Towards the end of the 2010-2011 high school basketball season is when everything seemed to fall into place for Winnacunnet guard Aviana Morrison. She had emerged as not only one of the state's most improved players but also one of its best spot-up shooters. She helped lead the Warriors to their 5th consecutive Division I (Class L) state title, and won the NH Notebook D-I 6th Man of the Year award in the process.
"My recruitment started to pick up after my junior year season" said Morrison, a 5'6" shooting guard. "I decided I wanted to play in college after winning state last year. I knew I couldn't just stop playing after my senior year, I love the game too much to leave it all behind."
Morrison had a number of schools recruiting her, but she recently made the decision to commit to Eastern Connecticut State Universty. ECSU competes in the Little East Conference.
2010-2011 was certainly an amazing season for the Winnacunnet girls basketball team. Despite graduating 8 seniors they still went 22-0 en route to the state title. Morrison's breakout season was a big reason for the team's success. Not many players can say they played for a program that won 77 straight games, but Morrison can.
"Words really couldn't describe how I felt when we won the state championship that year" said Morrison. It was unbelievable and it was almost like I was living a dream. I questioned it for a while because it was crazy how far we came that season and to win it all was just the cherry on top. A lot of the girls didn't like having people not believe in us, but I liked it because it gave me motivation, and when we won it was great to show them all wrong. It was also amazing because I got to win it with all my best friends/past teammates, and it just goes to show if you put it in the hard work and dedication it will all pay off in the end."
Ed Beattie was the head coach for all 5 of those state titles at Winnacunnet, and he was instrumental in Morrison's rapid improvement as a player.
"I think Winnacunnet ball has taught me how to mentally prepare myself for big games and how to think on the basketball court" said Morrison. "Mr. Beattie helped me a lot with my game this year especially since he knew I was going off to college to play ball. He taught some some things to think about on the court when I'm playing. Basketball isn't all about playing the offense, you need to be smarter than the defender and change it up which helped my game a lot this year."
Morrison has developed a solid all-around game, but is definitely best known for her ability to shoot the basketball from the outside.
"Avi is the perfect example of a player with a skill who worked extremely hard in the off-season to develop that skill and refine it" said Coach Beattie. "I gave her a workout tape for shooting entitled Steve Alford's Workout Tape. She religiously worked hard on the shooting and thus you have the Avi story."
This year as a senior Morrison was voted an honorable mention all-state player in Division I by the NHBCO. She helped lead Winnacunnet to the D-I semi-finals and a 21-2 record. She continued shoot the basketball well while also improving the rest of her game.
"Some other teams that I played for were the Exeter Hawks and New England Warriors" said Morrison. "The Exeter Hawks were coached by David Hartnett and Bill Mutch, and they are amazing coaches. They really showed me what hard work is, and how to be the best you can be. When I was on the team we went to a lot of tournaments that had coaches there, which I think helped me to be seen. I played for the New England Warriors my sophomore and junior year, and I was coached by Joe Tardiff. Joe is really the coach that has helped me tremendously. He worked with my shot a lot and made me become the quick shooter that I am. Being on that team gave me a lot of confidence and gave me a chance to be a team leader on the court."
Just days before Winnacunnet took the floor for their semi-final match up with Londonderry is when Morrison committed to Eastern Connecticut State.
"Some other schools I was looking at were University of Southern Maine, Plymouth State, and Lasell College" Morrison explained. "Some factors that led me to choose ECSU over all the others were the players, coaches, and the school itself. The coaches are very personal and as well successful with their program. The players were very welcoming and made me feel at home when I did my overnight. They also came to the BG game which was really impressive. That's really what made me make my decision, because it showed that they really wanted me."
Now that the high school basketball season is over, Morrison is getting ready for graduation and her future as a member of the Eastern Connecticut State women's basketball team.
"I think my role at ECSU will definitely be shooting and getting the ball to my teammates as much as I can when they are open" said Morrison, who plans on studying Sport Management in college. "ECSU's style of play is much more up beat and fast paste than Winnacunnet. Even though Winnacunnet is looked at as a fast team, I think college level is a little bit faster and quicker with their decisions."
With her dedication and work ethic, it is easy to see Morrison making a successful transition from the high school game to college. Opposing Little East teams will have to be careful to not leave her open. Congratulations to Aviana and best of luck at ECSU.