Here's another in the series looking at new players joining conferene teams.
Up now ....
- Lauren Gatto, 6-2 center, transfer from University of Illinois-Chicago.
A native of Pittsburgh, Gatto averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game as a college freshman, including a career-high seven rebounds in a Nov. 2008 meeting with Niagara. She is a true post player.
- Gabby Baldasare, 6-1 G/F, Vincentian Academy of Pittsburgh.
Baldasare won the 2010-11 Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) Class A Player of the Year and was named to the first team all-conference and first team all-state during her senior season for the Vincentian Academy Royals. Baldasare was an instrumental part of the 2010-11 Royals team that went 21-1 and unbeaten (10-0) in the WPIAL Section 2 Class A. As a junior, Baldasare averaged 14 ppg and helped lead the Royals to a 19-8 record en route to the WPIAL Class A championship and advanced to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (PIAA) semifinals. No senior season statistics are available.
“Gabby is great at all facets of her game playing at the high post,” said Niagara coach Kendra Faustin said. I see her being very successful in transition and hitting the boards.”
- Meghan MGuiness, 5-10 G, Middletown South H.S., Lincroft, N.J.
She averaged 18.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a high school senior.
"Meghan is a tireless worker and her strength and skills reflect that,” Faustin said. “She is an all-around player who can handle the basketball, pass and really shoot it well.”
- Val McQuade, 6-0 G, Shaler Area H.S., Pittsburgh.
She averaged 15.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game as a high school senior.
“Val is a gifted, tough, tall guard with a high basketball IQ,” Faustin said. “One of her best attributes to our program is she is able to really stretch defenses with her shooting ability."
- Kelly VanLeeuan, 5-9 G, St. John's College, Branford, Ont.
Van Leeuwen helped the St. John’s College Green Eagles (Brantford, Ont.) to consecutive Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association (CWOSSA) titles. The 2010-11 team went 36-6 and won the 2010 Brant County crown on its way to defending its CWOSSA championship. The Green Eagles were seeded second in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) AAAA Tournament where they advanced to the bronze medal game; Van Leeuwen led the team with 22 points. She has championship experience nationally, too. She led Team Ontario to the Canadian under-15 girls’ championship in 2008.
"Kelly is a student of the game and has remarkable discipline and work ethic,” Faustin said. “She understands the value of the basketball and is an excellent passer, which makes those around her better.”
ANALYSIS: No team in the conference needs help more than Niagara, which went 0-18 in league play and 1-29 overall last season. But, it's on the way particularly with Gatto, an inside player who should have a big impact right away. Niagara has struggled on the boards in reent years, but the program has brought in height with Gatto and freshmen Baldasare and McQuade. And, VanLeeuwan and McGuiness both bring the prospect of offensive firepower. The four freshman and the transfer (Gatto) should help turn things around for Niagara.