Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Blakslee Headed to WPI

A broken arm caused Salem High's Brenna Blakslee to miss most of her freshman season. Blakslee worked hard to get back on the court and as a junior she emerged as one of the top point guards in the state. Salem went from being a Division I doormat to making the state quarterfinals last year, and Blakslee's play is a major reason for that. Now as a senior she has committed to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where she will continue her education and basketball career.

"The recruiting process for me began during my sophomore year when I began to receive letters from schools" Blakslee told the NH Notebook. "My main focus when looking at schools was to find a school that fit me academically. I have worked very hard in the classroom throughout high school and have always wanted to attend a college that is well respected and will challenge me academically. I also wanted a school that is relatively close to home. This helped me narrow my choices down to WPI, Colby College, and Brandeis University. After visiting all the schools, meeting the coaches, and looking at their academic programs, I found that WPI was the best choice for me. The math and science curriculum was a perfect fit for me academically, as I want to pursue chemical engineering."

WPI is a Division III program that competes in the NEWMAC conference. It is a very competitive school academically. Blakslee however is a tremendous student, as she's ranked #1 in her class academically at Salem High.

"Ever since I was little, my parents signed me up for every sport they could" explained Blakslee, a 5-foot-6 point guard. "Growing up I tried basketball, tennis, soccer, cheerleading, and dance, and was always going from one practice to another. As I got older I finally narrowed my sports down to soccer and basketball, and was on a travel team, school team, and AAU or club team for both sports. With all the practices and games, I got used to balancing school work and sports at a very young age. I would always need to plan my homework time around my practice and game times, which taught me great time management skills that have helped me immensely throughout high school."

In addition to the curriculum, the basketball aspect of WPI also appealed to Blakslee.

"After my first time meeting the WPI coaches, I knew I would love to play for them" said Blakslee. "Coach Gallaso and Coach Riley are both so friendly and welcoming, making me feel right at home on my first visit. This fall I stayed overnight with the team, attending some classes and practicing with them. The team was just as welcoming as the coaches, making me feel like I was already part of the team. They worked hard at their open gym and worked really well together, showing how close they all were with each other. The coaches told me that they needed a point guard, as the point guard they have now will be a senior when I am a freshman. They also told me that they like to play a fast pace game with lots of fast breaking and defensive pressure. These are both two of my strengths, which I am very excited about."

Blakslee is a lightning quick point guard with good athleticism who can score from the outside or off the bounce but is just as good at creating shots for others. She has good court vision and is also one of the top defenders in the state.

"In the fall of my freshman year, I broke my arm and was out for most of the school basketball season" Blakslee continued. "This set me back in my skill development, but once I was healthy I was more than ready to work hard and get back to where my skills had been. I joined the Rivals the spring of my freshman year, and the intensity level and the difficulty of the practices quickly got me back into the game. Playing with the Rivals gave me the opportunity to practice against some of the best players in NH and Mass, which really helped my game. The Rivals played an up tempo game, with lots of fast breaking and defensive pressure, which is what I love to do. I also played for the Mass Huskies my junior year, who played a more slowed down offense. This gave me the opportunity to improve my point guard skills in set plays and offenses."

Playing with the Rivals and the Mass Huskies on the AAU circuit helped get Blakslee the necessary exposure to become a sought after recruit.

"Brenna is a tremendous athlete who has a great work ethic" said Hank Desantis, who coached Blakslee with the Huskies. "She is an incredibly tough minded and resilient player. Brenna is a tenacious defender who creates offense for her team by making an opposing point guard's life miserable. Offensively, she had her best games against top competition both in terms of creating for others and scoring. She made considerable progress within the Huskies organization and through her insatiable desire to improve. Her game translates extremely well to the next well. She has a bright future."

The rise of the Salem girls basketball program is a great story. They struggled for many years then they lost all of the Windham kids when Windham High opened its doors. But the program has definitely turned around, thanks in large part to Blakslee. With her on court play and leadership The Blue Devils made the D-I quarterfinals last year and with their top 3 players back they have a good shot to get back there again this season.

"As I was working on my game, so were my teammates at Salem" Blakslee concluded. "I have played with Emily Hickey and Amanda Bickford for as long as I can remember, and we have developed great chemistry together. The three of us have started at Salem since our sophomore year, and I think our competitiveness and athleticism have really helped our program. We have gone through three coaches during our four years, but we have worked through each transition to a new coach with ease. Our coach this year, Michaela Galvin, has been working us hard at practice and getting us ready for our games. She has a lot of trust in the three of us and values our opinions, which is helping us in games. We also have a lot of underclassmen who have just as much determination and persistence as the seniors. I am looking forward to a successful season, and our goal is a semifinal game at SNHU for our last season at Salem."

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