Incoming freshmen learning from college summer league play.
Incoming freshmen learning from college summer league play
Brady Wassell knew there would be no substitute for experience.
An incoming freshman on Holy Family’s women’s basketball team, Wassell had heard about the transition from high school to college from her older sisters who had played at the next level, but words can only do so much. The Lansdale Catholic graduate and a host of other local incoming freshmen have gotten their first taste of the college game this summer and it’s been an eye-opener.
Wassell is just one of a large number of area alumni playing in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s Summer Basketball League and for the soon-to-be-freshmen, it’s a chance to gain as much experience and information as possible.
“It’s cool because I recognize a lot of different faces from the PCL or just playing in AAUand it’s a great experience because college is a completely different game,” Wassell said. “I’m happy I’m getting this exposure to some of it early on.”
The league, which is in its 25th year, features 10 teams made up of college players from Division I-III, features a nine-game regular season followed by a playoff tournament with every team in the field. Teams play twice a week at Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the Renegades AAU program. NCAA rules prevent college coaches from coaching teams in the league, although they are permitted to observe.
While teams are named for the color shirt they play in, some colleges have their entire roster making up a squad, like Jefferson, USciences and Arcadia. Others, like Wassell’s have a core of players from one school with their rosters filled out via a draft and the remainder are made up of a conglomerate of one or two players from a handful of different universities.
Although the games are officiated by three referees, there’s no shot clock, most teams aren’t running offensive or defensive sets, everyone who makes the game gets an equal share of playing time and there aren’t coaches patrolling the sideline. Still, as
incoming Chestnut Hill freshman Lauren Crim noted, it’s a chance to see the quicker speed of the game and to start building chemistry with future teammates.
“I think this league is perfect for it because you get to meet your new teammates and play with them, not everyone is here, but all the local girls are,” Crim, a Lansdale Catholic graduate, said. “It’s definitely faster, which is a huge adjustment. You kind of click into it quickly, if you’ve been playing high school and AAU all of those years, it’s not that much different. It’s the speed of the game and adjusting to it.”
Crim’s team is structured around a core of Chestnut Hill players, mostly guards, including sophomores Cassie Sebold (Archbishop Wood) and Rachael Millan (Lower Moreland)and supplemented with post players from a handful of different colleges.
Incoming Lafayette freshman Becca Margolis, a Council Rock North graduate, only has one future teammate on her summer league roster, but so far it’s been working well for her and sophomore forward Natalie Kucowski. Their team, which is structured around a core of Kutztown players, is in the mix for a top four playoff seed and Margolis has been using the summer to find a quicker pace of play.
“It’s a summer league, so every game may not be as intense but this is something I’d rather be doing than not,” Margolis, a point guard, said. “Being able to see these girls I used to play against in high school who are now in college, it’s a good experience going against that kind of strength and that kind of speed.”
While the league is a nice welcome for the incoming freshmen, they know there’s still another big step to take up to inseason collegiate basketball. Even for the teams that are bringing in the full roster each night, there’s only so much the new players can pick up.
USciences sophomore Jess Huber, a North Penn graduate, played in the league last year before she was a freshman and felt it benefitted her. At the same time, Huber found there was still a lot to learn once she actually got on campus and into her first team workouts and practices.
“You meet the team and get acclimated, which helps a lot, but you only kind of learn the offense,” Huber said. “It’s more like pickup but you’re able to start building chemistry.”
The newbies are also learning that they won’t be able to get away with certain things that worked for them in high school or AAU. Crim noted that it’s much harder to get to the rim, much less into the lane going against players who have time in a college program.
During her team’s game on Thursday, Crim was able to get into the lane and finish, taking a little contact for good measure as part of an 18-point outing.
“I’m a freshman, I’m 18 and you’re going up against girls who are 22, 23, so bigger, stronger and older, almost like when you’re a freshman in high school,” Crim said. “It’s Division II basketball, it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”
Jefferson’s crew has had a nice summer, with incoming freshmen Bridget Arcidiacono (Archbishop Wood) and Haley Meinel (CB South) getting plenty of minutes. Chestnut Hill’s Abby Spratt (CB West) and Bri Hewlett (North Penn) are on the roster with Crim on team Kelly Green while Sky Blue, which is Arcadia, features Souderton grad Sami Falencki. Incoming Millersville freshman Sam Brusha (Abington) in on Golden Sun while Centenary’s Jess McKenzie (North Penn) is on Lime Green and Salisbury’s Lauren Fortescue (Plymouth Whitemarsh) plays for Royal Blue, those rosters a mash-up of various colleges.
Huber and her teammates on USciences’ Maroon have been getting to know two of their freshmen in Taylor Hamm (Perk Valley) and Jules Gura (St. Basil Academy). Gura, like the other rising freshmen, hasn’t taken playing in the league lightly.
“It’s really beneficial getting to play in a game situation with other people on your team and learning how they like to play and do well,” Gura said. “The players here are a lot stronger. Coming from being a senior in high school, you’re one of the strongest players on the floor and here you’re playing people who are just as, if not stronger than you and you have to find ways to adjust to that.”
For Wassell and classmate Molly Masciantonio (Archbishop Carroll), the experience has been good, even if they’re not playing with the full Holy Family roster. They’re getting to play with future teammates in Jada Smith and Elizabeth Radley while coach Melissa Dunne is a frequent observer who’s been able to give Wassell and Masciantonio some feedback after each game.
Mostly, it’s the chance to experience something words really can’t do justice to, even if they’re coming from someone who’s been through it themselves.
“I know it’s going to be hard from what people were telling me and from having my older sisters but this has benefitted more than I thought it would,” Wassell said. “They can tell you how hard it’s going to be but you won’t know until you experience it yourself.”
Jenkintown graduate, Emma Dorshimmer, squares to shoot at a women’s NCAA summer basketball league July 19, 2018.
Lower Moreland graduate Rachel Millan, of Chestnut Hill College, looks to pass at a women’s NCAA summer basketball league July 19.
Caitlyn Cunningham, a Mount St. Joe’s graduate, pulls up to shoot at a women’s NCAA summer basketball league.