara and Pat Coyle at Saint Peter's have always been extremely courteous and helpful.

The goal of the MAAC blog ... at least my philosophy for it ... was to provide something for everyone. The better teams, naturally, got the most recognition here. But, it was a league-wide forum and the intent was to give every program recognition as often as possible.

It meant women's basketball got the same attention as men's ... and, where else does that happen? If nothing else, the end of this forum certainly means there will be a lot less information about MAAC women's teams out there in cyberspace in the future.

It meant there was a constant vigilance for some of the teams that inhabited the lower portion of the standings to have some level of success to create opportunity for recognition.

It meant that just about any time one of the conference's women's teams would beat Marist that team's coach, by now, knew a phone call was coming in short order.

OK, my guess is that there was more written about the Marist women's program than any other women's or men's program over the years, and it was all deserved.

And, whenever those pieces about Marist appeared viewership of this blog always rose significantly. Many thanks to Marist's fans for appreciating Keepin' Track of the MAAC. That school's fans are, in this estimation, what college hoops' fandom should be all about.

Plus, Marist has a pep band that's an all-star group at any level, and that's important to someone who lives in a household surrounded by beautiful music. Sorry I never got to write about the Marist pep band. It certainly was on my future agenda, and might yet be the subject of a future Troy Record column.

The hope is that all of that was appreciated not only by those within the league but by those who took the time to check in and read Keepin' Track of the MAAC.

Heck, readers even provided some insight. Without mentioning names, supporters of the Iona and Marist programs in particular have regularly passed along well-informed insight that often contributed to blog content.

In all, there were close to 400,000 individual viewings over the blog in just the five years and eight months of operation.

The blog continued to build popularity as the years went on. This past year there were well over 100,000 viewings, the best 12-month period in its history. Hits came from a viewing audience that touched nearly all parts of the world.

Believe it or not, Russia was the No. 2 source of blog hits. Ukraine was No. 5. Viewings in the thousands came from China, Japan, Taiwan, Germany and, even, North and South Korea.

The guess is that military personnel who are sports fans were checking in, as were former MAAC players now performing on overseas' teams. We feel honored to have had those fans in the reading audience.

It just seems to be counterproductive to see the blog, when it has reached the zenith of its popularity, coming to an end. But, that decision was made above my pay level.

For sure, all the interest was greatly appreciated and writing in this space over the years was truly a labor of love.

A lot of hours were spent researching, interviewing, watching games in person and through other sources, and writing.

None of that, though, felt like work.

Thanks to all of those who made it feel that way.

I'll certainly miss the regular interactions the blog enabled me to have with dozens and dozens of quality individuals over the years.

Mostly, though, I'll miss helping you to keep track of the MAAC.

I'll still be around to some extent, at Siena women's games, at home games of the Siena men's teams, and at the MAAC's post-season tournament as The Troy Record's columnist.

But, now, the end is here for Keepin' Track of the MAAC.

Thanks so much for reading.

Steve Amedio

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sneak Preview: Thoughts On Sporting News Preview

Just a brief program reminder here ...

Your blogger is in the process of writing the MAAC's 2014-15 season's preview that will appear in the forthcoming College Basketball Preview issue published by The Sporting News, the best of the preseason annual publications.

The magazine usually hits newsstands by early to mid September, so the hope is that you'll look for it and purchase it.

The annual previews every conference and every team at the Division 1 level. It will give considerably more space to the larger conferences, as expected, and your blogger has been waging an annual attempt to increase MAAC coverage for the 12 or 13 years I've been involved with The Sporting News.

The space allowed, though, does create the opportunity for some insight to the upcoming season. And, the hope is that your blogger's insights are as good as you can find anywhere else. Hopefully, better than you can find anywhere else.

The Sporting News is one of the few national publications of its kind that uses active writers to preview conferences that the writers regularly cover. It's no secret that some (most) of the lesser preview magazines use on-staff individuals who rarely, if ever, get out to see games to preview our conference. And, it shows.

And, I am also happy to report that, for the first time, I'll also be previewing the America East Conference for The Sporting News' preview magazine this year.

But, this is a blog about the MAAC. And, as always, The Sporting News prohibits its writer to reveal anything in detail about previews that will appear in its pages.

Still ... just a little:

The predicted order of finish for the top five spots will be Iona, Siena, Saint Peter's, Quinnipiac and Manhattan.

And, that's about all I can provide without breaking the terms of the Sporting News' contractual obligations.

Hope you'll search out and buy The Sporting News' College Basketball Preview magazine when it comes out.

Picking the All-Time Top Stories in MAAC History

Prior to this past season your blogger began a series meant to identify the Top 32 stories in MAAC basketball history.

The initial thought was a Top 10 list. And, then, when trying to identify a top 10 it became evident very quickly that it would be all but impossible to limit great events in the conference's history to a mere 10.

So, where to cap it? Thirty two, one to coincide with the number of years of the league's existence (prior to this past season), seemed to be a good number.

We opted to do the list in reverse order, to build suspense leading up to the better happenings. We got through a few prior to the season's start.

And, then, we suspended the list. Once the season started there always seemed to be plenty to write about. We just never seemed to find time to research and write about league history. We fully intended to resume the countdown this summer.

Now, your scribe is sorry to say, that list won't be completed here. Situations beyond my control, which will be explained here within a day or two, have dictated that.

But, so as not to leave readership wondering, we will reveal the all-time best achievement in conference history. At least to these eyes.

And, I do feel like a a capable judge. When the MAAC was formed in 1981 your scribe was working for a paper in Middletown, N.Y., and covered Army basketball (the early days of Mike Krzyzewski) when that program was a MAAC member.

In 1985 I moved back to my home Albany area base for newspaper work and immediately began covering Siena basketball, which joined the conference in 1989.

There were four seasons, those years just before Siena moved to the MAAC, that I didn't directly cover the conference. But, I was still an interested observer and several MAAC teams played non-conference games against Siena which I did attend.

My MAAC coverage was full time again when Siena moved to the league in 1989, and my work about the MAAC continued in local newspapers until 2007. Shortly after that the conference brought me aboard to do Keepin' Track of the MAAC, and this blog has enabled me to continue covering the league since then.

In all, I've either covered or, at least, seen several games involving MAAC teams and have been an interested observer, for the entire 33-year run of the conference so far.

I'm not sure if anyone else can claim that kind of history with the conference. Maybe a select few, but no more than can be counted on one hand.

I'm not sure, either, if that's anything anyone ever aspired to do. As they say these days, it is what it is.

Anyway, the top stories ...

We've seen plenty of single-game highlights from star players, plenty single-game upsets and accomplishments an plenty of one-season success both from individuals and teams over the league's now 33 years of existence.

But your blogger has always been partial to sustained success. The old axiom is that the hardest thing to do in sports isn't just to win a championship, that it's to win a second championship after winning the first one.

On the men's side there have only been two programs from the conference to win regular-season titles and, then, also win the MAAC's post-season tournament to go on to the NCAA's.

Those teams were Siena (2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10) and La Salle (1987-88, 1988-89 and 1989-90).

We''ll place Siena's achievement as the No. 3 all-time story in MAAC history, and La Salle's stretch as No 2.

During Siena's three-year NCAA run it ran up a 46-8 regular-season record and did become the first conference representative to win an NCAA Tournament game in successive seasons with wins over Vanderbilt in 2008 and Ohio State in 2009.

But, La Salle remains the most-dominant team the conference has ever seen with a roster, in its three most dominant years, that included three future NBA players, including arguably the best player ever to wear a conference uniform in Lionel Simmons.

Over its three successive NCAA Tournament seasons the Explorers lost just a single game in league play, an incredible 33-1 stretch while finishing 80-18 overall in those three years.

But if we believe it's difficult to go to the NCAA Tournament for three consecutive seasons, how about getting there an incredible nine straight (and still counting) seasons and 10 of the last 11.

That's what the Marist women's program has done under its head coach Brian Giorgis.

Players have come and gone; there have been years when Marist had arguably the most overall talent in the league and other years when it seemed other teams were at least equally talented.

But, like death and taxes, the Marist women's program has been the league's greatest constant. Its run of success far exceeds any league measurement. Its past 11 years can be measured against any nationally.

Not only have the Red Foxes have been dominant on their level, but they've also proven capable at the next level, too.

They've won NCAA Tournament games in four separate years, and only one other conference program (La Salle in 1988) can claim a single NCAA victory.

Not only that, Marist is the only conference team, men's or women's, to win two NCAA Tournament games in the same season (2007).

The program has accomplished the most-difficult thing to do, sustain excellence over a lengthy period of years, in any sport at any level.

And, for that, your blogger doesn't believe there's any doubt that the top story of all time in the MAAC's now-33 year history is what the Marist women's basketball team has achieved under the leadership of head coach Brian Giorgis over the past 11 seasons.

Two From Canisius Join NBA Summer League Teams

A pair of Canisius standouts from this past season will be playing for NBA summer league teams in upcoming weeks.

Guard Billy Baron, the MAAC's Player of the Year for 2013-14, will play for the Chicago Bulls' entry in the Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas July 11-12.

And, former Cansius center, 6-10 Jordan Heath will join the Detroit Pitons NBA Summer League team that will compete July 5-11 in Orlando Fla.

The two players agreed to participate in the summer league situations on Friday, a day after the two-round NBA draft of amateur players that did not see a MAAC player selected.

"I have a great opportunity with the Chicago Bulls," Baron said, in a release issued by his school. "I'm excited and honored to have the chance to compete in the summer league. I plan on working as hard as I can and hopefully I will earn a spot on their team in the fall."

Baron was an Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention selection for this past season just the fourth in Canisius history.

He finished his senior season ranked fourth nationally in scoring average (24.1 points per game). He was the only Division 1 player in the country to average more than 20 points, five assists and 4.5 rebounds per game this past season.

Baron played two seasons at Canisius after transferring there from Rhode Island to play for his father, Jim Baron, who also moved over from URI.

Heath had a pre-draft workout with the Pistons prior to joining their summer league team.

"I felt like I was able to hang with the other guys there," Heath said in a press release issued by Canisius. "IObviously the time I spent at Canisius helped me develop as a player. I had a chance to play with some great teammates. Everyone there helped me develop my game and helped get me ready for the next level.

Heath also transferred in to Canisius from Roberts Wesleyan College. In two seasons as a Griff he averaged 9.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Team Report: Monmouth Women To Take Step Forward

Here's another in the "Team Report" series looking back at the 2013-14 season with a crystal ball look at what might be ahead. This is the last installment of the series.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 6-14 in MAAC play, 9th place; 8-25 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A lot more than the record indicated. The Hawks' youth almost ensured a slow start, which translated to a 1-12 early record. Some teams could have folded at that point, but Monmouth responded with  5-4 record over a mid-season stretch. Some minor injuries resulted in late limitations and an 8-game losing streak that was followed by a season-ending shellacking of Siena (80-57) and a first-round MAAC tournament victory over Niagara before the Hawks' season ended with a tournament loss to regular-season titlist Iona. Senior swingperson Chavannah Paalvast (13.2, 5.2 and a team-high 75 assists) was a do-everything performer who finished out a nice career. She was the team's only double-figure scorer, but there was plenty of depth. Twelve different players averaged at least 8.4 minutes per game and nine different players started at least four games. Freshman point guard Helena Kurt made the league's All-Rookie team and looked like one of the better emerging backcourt players in the conference. Head coach Jenny Palmateer did a masterful job of using an extended playing group and getting minutes for the right players not only to remain competitive through the season but to get experience for a large group of younger players. In all the team had five freshmen in the playing group and only one senior Paalvast, who averaged more than 4.7 points per contest. It also had the tallest front-line in the conference with a trio of 6-foot-4 post players in junior Sara English and freshmen Christina Mitchell and Sophie Beaudry. Another freshman, Mia Hopkins, provided long-range shooting off the bench.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Too much inexperience. It surely means better things are ahead, but that many freshmen in the playing group is never a good thing immediately except in developmental terms. Clearly it took tie for the youngsters to learn to play at the college level. The team really didn't have a go-to player. Paalvast was the leading scorer, but wasn't the prototypical big point producer. And there wasn't a defined second option. The next leading scorer was 5-7 junior Jasine Walker at 7.4 points per game. That so many players started games indicated that Palmateer was experimenting with playing groups. The 1-12 overall start ensured the Hawks wouldn't finish with a real good record, but there was never any loss of on-court intensity even after that tough beginning. And then, came an eight-game late-season losing streak fro which the team bounced back from once again with two straight victories before the tournament setback against Iona. As a team the Hawks struggled with ball control (590 turnovers against 371 assists).

WHAT'S AHEAD: A lot of good things. Expect Monmouth to be a very positive surprise in the upcoming season and for years to come. The team will still be relatively young (with Walker and English the only seniors), but a lot more experienced than this past season. Somehow Palmateer found ways to effectively use two of her 6-4 post players together late in the season and they all looked good. English had high rebound games of 16 and 14 during the season. Mitchell averaged 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in the final four contests while Beaudry averaged 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in the last four contests.  Kurt really came on late in the year and should help solve the turnover issues in future years. Hopkins and another nice freshman, Jenny Horvatinovic (4.3 points, 2.6 rebounds) should also step up next season. Paalvast's loss is a big one, but there's a good replacement coming in with NJIT transfer Sarah Olson, a 5-8 wing who sat out this past season as per transfer rules. She averaged 7.7 and 7.4 ppg. in two seasons at NJIT and should be among the Hawks' better scorers in the upcoming season.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Probably not experience in place yet for Monmouth to make a legitimate run at the top four or five spots in the standings, but certainly better than last year's ninth-place finish. Expect something like sixth or seventh place with even more signs that better things in future years.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Team Report: Better Days Ahead for Monmouth Men

Here's another in the series looking back at the 2013-14 season with a crystal-ball look at what might be ahead for conference teams.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 5-15 in MAAC play, 9th place; 11-21 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Monmouth had to reload and adjust to a new level of play, moving from the NEC to the MAAC for 2013-14. It wasn't the perfect transition, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. Coach King Rice had a strong recruiting class that brought in guard Josh James (8.4 points per game) and a team-high 101 assists, Justin Robinson (7.1 ppg., 83 assists) and three quality "bigs" in 6-10 centers ac Tillman (4.4, 3.1 rebounds) and Chris Brady (3.1, 2.9) and 6-8 Greg Noack (2.0, 1.5). In all, five freshmen were among the nine-member playing group. Upperclassmen 6-6 Deon Jones (15.1, 6.9) and 6-6 Andrew Nicholas (14.3, 3.3), both wing juniors this past season, had strong seasons. Max DiLeo (6.9), a 6-1 junior, was the team's fifth-leading scorer as the team's top sub. And, a 6-5 sophomore wing, Ty O'Garro (4.0, 6.0) also played well and was the Hawks' second-leading rebounder. But, the preponderance of youth ensured 2013-14 would indeed be little more than a "rebuilding" year, as the record indicated. Still, Monmouth showed signs, with five losses in league play by nine points or fewer and with two of those in overtime contests. There was also a nice start to league play when the team won four of its first nine MAAC contests. Mostly 2013-14 provided a glimpse at a strong core of young players who should continue to develop and, eventually, lead the program to bigger and better things.

WHAT WENT WRONG: After a 4-5 league start, Monmouth lost its next eight games and only got one more victory the entire remainder of the season. While the season's strong influx of young players lent itself to hope for the future ... youth is most definitely rarely served, when it comes to success, at this level. Only a very rare few first-year players come to mid-major level programs as finished products. It usually takes a couple of years for young players to continue to develop before they're capable of major contributions, and that was the case here. Plus, one of the best freshmen, Robinson, suffered a late-season foot injury, played through it for several games and, then, was shut down with five games remaining. Both point guard, Robinson and James, were freshmen, although both had far more assists than turnovers. While the Hawks were the tallest conference team overall, its three tallest contributors were freshmen and none averaged more than 3.1 rebounds per game. And, then, four players from the program transferred out after the season, which made way for a another strong incoming group. The only contributor who is moving on is O'Garro who was the team's second-leading rebounder.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The team's top six scorers and eight of the top nine return, almost assuring that next year will be better. Jones and Nicholas, the top two players, will be seniors. The "bigs" are a year older and, theoretically, a year better. Plus, there's more front-line help coming with Providence transfer 6-9 forward Brice Kofane and freshman Nikola Vujovic. Kofane didn't play much at Providence (4.4 minutes per game last season), but graduated and is immediately eligible for his last season. He should provide some help, plus some experience that the front line needs. One other incomer, guard Micah Seaborn from a Texas prep school looks like a good one. And, there's another transfer, 6-4 guard Je'lon Hornbeak from Oklahoma where he was a key role player this past season (5.1 points, 2.6 assists, all off the bench). He will sit out the upcoming season as a transfer before becoming eligible, with two remaining years to play, for the 2015-16 season.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Monmouth isn't likely to contend for the regular-season title right away, but that might be on the horizon at some point. Rice is doing a nice job bringing in quality talent that will ensure better things ahead. We'd expect the Hawks to close in on .500 league and overall records this season and finish somewhere in the 6th-to-8th range in the coming season.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

GymRat Girls' Event Features Future MAAC Standouts

The annual GymRat CHALLENGE AAU basketball tournament for girls' took place this Father's Day weekend and brought in a high level of basketball talent.

The top age level featured "rising seniors," or players who are currently finishing their junior years in high school, and the recruiting interest in them is strong. A good many are being recruited by MAAC teams.

Your scribe serves as the event's coordinator of talent evaluators, the individuals who watch GymRat games and subsequently select the tournament's all stars.

Here's a look at some players who listed MAAC interest, along with some tidbits from the evaluators:

- Madeline Smith, a 5-foot-8 point guard who played for the United NJ AAU team and attends High Point Regtional High School. She indicated interest from Quinnipiac and other MAAC schools.
The Report: A standout in every aspect of the game. Has great ball fakes to create her own shots. Skilled with both hands and a great defender.

- Amanda Schiefen, a 6-0 forward from the Crystal City Stars program who attends Horseheads H.S. Canisius and Niagara are both interested.
The Report: A slightly undersized post face-up player who has a goodo mid-range jumper and is a good passer. A left-hander. She runs the floor very well.

- Santita Ebangwese, a 6-2 center from the WNY Lady Lakers' program who attends Pittsford Sutherland H.S.: She indicated that several MAAC schools have expressed interest.
The Report: An athlete with strength and size. Long arms and catches everything. Good on pick and rolls. Likes the reverse pivot turn to face up and get away from the defense. She indicated A-10's and Ivy League schools are also interested.

- Taylor Ccballos, a 6-0 post player who attends Foran H.S. She indicated interest from Fairfield.
The Report: Good size and uses it well in the paint. Can be a real force inside. Gets good position and makes the defense work. Will use the hook shot.

- Maddie Springfield, a 5-10 guard from the New England Crusaders program who attends Marionapolis H.S. She indicated interest from Marist.
The Report: A smooth stroke on her outside shot and can knock down three pointers. Aggressive driver to the rim with strong finishes.

- Hannah Friend, a 6-0 forward who plays for the City Rocks' program and attends Taft Prep School. She indicated interest from Siena and Quinnipiac, along with some higher-level programs.
The Report: Clutch player who wants the ball when it counts. Long-range shooter who can also drive to the basket. Crafty on defense and uses wing span to snatch passes out of the passing lanes. High court IQ. She was the event's top-award winner, its MVG, Most Valuable GymRat.

- Jariah Johnson, a 5-9 combo guard on the CAS Panthers program who attends Frederick Douglas II H.S. She has already made a verbal commitment to attend Saint Peter's.
The Report: A long, athletic lefty guard who is an absolute terror on defense. Quick first step into the lane on offense to penetrate and kick or finish at the rim. Good 3-point shooter with her feet set.

- Morgan Graziano, a 6-1 forward who plays for the Central Jersey Hawks program and attends Holmdel H.S. She has indicated strong interest from Manhattan.
The Report: Great fundamentals; boxes out on every rebound. Outstanding scorer. Matches up vs. opponents' best player. Leads her team in the clutch.

- Leah Dollard, a 6-0 forward from the Albany Capitals program who attends Albany H.S. She indicated interest from Niagara.
The Report: Strong inside reverse layup move. Blue-collar worker. Scores with creativity. High percentage scorer who won't be outworked at either end.

- Andi Lydon, a 6-2 center from the PA Pride program who attends Shaler H.S. She indicated interest from Siena and Niagara.
The Report: Very strong and uses her body well on the boards on both ends. Alters shots. Great hands and can finish in traffic. Has nice post moves. Effective back-to-the-basket player. Tough and plays even bigger than she looks.

- Jessica Kovatch, a 5-8 guard from the United NJ-Navy program who attends Phillipsburg H.S. She indicated interest from Manhattan and Saint Peter's.
The Report: Makes great passes in transition. A big-time scorer who makes deep three's. Attacks the rim to score.

The above reports are just on girls who indicated MAAC interest. There are likely numerous others who did not reveal their college possibilities.

The event has been a great source for future MAAC players, and some of the tournament's alums include two-time MAAC Player of the Year Damika Martinez (Iona), Tehresa Coles (Siena), Madeline Blais and Tori Jarosz (Marist), Lizzie Ball (Fairfield) and numerous others.

You can find stories about each age division's championship game, as well as reports on all the all star selections at each age level at the GymRat website.

That site is: