Brandeis University is a great academic school. Their women's basketball program has a .727 winning percentage over the last 7 years, their head coach Carol Simon is in her 25th season at the helm. And recently 2 granite state products have committed to play at Brandeis for Coach Simon to help keep that winning tradition going.
Kaley Marston from the Tilton School and Souhegan High's Ceara McNamara are 2 of the state's top prospects for the Class of 2012. Both players are seniors and have recently committed to Brandeis. Whle they are both very different players, they are both winners. Last March Marston helped lead Tilton to the NEPSAC Class C title, while McNamara has won a high school state championship as well as an AAU national title.
"Kaley has been a coach's dream to have on my team the last two years" said Tilton head coach Tara Brisson. "Not only is she the hardest working player at every practice, she is also the hardest worker in the classroom and in the locker room. She challenges each of her teammates to do better day in and day out and as a coach it is nice to be reassured that it is not always my voice the players are hearing, but their captain's as well."
Marston is a 5'7" point guard who plays unselfishly, always looking to set her teammates up for shots. She leads the break well, pushing the ball quickly up the floor and keeping her head up at all times to see open teammates. Marston also has the ability to score, either by taking the ball to the rim or hitting the mid-range pull-up. She also has an improving outside shot and is a great defender.
"She is very athletic and thrives in the open court" added Scott Hazelton, who was Marston's AAU coach for the last 2 years with the NH Rivals. "She's always willing to work hard and is a very coachable kid."
Between playing with Tilton and the Rivals for the last couple years, Marston has played in a ton of high level games. She's with and against many scholarship players and gives Brandeis a point guard for the future.
"I believe she will be a huge contributor at Brandeis, not only because of her basketball ability but because of her winning mentality and competitive nature" said Coach Brisson. "She simply refuses to lose and will do everything possible to get her team on board with this! Kaley is an amazing teammate and someone I would always want on my side. She will give you every ounce of passion and energy she has and devote herself to not only getting better as a basketball player but as a student and person as well."
While Marston gives Brandeis a point guard for the future, Ceara McNamara gives the program a versatile forward.
"Brandeis is a great school" said McNamara. "The academics are at a very high level and will provide me with an excellent education. Going into the search process, I really focused on the fact that I'm going to college primarily to learn, and that playing basketball is just a plus. While I needed to find a team and coaching staff I could be cohesive with, the academics needed to be my first priority. Having said this, I think that Brandeis is the perfect combination of high-quality academics and a great basketball program. Since they first contacted me, I've really liked Coach Simon and Coach Foulis. I love how they are both so approachable, personable and funny off the court, but when its time to play, they get down to business. Coach Simon is highly respected and after getting to know her coaching style, I can see why. Her style of coaching is what I've experienced over the last few years with AAU and school basketball and I think the transition from my current coaches to new ones will be smooth."
McNamara is a six-footer who can step outside and hit shots, which brings the opponent's bigs away from the basket where they can't get rebounds and also opens up driving lanes for her teammates. McNamara is a prototypical face-up forward, as she can also put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.
"Ceara will be an inside and outside threat for Carol Simon at Brandeis" said Dennis Reed, who coached McNamara for the past 2 years on the NE Shooting Stars AAU team. "She has significantly improved her 15'-18' jumper and is consistently increasing her range out to the 3 point arc. She's solid at the ft line and effectively draws contact when she posts up. Ceara has very effective moves both with her back to the basket and facing up. She is a very bright player and usually knows everyone's assignment which helps her teammates. She has shown significant improvement in strength and stamina and has excellent upside potential."
While playing for Coach Reed on the Shooting Stars, McNamara helped the team win the Division II National Championship in 2010, and in 2011 she helped Souhegan High win the Division II state championship.
They were both amazing experiences that not many people get to have" said McNamara. "Winning last year's state championship was one of the best feelings, however in a way it was also bittersweet. I broke my nose in the first three minutes of the game and the trainer at SNHU wouldn't let me play for the rest of the game. Part of me felt like I didn't play a big role in winning, but after talking to my teammates, coaches and friends, I realized that while the championship game itself was a very big deal, the rest of the season mattered just as much, if not more, especially after going undefeated. The national title is also something I'll never forget. That New England Shooting Stars team was a great group of girls. Our chemistry on and off the court is very hard to come by and I think it was because of this that we were able to accomplish such big things. No one expected us to win the national title, but we did."
It makes a lot of sense that those experiences will enable McNamara to be an impact player right away at Brandeis.
"Both experiences will definitely help me at the college level, but in different ways" McNamara continued. "I think the high school championship really put pressure on in terms of atmosphere and the importance of that game. The gym was completely filled at SNHU that day and the pressure of having all eyes on my teammates and I was something I had to put in the back of my mind and not focus on. This will help me in the mental aspect of the game - focusing on the task at hand and ignoring fans. On the other hand, my physical part of the game has improved so much because of AAU. In the national level tournaments we played, I would be up against girls much bigger than I was and because of this, I developed more versatile skills. When a girl was bigger and slower than me, I learned to bring her outside and play a face-up game, when a girl was stronger, taller, and could easily alter my shot, I learned to become a better passer to create opportunities for my teammates. Playing against these different types of players also improved my defense tremendously. The game is so fast-paced in AAU that its completely different than high school. I think that playing for this high-level team will help me transition to the pace and rigor of college basketball. I'm very excited to make this transition and play for such a great team at the collegiate level, and also to play for Coach Simon and Coach Foulis."
Congratulations to both Kaley and Ceara, and best of luck to them at Brandeis!