Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rafferty Commits to Wesleyan

You're not going to find anyone who has a single bad word to say about Harry Rafferty. He is the consummate teammate, he's a leader in every sense of the word. Nobody works harder or has a greater passion for the game of basketball. He's a student of the game, and also a great student in the classroom.

Rafferty (Durham, NH) is currently doing a post-grad year at Phillips Exeter after graduating from Berwick Academy in the spring. As a result of his achievements on the court and from playing with the Middlesex Magic and MB Nation over the past couple of years on the AAU circuit, he's had a wide range of schools recruiting him.

Rafferty recently ended his recruitment, by committing to Wesleyan College. Wesleyan is located in Connecticut and is a member of the NESCAC, which is one of the most competitive D-III conferences in the country for both academics and basketball.

"Everything is pending admission" explained Rafferty, a 6-foot combo-guard. "The only 'commitment' I have made is to applying Early Decision to Wesleyan."

Rafferty was mainly being looked at by high academic schools in the area, but his recruitment was all over the place. Even Boston College was after him.

"The other schools I was considering were Williams, Rochester, Boston College (as a recruited walk-on), Middlebury and Babson" said Rafferty, who scored a school-record 1,705 points during his career at Berwick. "Wesleyan has been recruiting me since I was a junior at Berwick Academy, but it was not until this past spring and summer that I felt they really made me their top priority. I did take an overnight visit a couple weekends ago, and after the visit my mom and I had a feeling that it was the right spot for me. Coach Reilly, the team, and the entire community made me feel very at home, and I could just see myself being very happy there. I also think we have the potential to do some great things basketball-wise, and I think I have the opportunity to be a big part of that."

Over the years Rafferty has been best known for his ability to shoot the basketball. Up until a couple years ago, he was known as a shooting guard in a point guard's body. But he has worked very hard since then to become a point guard who can shoot like a 2.

"I am a point guard, and the Wesleyan coaches know that" Rafferty stated. "I will do whatever Coach Reilly thinks will help the team win, and I am excited to go to battle for him and the entire Wesleyan community."

Rafferty helped the MB Nation win an AAU National Championship in 2011, and in 2012 he was party of a very talented Middlesex Magic squad. Both of these programs played at a high level and allowed Rafferty to showcase his ability in front of college coaches from all around the country.

"I had two very good AAU experiences. With MB Nation, I was able to be on a team with a group of guys that I will certainly never forget. Some of those guys are my best friends to this day, and it is just fun to re-live the memories of the road trips and funny experiences we had. From a basketball stand point, I think it was an eye-opening experience playing for Coach [Mike] Woodbury, and I certainly gained a lot of toughness and exposure from playing for him. It is a style of basketball not for the faint of heart and I grew a lot during my time with MB Nation. It was also fun to meet so many great people in the Maine basketball community. It is a very passionate basketball state, and I enjoyed getting to know everyone up there.

"Then this past spring and summer, playing with the Middlesex Magic was the single best basketball experience I have ever had in my life" Rafferty continued. It was such a great group of guys, and playing under Coach Crotty and Coach Boyle was an invaluable experience. To top of it all off, we had a lot of success, and won some big games and tournaments. I wouldn’t trade my times playing with the Magic for anything, and I will always appreciate the relationships I created in my one year with them."

Coach Crotty was the point guard for a Williams team that won a Division III national title back in 2003. Here's what he had to say about Rafferty.

"I am thrilled for Harry that he found such a tremendous blend of academics and athletics at Wesleyan" beamed Crotty. I know Coach Reilly very well and I know Harry is going to be coached by a tremendous basketball coach, and an even better person. Harry is a perfect fit for the NESCAC, and I believe that he will have a great opportunity to make an immediate impact on the court when he arrives at Wesleyan.

"Simply put, Harry Rafferty is a coach’s dream" Coach Crotty continued. "He is the extension of the coach on the floor, a point guard who has natural leadership ability that most players will never attain. Harry is able to lead so effectively because his teammates have the utmost respect for him. He sets the example during every practice, every game, and most importantly, when nobody is looking and Harry puts in tireless effort to improve. Harry’s improvement this past year convinced coaches across the country that he is an elite level player. From a skill standpoint Harry is an outstanding shooter of the basketball. He is a threat to shoot from 5 ft. behind the line with tremendous accuracy, and he has a great pull-up jump shot. While his shooting is something people have known about, Harry separated himself this past Spring/Summer while playing on the National AAU circuit as a play making point guard. Harry ran my team with great efficiency, and he set all of his teammates up for easy looks at the basket. Harry is excellent in transition, pushing the ball and making decisions. He has an endless motor and his superior conditioning allows him to wear his opponents down. Another area where he shines is in the pick and roll game. He understands timing, angles, and the deception necessary to be a dynamic player in pick and roll situations, and this combination of two-tempo basketball makes Harry a complete offensive player. The other area where he has grown is on the defensive end of the court. Harry has great lateral quickness and continues to add strength to his frame. He is an excellent on ball defender and his court awareness as a team (and help side) defender is the best of anyone I have coached in years. Over and above offense/defense, it is Harry’s will to win, his heart, and his work ethic that you cannot measure. Harry Rafferty is simply a winner in every aspect of the word. I count myself lucky to have had the chance to coach him, and I could not be more excited to watch his career unfold – great things are to come! The entire Middlesex Magic Family is extremely proud of Harry!"

Being able to play and get an education at a NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) school is a tremendous opportunity. Rafferty's close friend and teammate with the Magic and at Phillips Exeter, Duncan Robinson (Rye, NH) just recently committed to Williams.

"The NESCAC is arguably the best Division III basketball league in the country, and I can’t wait to play against the other great programs like Williams, Amherst, Middlebury, and so on." said Rafferty who should thrive in the NESCAC as a point guard just like his AAU coach Mike Crotty did at Williams. "There are scholarship level players all over the league, and Duncan Robinson is certainly going to be one of them. So while I am very excited to play against Duncan and the rest of the very talented players in the NESCAC, I have a lot of work to do before I will be ready to take the floor at that high of a level. I just can’t wait to get to work over the next year to get to the point where I am good enough to play at such a high level of college basketball. So while I am excited, I also understand the work that will need to be put in before that time."

While the NESCAC plays a very high level of basketball, it is an even higher level academically. Therefore, for the kids who choose to attend these schools (as well as Ivy League schools) academics must be as big of a factor as basketball, if not bigger.

"I’m thinking about studying either sociology and/or economics at Wesleyan right now, but that could definitely change over time" Rafferty told the NH Notebook. "After college, I definitely want to do something related to basketball. I either want to be a coach or work in the front office of an NBA team. It is going to be a grind getting to where I want to go, but I’m ready for the work because it is all I know."

It is no surprise to hear that Rafferty wants to work in basketball once his college days are through. Like I said in the beginning of the article, he has a love for the game that is simply un-matched. Because of that it has been a joy to cover him over the past couple of years.

"I believe my work ethic, enthusiasm, and love for the game is really a product of being surrounded by the great people and mentors that I have in my life" Rafferty explained. "Definitely the most influential person in my life is my dad. While I haven’t got to spend as much time with him as I always would have liked because of his job, he has always been there when I needed him and he is a huge part of who I am today. He once told me that if I want to be great at something I have to find the hardest worker I can, and then outwork that person. Since he told me that at a young age, it has always been my mentality. I just want to be the hardest working person I can be, and then what happens, happens. Along with teaching me a lot of what I know, my dad, and the rest of my family, is also my greatest motivation to work hard. I want to make them proud more than anything else. My parents, my brothers (Max, Thomas, and Luke), and my sisters (Phoebe and Elizabeth) are the most important thing to me, and I want them to have a sense of pride in everything that I do.

"Apart from my family though, I would say Noah LaRoche and Michael Crotty are the two people I try to model myself after" Rafferty continued. "Both of them are extremely hard workers and great people who have had indelible impacts on my life. I observe how hard they work, and I know if I want to be successful than I must strive to work as hard as they do. I would definitely say they are my role models and mentors, and two people that will also be my friends for the rest of my life.

"I was also luckily enough to surround myself with a great group of friends that have always pushed me to my limits and picked me up when I was at my lowest points" Rafferty went on. "While there is a long list of friends that helped me become the worker and person I am today, the six that were always there for me were Chris Braley, Duncan Robinson, Tell White, Chris Petzy, Kyle Dicesare and Georges Niang. I would not be who I am today without those six, and I love those guys to death. It is unbelievable how much they helped me, and I can never thank them enough."

There were other coaches and programs which helped Rafferty get where he is today.

"One of the best parts about my high school basketball experience was being able to play for a few different coaches that I think each really helped me develop into the player and person I am today in their own way" said Rafferty. "First, it started with Coach [Pat] Quinn, who was the one who convinced me to go to Berwick Academy in the first place, which ended up being up one of the best decisions I ever made. Playing for him my freshman and sophomore years was big because he believed in me even when not many others did. I remember my freshman year at Berwick we went 1-18, and I started at point guard the entire year. I was undersized, not skilled enough, and really just not good enough to play at the varsity level. However, even when I played terrible, he saw potential in me and let me play through my mistakes, which was a big part of my development. He allowed me to learn from my mistakes and grow as a player.

"Then during my junior and senior campaigns, playing for Coach [Rory] Early taught me more than I could ever imagine as well" Rafferty explained. "My relationship with Coach Early is something that I greatly value because I don’t know if I have ever met a more genuine and sincere man than him. He taught me just as much about life, as he did about basketball and I can’t thank him enough for that.

"Now this year I am getting the opportunity to play under Coach [Jay] Tilton, and it couldn’t be going any better than it is right now" Rafferty continued. "While I haven’t played a game for him yet, he is teaching me so much. The best part about Coach Tilton is he works tirelessly for his players. He helped me so much with the college process, and I just can’t wait to get to work on the court with him. We have great chemistry and understand each other, which I think is very important for a point guard and coach.

"Finally, the program that helped with my development the most was definitely Integrity Hoops" Rafferty went on. "I started training with them in 7th grade, and ever since then I have just continued to get better every year. Every summer I spend more and more hours in the gym with Noah, and I continue to learn more and improve as a player. To say it simply, it is the best basketball training program I have seen and I will always be a great advocate of Integrity Hoops."

Noah Laroche has worked Rafferty out a lot over the past few years with Integrity Hoops. Here's what he had to say about his star pupil.

"Harry Rafferty is a remarkable young man; his work ethic, dedication, and focus to a specific goal is an inspiration" said Coach Laroche, who is now working for the Oklahoma City Thunder. "In our culture where instant gratification is prevalent and the path of least resistance often sought, Harry has deliberately stayed true to the process-over-outcome approach. To his credit, Harry worked extremely hard to achieve his goal of playing college basketball and wisely sought out some of the most highly regarded coaches and mentors in New England to aid in his development. We are eager to watch Harry continue his growth as he will take on many new and exciting challenges at Wesleyan over the next four years."

Rafferty is excited about this decision he has made, but still has his winter season to play with Braley, Robinson and the rest of his Exeter teammates before it will be time to go off to his career at Wesleyan.

"Phillips Exeter has been absolutely great" Rafferty concluded. It is a very tough balance of basketball and academics, but I’m having a lot of fun. Berwick prepared me very well for how difficult it is here, and I think my experience here is going to prepare me very well for how it will be at Wesleyan. It is an honor to go to the #1 prep school in the country, and when I decided to come here I knew I was accepting the work load both academically and athletically. Now I am just trying to make the most out of it by working my hardest every day."

On behalf of the entire NH basketball community, we would like to congratulate Rafferty on his commitment. We wish him the best of luck at Wesleyan!

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