The Lady Jackets will welcome seven freshmen to the basketball team this fall. Taylor Buckley, one of the seven recruits, was named the Gatorade Rhode Island Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year in March for the second time.
This award recognizes athletic excellence among high school athletes along with academic achievement and exemplary character.
Kirk Martin, women’s basketball head coach, said the award speaks to the type of person Buckley is on and off the court.
“Clearly the athletes that win their state’s Gatorade Player of the Year are very talented athletes,” Martin said. “We know that. We are counting on Taylor’s ability to come in and help us right off the bat. But what I’m thrilled with is that it speaks to her character and to who she is as a person.”
When the award was announced, Buckley was averaging 15.5 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per game for North Kingstown High School. She led Division 1 in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots during the 2012-13 season.
Martin said he is excited about Buckley’s ability to rebound.
“Teaching rebounding seems to be a God-given want to do it or you don’t want to do it, and she loves to do the dirty work to rebound,” Martin said. “She’s very athletic. She knows how to face up and she also can play with her back to the basket. We like to play fast and she runs the floor very well.”
Beyond her athletic ability, Buckley has excelled off the court. She has maintained an A average grade point during high school, has been a junior member of the Prudence Island Volunteer Fire Department, gone on a mission trip to Belize, volunteered at the Providence Rescue Mission and served as a youth basketball coach.
“She clearly loves the Lord and she has had the opportunity to show in many ways while she was in high school,” Martin said. “I think that she will really enjoy the Christian ministry aspect of our team.”
Buckley is not the only talented recruit that the Lady Jackets are excited about. Regina Hochstetler, Kaitlyn Holm, Haley Tyler, Bre Watterworth, Emily Williams and Abby Wolford will also be joining the squad.
“We’re thrilled with our recruiting class,” Martins said. “All our recruits are highly talented.”
Hochstetler, Williams and Wolford were named to the most prestigious all-star game in Ohio and all three will be playing in it.
With this much talent coming to the team, Martin said the coaching staff is excited to see how all the athletes will come together.
“Because of seven freshmen, it’s going to require a lot of evaluation and a lot of coaching from our staff to see who plays well with who, what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses,” Martin said. “It’s going to be fun to put together seven freshmen that definitely know how to play with our returning players. It’s going to be interesting to see how all seven of these pan out understanding the academic side, Christian ministry side, and the commitment to basketball and how they develop. We don’t really know what we have besides that we have talented athletes.”
While there is much expectation, Martin said the real proof of one’s ability as a college athlete happens with the hard work once they get here.
“Everyone comes in with high hopes but not everyone can fight their way through it and continue to get better,” he said. “If we’ve hit the mark and these guys want to get better, we’re going to be really good.”
Martin said this year’s seniors are leaving the Lady Jackets with a big gap to fill.
“When you graduate six seniors, you’re needing to replace a lot,” he said. “God has been really good to us. We needed a good recruiting year and we seem to have had it. They have the opportunity, with their development, to say they are one of the best recruiting classes to ever come through here.”
With this new talent coming in, Martin said he is still counting on his returning core to lead the team.
“We’ve got the seven older girls and five girls that have started at some point during the year coming back,” Martin said. “We’re going to give the seven freshmen time to develop. We hope that they understand how college basketball works quickly, but we feel like we’ve got some players returning that we are excited about, too.”
Deanne Bradshaw is a senior organizational communications major and sports reporter for Cedars. She loves coffee and playing soccer and will be moving to London after graduation.