Niagara Prep gears up for second OSBA season
The Niagara Prep girls basketball team is ready for its second season of Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association action.
“I want to see us continue to grow and what we learned from last year is that this program is not for everybody, so we’ve recruited and we’ve got the kids in that I know are dedicated to getting to where they are trying to get to,” head coach/founder Dave Picton said. “We changed that mindset a little bit from our first year.”
In 2018-19, Niagara Prep went 14-4 in the regular season before losing to King’s Christian in the quarter-finals.
“My goal is to finish in the top third of OSBA every single year, which would be top five, and, if we do that, that’s great because you are playing against the majority of the best kids in the province and kids who are coming from out of province to play,” Picton said.
“If you can finish in the top five, that’s successful but more importantly, the success will be measured in the girls being able to go where they want to go and being happy where they are going.”
The whole purpose of the program is to allow the girls to move on to play post secondary ball. Last year’s squad graduated Jessica Reid, who is attending NCAA Division 2 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
This year’s roster includes: Alexis Wright, Madalyn Picton and Chloe Peters from Welland; Julia Colavecchia from Niagara Falls; Janee Harrison from St. Catharines; Emma Koabel from Port Colborne; Sarah Te Biasu and Serah Williams from Toronto; Shailah Adams from Woodbridge; Chantelle Blaygrove from Ajax; Sarah Harvey from Barrie; and, Donna Ntambue from Montreal.
Notable local additions to the squad this year are Wright, formerly of Centennial, and Koabel, formerly of Lakeshore Catholic.
Both have played with Picton for a long time and last season were members of the Niagara Girls Basketball Academy’s JUEL Prep championship squad. Koabel was a First Team All-Star and a member of Team Ontario in the summer of 2018.
Jean Vanier’s Corrynn Parker, another member of the Juel Prep championship squad, and E.L. Crossley’s Sydney Piekny will be practising full-time with the team this season and are expected to join the prep squad next season.
The seniors on the team are Peters, Picton, Colavecchia, Te Biasu and Ntambue
“It is a really big year for all of them but they have had a big summer,” Picton said. “They are all doing university visits starting this week with the schools that have offered them (scholarships).”
All the seniors have offers from either Canadian U Sports programs or NCAA schools.
“For me, it’s all about the girls becoming holistically good people, not only in basketball but to use basketball to get them to be set up for life,” Picton said.
Most of the women are all about fit when it comes to choosing a school to pursue their post-secondary hoops dreams.
“It’s not like guys who are chasing the NBA and stuff like that,” Picton said. “For girls, it is what are their long-term goals, where are they trying to be professionally and is a particular school a good fit for them with regards to the educational component.”
Picton feels his players are reading to hit the court running when they arrive at university.
“They work hard,” he said. “We go every single day and they lift three days a week so we’re running a university program at the high school level. Their commitment is already there.”
Niagara Prep will open its season at Myer Wednesday, Oct. 9 versus Bill Crothers.
“They have a number of national-level kids on their team and it will be a real good matchup,” Picton said.
Picton is looking forward to the season and seeing Koabel in action at the OSBA level.
“She has been with me since Day 1 and she is a very, very talented player,” Picton said. “She has grown a lot, her IQ is great and she can step in and fit in with these kids right away.”
Koabel and Wright suited up for Niagara Prep is an exhibition game in the spring against a prep school from the East Coast and both scored upwards of 20 points.
“I expect everyone to play well,” Picton said, “My whole strategy is that everyone plays and we play a lot of five on and five off.
“It is about developing all of the kids and I feel I will be able to give them a great amount of time and play this year.”
For the 5-foot-10 Koabel, who has grown two inches in the last year, joining Niagara Prep was a no brainer.
“It was an easy decision because I knew I wanted to be able to look up to all these girls, get myself better and push these older girls too,” the 14-year-old said.
She enjoys playing for Picton.
“He has been my coach for a while and I am looking forward to continuing with him,” she said. “It is a really good decision for me.”
Koabel, who suited this past summer with the Canada Elite team on the Under Armour circuit in the States, knows the areas she wants to improve upon.
“I really want to work on my defence and I will be able to do that playing against better girls,” she said.
She also wants to improve her guard skills.
“I want to be more of a scorer and a distributor and obviously get stronger too.”