It's hard to not root for a player like Rebecca Arnone. At 5'8" she is an undersized post player, and she might not have blazing speed. But the intangibles she brings to the basketball court more than outweigh any limitations she may have. Simply put, you are not going to find many players anywhere who have the heart, work ethic, determination, positive attitude, leadership and basketball I.Q. of Arnone.
"There are very few players I've seen who squeeze so much out of the talent they have" said Dennis Reed, who coached Arnone in 2010 and 2011 on the NE Shooting Stars AAU team. "Becca plays with great intensity and controlled aggressiveness. She is one of the most coachable players I have ever coached. She is an extremely hard worker, has improved her game dramatically in the two years with our program. She has become a long range threat, and an amazing rebounder with a tremendous instinct for where the ball will be."
Arnone scored her 1,000th career point earlier in the season and is closing in on 1,000 rebounds as well. She helped lead Campbell High to the Division III championship last March as a junior, and was simply on fire in the title game vs. Conant scoring a game-high 21 points. Campbell is currently undefeated this year, so the chances are good that she will again win a state title and in addition to possibly being D-III Player of the Year.
Last week Arnone made her decision on where she would be playing her college basketball, committing to Wheaton College. Wheaton is a Division III school in Massachusetts which competes in the NEWMAC.
Campbell made it to the D-III (Class M) championship game in Arnone's first 2 years before finally winning it last year, ending the season on a 19 game winning streak. This season the Cougars just completed a perfect 18-0 regular season, so led by Arnone they have now won 37 consecutive games - the longest winning streak in the state.
"The day Becca walked into the gym her work ethic was unmatched by any Campbell athlete before her and has grown exponentially since then" said Campbell girls basketball head coach Shawn Flynn. "She has brought a winning attitude and a sense of urgency to the program. Her success has fostered community-wide excitement toward Campbell High School girls basketball."
Arnone is a physical player who is not afraid to mix it up in the paint and battle for inside position and for rebounds. She is quicker to the basketball for loose balls and for rebounds than nearly anybody, due to her sheer determination and hustle. Arnone is a crafty inside scorer, and despite her size is able to score by utilizing a series of nifty post moves and up-fakes which allow her to get quality looks. She has also improved her outside shot, and can consistently hit from 18-20 feet. Arnone is a fierce defender as well and an underrated passer. Simply put, she has a solid all-around game and is a winner.
"Becca used to be just a big strong kid that did nothing but go left, but over the years her skill development has made her a versatile player not only in the post but also on the perimeter" said Coach Flynn. "Her growth on the basketball court has made other players better. She has grown into an outstanding leader on and off the court."
In addition to winning a state title last year for Campbell, Arnone also helped her Shooting Stars AAU team win the Division II 15U National Championship in 2010. That team had some of the top talent in New England, including Nicole Boudreau (committed to Boston College), Jane White (committed to Bentley) and Katie Vareika (only a junior but is future D-I player in college).
"Becca is the consummate team player" said Coach Reed. "In the game we won for the AAU National Championship, we told her to go in for another player, her response was, 'Coach, she's having a great game, let her stay in longer.' Becca contributed significantly to that win yet sacrificed some of her minutes for another player. She is a great teammate, a coach's dream and she will be an immediate impact player at Wheaton College. I know Coach Hodgdon is extremely excited to have Becca be a part of their program. They will be better because of her, not only due to her basketball talent but because she is a remarkable young lady."
Wheaton head coach Melissa Hodgdon is in her 9th season as head coach, and prior to last season she coached the program to 5 straight winning seasons. Former Pinkerton Academy standout guard Laura Pierce is currently a sophomore on the team.
Now, here's an exclusive interview with Rebecca Arnone.
Jeremy Leveille: What factors made you choose Wheaton over the other schools you were considering?
Rebecca Arnone: Wheaton offers everything that I'm looking for. Obviously, the basketball is a major factor. I've gone to see the team, and it appears that it would be a good fit for me, plus the coach (Melissa Hodgdon) is awesome! She helped me out with applying and making sure I got my applications, and such in on time, and seems to be a great coach! Athletics are not the only reason I chose this school, it has a great educational system as well...when I went down for an overnight I met with the Dean, and one of their top science educators, and discussed what my future would be like if I attended Wheaton for the next four years. It was very interesting to me, and seemed like it was an opportunity that I could not pass up.
JL: Thoughts on playing in the NEWMAC and for Coach Hodgdon?
RA: I'm really excited to go off to college and play in the NEWMAC! I'm ready to branch out from high school, and play girls from all over. I absolutely loved playing AAU, playing girls from all over the country and I'm excited to get in to that feeling again. I'm excited to face some bigger girls, and bigger competition. College ball is a completely different ball game, and I'm truly excited to play it. As for playing for Coach Hodgdon, I'm also thrilled. My AAU coach (Dennis Reed) has really helped me with my college decision, and has talked very highly about Coach Hodgdon (having already sent one of his great players - Laura Pierce - to Wheaton) I have discussed with her about her game plans, practices, her expectations she's set for her players, and she seems like a great coach!
JL: What do you see your role being on the team there?
RA: I see myself playing as a guard next year, maybe forward if I have a height advantage. As for my role, I couldn't exactly tell you. I would love to be able to help on all aspects of the game for whenever needed, but I guess next year will tell all!
JL: What was it like winning the state championship last year at Campbell?
RA: Winning the State Championship last year was unreal. For some of the girls on the team it was their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th appearance in the championship game, so to come out with a win that night was incredible. We worked so hard as a team last year. We had this deep determination from the start of the season to the finish and were not going to accept a failing end result. This year, it hasn't changed a bit. Every practice is taken seriously, and not a minute is wasted. We wanted it bad last year, but now we're demanding it from ourselves. As the season has come to an end, and the tournament is arising, our team chemistry is better than it ever has been. We're very excited and ready to play.
JL: Talk about how playing with the Shooting Stars helped your development as a player and any other programs you played in or coaches you had that also helped
RA: Playing on the New England Shooting Stars, and for Coach Reed was inexplicably the best decision I have ever made as a basketball player. He is a coach that I will never forget, and thank him so much for all the help he has given me over the past two years. He's taught me discipline (although, it may not look like it with all the yelling I still do out there haha), how to play the game correctly, and have fun. Not only has he changed me as a player, but the girls on the team have greatly impacted my abilities. It's not everyday you get to play with 2 players heading off to BC and Bentley (Nicole Boudreau, Jane White) Not only them, but the rest of the girls as well! (Danielle Davis, Lia Nawn, Katie Prothro, Ceara McNamara, Shayla Hubbard, Brianna Stoyle, Ashley Clough, Cailey White, and Katie Vareika) I've learned so much from playing with all of them, and loved it so much! I will never play on a team like that team again, it was an unbelievable experience that will not be forgotten.
JL: You have already scored 1,000 points and won a state title, and have a chance to get 1,000 rebounds and win another state title this year. Have you thought at all about your legacy and possibly going down as one of the top Class M (D-III) players from NH in a LONG time?
RA: I love the game of basketball, and I go out there just to play it. My focus isn't on individual records, it never has been. My focus is on the team, playing to win, and just to play the sport I love.
Congratulations to Rebecca, and best of luck at Wheaton!