North Babylon NY is a small hamlet on Long Island that was previously best known as the home to The Biggest Loser winner Erik Chapin. In recent years, though, North Babylon has become a source of Division I basketball talent. Chanel Chisolm, who went to Vanderbilt before transferring to Cincinnati at the end of the 2008-09 season, graduated from North Babylon High School as did Eugenia McPherson, a rising sophomore at St. John’s. This year, North Babylon is graduating the girl who may be its greatest player, Bria Hartley.
The 5-7 Hartley won’t be the biggest or quickest guard in Division I this fall, but North Babylon coach Mike Petre believes she’ll bring something more important to UConn. “Bria has such a competitive edge. She’s pushed by her teammates and she pushes back because she hates to lose, even in practice. It sounds odd, but in order to be a winner you have to really want to win, and she does. And she gets her teammates to want it, too.”
It’s not enough to want to win at UConn if you don’t have the skills, but Petre feels that Hartley brings plenty to the Huskies. “She’s the best ball-handler I’ve ever seen at the high school level. You can’t press her because she just doesn’t turn the ball over. She’s the total package as a ball-handler; she’s got the head rise, the pull back, the hesitation step…she can do it all,” Petre said. “Offensively, Bria’s pull up jumper is just amazing. She can elevate so quickly and has a soft touch.”
Hartley isn’t lightning quick, according to Petre, but he does say that that from endline to endline, she’s one of the fastest players. “Bria knows she doesn’t have to blow by everyone to be effective. Few kids have her understanding of how to change speeds to keep defenders off balance. “
Petre credits Hartley with a high basketball IQ that’s enhanced by a strong work ethic and desire to improve. She plays without ego, driven by the desire to get a win for her teammates and herself. “Bria doesn’t care about stats; she just wants to win. If she knows a teammate is in a better position to make a shot, she’ll gladly pass the ball but at the same time, if the team really needs a basket to win the game, she wants to take the shot. She’s not afraid of success or of failure.”
Defensively, Hartley uses her length to great effectiveness against bigger players. Petre said that she also excels at running to space on quicker players. “She also gets on the help side and gets a lot of steals. Her defense is terrific.”
Asked to name Hartley’s weaknesses, Petre was momentarily stymied. “Well, she could always get stronger and she could probably gain 10 pounds. She’s already very muscular but she’ll need to get stronger to play at the college level.”
After that brief nod to Hartley’s alleged shortcoming, Petre went on. “I can’t heap enough praise on Bria. It’s not just that she has a high basketball IQ or that she shares the ball so well or that she’s a great point guard, I have tremendous respect for her as a player, as a teammate, as a student and as a person. Bria has such respect for her teammates.”
“She knows she can’t win it all [by herself], that she needs great chemistry with her teammates to help them pull through the rough times. We work really hard here to emphasize bonding and camaraderie and Bria buys into that,” Petre said.
The North Babylon team chemistry has been tested under the weight of expectations to win a state championship. Petre felt that Hartley handled the pressure well and that her experience will help her at UConn. “She won’t put undue pressure on herself. Even though she always expects to win, she’s very loose and relaxed.”
The UConn fishbowl won’t bother her, either. “Bria is the type of person who will revel in the fans; she’ll embrace them. She was looking at a lot of different schools but when she went up to UConn with her parents for a game, the fans really impressed her. We all went to Syracuse and St. John’s for games but it wasn’t the same. The UConn fans had enthusiasm and passion for the game, just like her.”
Another thing that won’t bother Hartley is Geno Auriemma’s demeanor during games. “I can yell, too,” said Petre. “I’m from the same mold; give the kid two hugs then give them the business. Besides, just looking at Geno in a fishbowl is unfair, just like it is with Pat Summitt or any other coach. Most people don’t see the coaches having the kids to their house for pasta or see them talking over something quietly, they just see the yelling. But the kids understand.”
In conclusion, Petre said, “It will be exciting to see the local kids [Hartley, Chisolm, McPherson] playing at the highest level. I know Bria will try to make you fans happy and that her enthusiasm will spill out on the court. I don’t know how many minutes she’ll get at UConn, but I do know she’ll have a positive impact as a player, a student and a teammate.”
Highlights from Hartley’s 51 point performance on March 4th, 2010 :
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