Monday, May 29, 2017

Uno en Uno With: Avery LaBarbera, Canisius Commit

ZS: You chose Canisius over a number of programs throughout the MAAC and really throughout the eastern seabord. What were the crucial factors, Avery, which helped you at arrive at this monumental decision?

AL: The coaching staff at Canisius is really what stuck out the most to me, especially in comparison to any other school which recruited me. People like Coach Terry Zeh, and Coach Megan Shoniker and the rest of their staff are very hard to find. In this “recruiting world”, it was not exactly easy to find coaches who care about you as a person first and foremost.

They showed they cared about me off the court as much as they did on the court. The staff at Canisius really exemplified that for me. I talk to Coach Shoniker every day. Our relationship is the strongest out of any other coaches.

I feel as if I can trust her with my life. In addition to the coaching staff, the MAAC conference really stuck out to me during this process. There is the opportunity to play close to home. There’s the level of competition, one which is comfortable to me. My comfort level at Canisius is great when you take into account their style of play and the freedom the players have on the court.

 ZS:   Shoniker authored a memorable career as a high-scoring guard in her heyday (2,216 career points at Greece Arcadia). The true, devout high school hoops junkies out there should recall Shoniker ascending New York State’s scoring mountaintops and etching a lasting legacy.

Similar to yourself, Shoniker was a point guard who could operate offense and also take scoring matters into her own hands. How much did it help having a coach who thrived at both the high school and collegiate level (Rhode Island) and additionally played professionally, in active pursuit of you throughout the recruitment process? How would you describe the relationship?

 AL:  I can’t say enough about my relationship with Coach Shoniker. We have a bond that is truly unbreakable. She is my go-to for everything - basketball or non-basketball related. From the first time we spoke on the phone two years ago, I knew our friendship was going to be something special and sustainable through time.

It was extremely important to have Shoniker by my side throughout this recruiting process, especially considering she went through it herself. We have so many things in common (off the court and on the court) that it was easy for her to relate to me and help me through it. Having someone like Shoniker guide you through the process and then eventually become your future coach is truly indescribable.

She has been a winner since her high school years and that is something we both want to achieve at Canisius. I found a coach who has the same goals as me and the same determination to win at any given time. Words can’t even describe how thankful I am for her and how excited I am to play for her. With Coach Shoniker, it's a real relationship that will stand the test of time. We are so tight it's not even funny. She has my best interest in heart and she makes it so easy to want to play for her and want to give it my all for her. You just don't see people as genuine, caring, and compassionate as her. She's the real thing and she really made this decision and process easier for me and I love her for that.

 ZS:  What made not only this hoops program, but the academic component and the campus life and location the right destination for you? How do you see yourself growing and evolving at Canisius?

AB: The academic component at the next level is an aspect extremely important to me. Fortunately for me, Canisius has a strong Sports Administration program that I would love to be involved in. The way I envision things, it is right up my alley. Considering Buffalo is a populated city filled with sports teams and fans, I envision myself interning with one of the sports teams in Buffalo.

In terms of the location, it is a little further than I wanted. My relationship with the coaching staff, however, helped me envision myself being extremely comfortable with being far away from home. It may be a little difficult for me at first because I am used to such a great support system from my family, but I strongly believe that my support system at Canisius will be almost equally as strong. A positive aspect about the MAAC is that they’re a conference that plays very close to my house. My family will be able to see all of my away games—Iona, Marist, Fairfield, Manhattan and so on.

ZS:  Which aspects of Canisius' basketball program run parallel to your style of play? Which role do you envision for yourself, given the style of basketball that is employed there and the niche they have for guards?

 AL: Canisius plays a style that fits me perfectly. They run a motion, similar to the Golden State Warriors. After studying their motion and relating it to GSW, their style really intrigued me. It enables me to play freely, shoot the three and go off continuous ball screens.

For me personally, that entails whatever the coaches need me to do. I believe I will be an impact player for the Griffs and lead them to a winning season and a championship. I will come to Canisius as a hard-working leader who comes to compete day in and day out.

 ZS: Describe your campus visit. What stood out? What really clicked with you? Which aspects did you consider, leading you to the realization that this was the best possible future route for you?

 AL: I went on my official visit last weekend with my Mom and I truly had the best weekend of my life. Something that really stood out was how the coaches will truly treat me once I get to Canisius. It made me feel so safe and comfortable with my future coaches. As I stepped into the Koessler Athletic Center (KAC), I got a an indescribable as I was picturing myself battling on that court with my future teammates.

 High School, AAU and college teammates are those you will never forget so finding the right ones is extremely important. On my visit, I spent about an hour with the girls in the locker room. I felt like I already knew them for two  years. It just clicked. They welcomed me with open-arms, seemed extremely interested in getting to know me and they made me feel important, as if I was a piece they were missing.

Leaving my official visit at Canisius, I 100% knew that it was the place for me.

 ZS: It was almost four years ago now, but your AAU coach Nick Volchok said you could one day be making this decision. You hadn't played a single varsity game yet at the time. It was the summer heading into your freshman year at Harrison and Coach Volchok saw this potential in you.

He said you had the skill-set and gifts to eventually become a Division-I player and go to college for free. What has been key to making basketball a lifestyle and fitness a livelihood to get to this point in your life? Who do you owe a bit of this success to?

 AL: I can’t say enough about Coach Nick. This man has taught me so many things in life and has been there by my side through the whole recruiting process. Coach was someone who never doubted me, had the most confidence in me and always pushed me to be my greatest.

I will never forget all the extra workouts we shared and all the pep-talks because those are the little things that have put me in the position I am in today. He’s like family to me and I will never forget about the memories we’ve shared together. I’m so thankful for him and I can’t thank him enough.

ZS: Now realizing your potential as a heavily recruited Division-I athlete en route to the next chapter of your career, who do you owe a bit of this success to?

 AL:  Someone who played a pivotal role in this journey is my high school coach, Louis Kail. Although Kail is my basketball coach, he played a different role than most high school coaches. He was more of a life-coach to me and someone I could go to for anything. He is one of the main reasons why I work so hard because he doesn’t cut me any slack and makes practice hell for me so he could prepare me for college.
I owe a bit of this success to my family, 100%. I have a support system from my family members that is extremely rare and I am so fortunate to have it.

Even though I’m going to 6.5 hours away from home, I am almost certain that my family members will make the trip up to support me. The bond will still be tight. I don't think it mattered how far I would go, it's a great support system and it will not diminished. It's a blessing to have them in my corner.

My mom, who is also my best friend, has been by my side supporting me since the CYO games. She never lost faith in me and let me pursue the game that I love. She is my rock, and she is the reason why I work so hard and why I am so successful. Words can’t describe how thankful I am for my family.