Sunday, August 11, 2013

Walsh Commits to Stonehill

Courtney Walsh (Windham, NH) may have flown under the radar in NH the past 3 years because she goes to school in Massachusetts, but it is about time she is recognized statewide as a truly elite player. The 5-foot-7 combo guard has worked hard to become one of the best all-around players to come out of NH in recent years. She is an excellent defender and is a smart, unselfish player who can also shoot, handle the ball, drive to the rim, find the open teammate and rebound. Walsh helped lead her Central Catholic High team to the Division I Massachusetts state championship this past season as a junior and has also turned heads on the AAU circuit with the NE Crusaders.

Many colleges have taken notice of Walsh's ability, but none did more than Stonehill. As a result, Walsh has given the Skyhawks and head coach Trisha Brown a verbal commitment. Following her senior year Walsh will attend and play basketball for Stonehill, which competes in the Division II Northeast-10 Conference.

"I really love Stonehill because it’s a beautiful campus that’s not too far from home" Walsh told the NH Notebook. I can see myself there not only athletically, but academically and socially as well. The girls on the team are all so friendly and welcoming, and it’s great that I’m already close with Casey McLaughlin. It’s also a Division 2 school, and I think that will allow me to pursue a more difficult major and still balance everything well. My parents will be able to come to my games, which is something we all wanted. Stonehill was my top Northeast 10 school, but I still wasn’t sure which division I wanted to play. Division 1 schools that showed interest in me were URI, Colgate, UNH, American and Fairfield. However, as time went on, I realized more and more that Stonehill was the school for me. It was the school I first received a letter from, went for a visit on, and eventually was offered a scholarship by. I really like and respect Coach Brown as both a coach and a person, and I know that it’s really important to love who you play for. This past year Stonehill was ranked 11th in the nation in women’s division 2 basketball, and I definitely want to play on a winning team. So two days after AAU had finished (July 31st), I went back just to visit Stonehill once again. I went down with my Crusader teammate Sam Hyslip, and we both fell in love all over again with the school. After discussing it over and getting our parents’ approval and support, we both decided to commit right then. I’m thrilled Sam and I will be playing together because she’s a great player has become a good friend of mine."

Helping the Red Raiders win the state title in basketball last winter was a tremendous accomplishment for Walsh and her teammates.

"This past high school season was hands down the best few weeks of my life" Walsh explained. "It was everything every athlete ever dreams of, winning in front of huge crowds in beautiful arenas. From the very first pasta party our team did the “Garden Dance,” as getting to play at the TD Garden was our ultimate goal. However, we had a discouraging start to the season as we lost a few games due to buzzer beaters and last-second buckets. We didn’t win the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tourney as we had wished, and we carried losses under our belt to teams that many people hadn’t expected us to lose to. But to be honest, these losses made us work that much harder and dig that much deeper. We would stay after practice and get extra shots in and work on our ball-handling. Then come game time, we truly just left everything on the court, and I think that’s why we were so successful. Many people didn’t believe we would go as far as we would, but our confidence and desire made none of that matter. We knew that we could do something incredible and make memories that would last a lifetime. Coach Sue Downer motivated us to work harder, and Casey’s work-ethic just pushed us even more. She was incredible this past season and will obviously be a huge loss this year. But I think a lot of us will be ready to step up and fill in for our graduated seniors. I think being repeat champs requires a lot of heart and teamwork again. We’ll all need to score a few more points and grab a few more rebounds to make up for the players we lost. But we now know how amazing it feels to win a state title, and I think every girl on the team would do anything to relive it."

Walsh has played basketball since third grade and over the years has had many coaches and teammates who have helped her to achieve her goals and dreams.

"In third grade I first started playing basketball on the Windham Travel basketball team" said Walsh. "Paul Cino and Lauri Putnam were my coaches, and I became best friends with Lauri’s daughter Clairee. When we went into sixth grade, the two of us joined the NH Shooting Stars for our first AAU team. That was when I met Aliza Simpson and Mckenzie Brown, former rivals from my travel basketball days. In eighth grade when our AAU team split, we all went to the New England Crusaders, where I been playing ever since. Mike Collins was the head coach, and I will truly miss him. He taught me so much about the game of basketball and gave me every opportunity to take my game to the next level. This year Maureen LaRoche became our head coach, another coach I admire. She is so energetic and encouraging, always giving me a boost of confidence when I need it. Even off the court she is so enjoyable and someone I know that cares deeply about each and every one of us. Every Crusader coach, Stef Murphy and Kara Leary included, is the same way. They have so much knowledge of the game, and this organization has allowed me to be the best player and person I can be. We travel to the top tournaments in the country to play against some of the best players in the country, and that isn’t something a lot of girls living in small New Hampshire towns can say. Playing for the Crusaders has no doubt pushed me to the next level, and I wouldn’t be the same player I am today if it weren’t for them. It’s an opportunity but also a commitment, one I am so grateful for my parents letting me take part in. I also wouldn’t have become as close with Aliza, Mckenzie, Clairee or Ali Glennon, friendships I know will continue forever. I owe a lot to my high school coach, Sue Downer, as well. She has also improved my level of play these past three years, and I know she will continue to do so during my senior year. She has also helped a lot in my college process, which isn’t always common in high school coaches. Coach Downer is also a very smart and respectable coach that brings out the best in her players."

Crusades coach Mike Collins can vouch for Walsh's attributes, both as a player and as a person.

"Courtney really took off this past year" said Collins. "The game just started to click for her during her junior high school season and it carried over to this AAU season. Lots of people wanted her. It takes a bit of a basketball eye to fully appreciate Court. She does everything well: shoots, defends, penetrates, passes. Her ball handling is improving and her endurance is staggering. She's a legit soccer player and she benefits from that footwork vision and conditioning. She is also a great kid. I try to only coach kids that pass the "I'd want her as a daughter-in-law"test. Can't say enough about her work ethic, selflessness, and attitude. I'll really miss coaching her, but in excited about her future on and off the court."

Walsh is best known for being an unselfish, team-first type of player. That is something that will certainly help her at the next level with the Skyhawks.

"As a person, I can come across as being pretty shy and reserved" Walsh continued. "I know at times this has been my downfall, as my coaches sometimes have to tell me to speak louder or shoot the ball when I’m open. I think that playing with talented girls has made me more unselfish, as I have the confidence that they can get the job done as well. Playing AAU for as long as I have has made me a better player, thus giving me the confidence to create my own opportunities on the floor. During high school season, I have been playing point-guard whereas during AAU I play shooting guard. So it’s important that I’m able to dribble and pass the ball, rather than just set up for a three-ball. My brother Cameron has helped me a lot too these past few years. Cam’s always willing to go to the park with me to play some one-on-one and show me new moves. Playing against a boy that’s stronger, quicker, and more athletic has prepared me for the bigger tournaments. A lot of girls don’t have that luxury, so I appreciate him giving up his time to help make my dreams come true."

Walsh believes that Stonehill is a great fit for her academically, as well as athletically.

"I plan to major in biology at Stonehill" Walsh concluded. "As of right now I am leaning towards becoming a physician assistant or another profession in the medical field. I will have to attend graduate school, so I know it’s important that I do well academically during my years at Stonehill. I hope to one day work in a hospital in Boston (maybe Children’s), but maybe my mind will change back and forth within the next five years."

Walsh might be a more reserved person, but she clearly is a well spoken one with a good head on her shoulders. Congratulations to her on this great accomplishment - Stonehill is getting a good one.

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