The more things change, the more they stay the same for the BNY Select girls’ basketball teams.
The teams are still loaded with future college stars, and there are a lot of familiar faces, like Elmira’s Morgan Gentile, who started her career at Troy.
The difference this year is that the makeup of the 17u and 16u rosters look a lot different
Many of the players on the 17u roster were primarily on 16u last year, including Gentile, while there are a number of new faces on the 16u team.
“It’s been really fun to get to know everyone again and get to play with everybody for the last time,” Norwich’s Abby Flynn said.
For Flynn’s high school teammate Halea Eaton, this is her second year on 18u, but she has a lot of new people on the team with her this time.
“It’s really cool for me because I was on the older team last year and all the others were on the younger team,” Eaton said. “So, to get to play with people in my grade, instead of above me, is a lot of fun because we are doing it together.”
The center for the 17u team has a familiar name to people that watched the team last year. Mara Donnelly is on the 17u this year, following in the footsteps of her sister Maeve Donnelly.
For Mara it’s a bit different being up a class this year.
“It’s a lot more competitive, it’s faster paced, the girls are bigger, more skilled,” she said.
Having an older sister on the team the past couple years, Mara was able to learn a lot.
“The girls are obviously a whole different level, but blocking shots, timing and defensive pointers, that helped a lot watching her (Maeve),” Donnelly said.
Stepping up to a new role is nothing new for Gentile.
In the high school season with star Kiara Fisher out, Gentile had to take on a bigger role, just as she has this summer.
“A lot more of us had to step up this year and become leaders on the team,” Gentile said. “When Kiara went down in high school I had to step up on the team, so when I came here it was an easier transition.”
Having her high school teammate, Zaria Demember-Shazer, on the team has made things easier for Gentile as well.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with Zaria,” Gentile said. “I think me and her play really well together. It sucks not having Kiara, but I know when she comes back we are going to do really well.”
A lot of the players on the 18u team are rivals in the high school season, so it was an easier transition to play together in the summer.
“It’s just fun playing against each other in high school and then coming together and playing together, it’s just fun,” Horseheads’ Jillian Casey said.
While the girls that were on 16u last year are up a class, there are new girls on the younger age group, looking up to them.
“It helps me immensely each day, because I know every one of these girls is going to push me to my greatest every day, so I’m getting better every day,” Horseheads’ Jenna Granger said.
The older girls definitely make the younger ones work during practices, which just makes everyone better.
“They definitely push you to the best you can do,” Maine-Endwell’s Sophie Pelton said. “Halea (Eaton) always presses me in the backcourt, but I know it’s going to help me when I’m stressed.”
“It’s been really fun,” Granger said. “It’s been a lot of work coming in every day and seeing these guys, it makes it 10 times better.”
Coming in this year was a bit scary for some of the new girls.
“At first it was really stressful and I was nervous to play with these girls because they are all really good,” Oneonta’s Ava Eichler said. “But, then once I got to know them and how nice they are it was easy to compete with them.”
“At first I was really nervous when I walked in,” Maine-Endwell’s Sophie Pelton said. “Just knowing a lot of these girls are going D1, but they are really welcoming and they made it an easy transition onto the team.”
The girls on the 17u know it’s their job to help some of the younger girls at times.
“I think as the older team we are expected to show more,” Eaton said. “Because, a lot of girls on the other team are younger, we have like a couple eighth graders, so being an example, everyone on the older team, we all can lead.”
After taking bigger roles with their high school teams the older girls have an idea of what to do.
“You go through the experiences, so you know what people expect of you,” Donnelly said.
While she is on the younger team, Granger and Reese Vaughan of Seton Catholic are among those taking on a bigger role this year as she was on the team last year as well.
“It’s different because you are taking the leadership role instead of being led by the older kids and they were such good examples that you just want to live up to the expectations coaches have,” Granger said.
“Coming back it’s a lot different because instead of being told what to do you have to tell others what to do,” Vaughan said. “It’s a different role than we had before, so it’s definitely more of us being leaders. It’s a lot different.”
Having faced a lot of the girls in the high school season, Eichler had an idea of what to expect this summer.
“I have played against most of these girls, so I know their pressure is intense,” Eichler said. “It was very intimidating at first, but once you get playing with them and get going it gets better.”
A number of the girls on the team have teammates, like Eaton with Flynn and Granger with Casey.
“It helps playing with her in high school so it helps to communicate because we know how each other plays,” Flynn said.
“I know Abby and I came at the same time, I played against Morgan and played against Jill and then you come here and you are all like best friends,” Eaton said. “It’s a really great bond you form with all the girls.”
For all the girls it’s different in the summer being on all-star type teams full of all-state caliber players.
“It’s a lot easier, on your high school team there is one or two standout kids, coming here everyone is the best of the best, so it’s a lot easier,” Casey said.
Casey’s high school Granger has seen how different it is on BNY.
“When I get back to high school there is Jill and it’s great having her, but you get back to high school and it’s not like everyone is like her,” Granger said. “But, you come here and everyone has to compete and you have to be at your highest every day.
“It’s so relieving coming here and everyone can play and everyone is good because it takes so much pressure off your back and it’s just fun competing.”
In practices, and games, things are a lot different for the girls in travel ball.
“It’s totally different from high school because it’s so much faster and everyone can play and you can’t have a break or anything, you have to get going,” Vaughan said. “It’s different than being one of the only people where basketball is their main thing. This is everyone wants to go D1, everyone wants to play in college, so it’s competitive.”
For the girls on the older team one thing that is hard to get used to is thinking that this is their last year, before they head off to college next year for a lot of them.
“It’s kind of crazy to think this is our last year playing together,” Gentile said.
The 17u team is made up of Fisher, Gentile, Casey, Eaton, Flynn, Demember-Shazer, Lexi Brooks,Donnelly and Lexi Gruss. The 16u team has Vaughan, Granger, Katie Lamoreaux, Pelton, Mia Little, Evee Cooleman, Ava Thomas, Liz Muse, Eichler, Emily Evans and Megan Perrine.