Saturday, October 17, 2015

Books and Buckets With: Avery LaBarbera, Harrison Girls Hoops

Local 914 hoops pioneer Lou DeMello has already given Avery LaBarbera the tag of "total gym rat."

LaBarbera's AAU coach, Nick Volchok, had his point guard pegged as a possible 1,000-point, 500-assist player at Harrison should she avoid injury.

At first glance, such hyper-lofty expectations seemed a bit too much, too soon.

Think again.

 LaBarbera's leadership in the half-court and pivotal presence engineering the go-go, lungs-burning speedball attack paced HOS against national powers.

LaBarbera is the prolific scoring, oft-creating guard who knows a hot read as soon as she locates one.

The cerebral qualities and mindful awareness separate her from other deft-dishing, dime-dropping guards across the Section.

Her current coach at Harrison High, Louis Kail, plans on implementing all types of junk defenses to stymie her in practice.

In gauging his super sophomore's grit for the unquestionable leadership role, there's no motivational tactic he won't pull.

If that means putting LaBarbera and four  neophytes or third stringers  against the first team, if it means applying heightened defensive pressure on her to simulate a game situation, he'll do that too.

Kail knows which buttons must be pressed to groom a player of LaBarbera's advanced, beyond-her-years skill-set.

There's an old adage: "If you make practice hell, the game is heaven."

If this is the case, LaBarbera can't wait to sustain her yo-yo handle all the way up to the pearly gates.

These are coaching maxims that motivate.

 LaBarbera buys in because she understands the magnitude of the aspirations heaped on her shoulders this season.

She's already received a Division-I offer from nearby Iona.

She also has interest from Division-I programs such as Binghamton, St. Peters, Canisius, and Northeastern, to rattle off a few.

Division-I interest hasn't mounted this quickly for a sophomore since the days of Brittany Horne (Georgetown) Tori Jarosz (Vandy, Marist), Emily Tapio (Fordham), the iconic Saniya Chong (UConn) and a slew of others from Ossining.

LaBarbera is an accurate depiction of a basketball old-soul.

She possesses great appreciation and understanding for the point guard position, setting up her teammates first and then taking scoring matters into her own hands.

Her quarterbacking acumen on the court mirrors her knack for seizing seams en route to the rim and her scoring via mid-range game, pull-up, and shots beyond the arc.

Above all, LaBarbera gets it. She's cognizant that the power is in the pencils. She registered a 94 GPA last year.

 Her favorite course is English and she's made a seamless transition to chemistry as well.

Recruiting-wise, it's a short list right now, one which should only increase as the season approaches.

Iona is in LaBarbera's bloodline and she idolized the game of former blur-quick Gaels guard Scottie Machado.

 With her cerebral guard qualities mirroring her performance in the classroom, you could find yourself looking at an IVY/Patriot League level recruit before all is wrapped up at this stage.

And to think, she's only a sophomore....

LaBarbera On Her Summer

I actually had the best summer, even though I didn't see my friends as much as usual.

I love traveling and I love being with my team. Nothing, truly nothing beats hanging out with them in hotels and exploring different cities. For the most part this summer, we played a considerable amount of fast-paced, athletic teams who really worked our defense. Fortunately for us, our defense was wonderful this year and it enabled us to stop them and then get to the other end and score buckets.

Off the top of my head, I know we played a top-tier recruit from Christ The King. Playing her and beating her team was amazing, it really lifted our confidence. Everyone knows how good she is, what she is capable of. So, our defense focused mainly on her and shut her down. It was awesome. She's a heck of a player. Also, when we played against her there were many big time coaches there. I happened to play well that game, which was also a bonus for my team and I. Winning was the most important thing overall.

On Her Priorities And Balancing Fun, Academics, Basketball

School work, that's first and foremost. So that's the most important thing to get done when it comes to time. When I have basketball practice or a tournament, I always make sure the homework gets done first. The same really applies to my social life. If I want to hang out with my friends, I have to make sure most of my work is done.

Look, I love my friends and all. I love to have a good time with them, but I've been working too hard to let some stupid thing mess up my basketball. So, academics and basketball are really at the top of the priorities list.

On Her Goals And New-Look Team

My goal this year is to just win and dominate. I think by coach pushing myself and my teammates to an extent in practice, games will be easier.

There's actually only one new addition to the team, another sophomore in Gina Nuvoloni. She's actually a very good softball player. I've very excited for her addition because she's a very, very athletic girl. Lightning fast. Coach has pretty much told me he will make every practice difficult because I have to go against her so I'm extremely excited to improve and embracing the challenge. Playing with the vets again will be great. A lot of returning players have been working on the off-season. I'm just really excited to be able to help them during the season because this year we're going to be good.

On Expanding Her Game

Coach V (Nick Volchok) has helped me so much with this process. He helped me so much this year improving my shot, enabling me to shoot about 40-45 percent from the field and about 30+ percent from 3-point land. Also this past month, we've been working on a quicker shot release. It's helping me a lot because I got blocked a few times this fall. So, I couldn't thank him enough.