Not many sophomores get offered a Division I basketball scholarship. Then again, Aliza Simpson is not your typical sophomore. Simpson is a wizard with the basketball in her hands, making great decisions in transition and in the half court. She makes her teammates better and is just as good defensively as she is on offense.
University of New Hampshire women’s basketball head coach Maureen Magarity has taken notice of these qualities, extending an offer to the Londonderry High point guard at a recent AAU tournament.
“It was an unbelievable feeling, did not see it coming” said an ecstatic Simpson. “When Coach Magarity made the offer I was speechless and when I stood up to shake her hand I was so light-headed. I felt like I was going to faint because I was so overwhelmed and happy, I was smiling ear to ear. And also it didn't help that the room was really hot!”
Simpson has been able to further develop her skills and gain exposure on the AAU circuit by playing with the NE Crusaders Black Team. It’s one of the top 15U teams in New England, and is made up of mostly girls from the Granite State. The others are Courtney Walsh (Central Catholic), Kelsey Brown (Tilton), McKenzie Brown (Bedford), Ali Glennon (Bedford), Clairee Putnam (Windham) and Rachel Collins (Bedford).
“It’s a huge accomplishment for Aliza to be offered so soon” said Crusader Black head coach Mike Collins. “I've been very impressed with her humility and continued focus on getting better.”
This is great news for Simpson, but she has such a great attitude that she is most happy about how this will benefit her fellow Crusader teammates.
“It helps that we go to big tournaments and now with the label of an offer our team will get more recognition” Simpson beamed. “This will help out my teammates that deserve offers just as much as I do. I'm lucky to play with such an incredibly talented team.”
While Simpson is very young and still has plenty of time to make a college decision, it is clear that UNH has made quite the impression on her.
“I had a great time while I was on campus” Simpson continued. “The coaches were fantastic and made me feel so comfortable. I spent a good amount of time with Coach Roux and I felt that we really clicked.”
Simpson was named a Division I first team all-state player by both the NH Notebook and the NHBCO in 2011-2012, leading her Londonderry squad to the D-I title game despite the fact that they graduated all five starters from the previous year’s team.
Simpson is also the first NH girls player from the Class of 2014 to receive a scholarship offer. And to her credit she is not letting the offer let her get complacent.
“This has motivated me to want to work even harder!” exclaimed Simpson. “My shot is what I would consider my big area of opportunity. I need to be a scoring threat out there, especially when my team needs some points on the scoreboard. So I have been working hard getting moves down that will create space for my shot and to be able to make it count. Also, in big games especially, I have trouble resisting temptation when the ball's right in front of me, and when I get in foul trouble that not only effects me but my entire team. So I have been working on staying out of foul trouble. I also could do better off ball movement and help get my teammates open, rather than hanging around the top the key. It's a tough transition as my high school runs more of a set offense, and my AAU team runs more of a read and react but it's good for me to play under both styles. Lastly, I'm a pretty quiet player on the court. So both my AAU coach and my high school coach have been trying to make me more of a leader by being more vocal. I need to get out of my comfort zone there!”
It's refreshing to see that even with all of the success she has had, Simpson realizes there are still things she can work on to become an even better all-around player. With that kind of determination it is safe to say that UNH will not be the last school that will be making an offer to the talented point guard.
“My ultimate goal is to continue to play basketball at the college level and have it pay for a good education” concluded Simpson. “I want to be able to immediately play as a freshman, and help contribute to a winning season. I'm not one to sit the bench! That is one thing that exploring UNH has opened my eyes about. I can see a path to these goals with their point guard graduating the year before I would arrive. Having said that, Coach Magarity was great about giving me the time to really make sure I make a good decision by telling me to take the summer, and take my junior year, evaluate all offers, continue to do lots of college visits, and I'll know when the time is right!”
It is clear that when it comes to her basketball skill or maturity, Simpson is not your typical sophomore.