Since Head Coach Tony Bozzella arrived at the Hall in 2013, his women’s basketball team has punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament twice, clinched a Big East regular season title and has spent time in the AP and Coaches Poll rankings. [caption id="attachment_14612" align="alignright" width="384"] © Joey Khan Photography[/caption] All of that has led to seven eager incoming freshmen wanting to spend their college careers as Pirates. Kaela Hilaire, Tyeisha Smith, Ali Fitzgerald, Deja Winters, Skyler Snider, Shadeen Samuels and Jayla Jones-Pack round out the newcomers for the 2016-17 season, the most the team has seen in the Bozzella era. Bozzella said that it is his program’s growth that led such a large and diversely talented group to the Hall. “As we decided to build this program, we knew we had to get the most talent as possible,” Bozzella said. “Now that we’ve gotten really good, we’ve been able to get a lot more really good high school kids.” Everything Bozzella has done in his short time at the Hall has attracted some of the nation’s best. “The success, the publicity, two NCAA tournaments, the Big East Championship, 71-29 makes a really good player want to play for a winner, and that’s what we have.” Even with the large rookie class coming in, the team still loses four of its five starters in Shakena Richardson, Tiffany Jones, Aleesha Powell and the Hall’s all-time leading scorer, Tabatha Richardson-Smith. “Anytime you lose players as talented and experienced as Kena, Aleesha, and Tab it’s hard. You lose your all-time leading scorer, which at the end of the day is hard to replace, you lose one of the best point guards in the country with Keena, and you lose one of the best combo-guards in Aleesha. It’s a lot to lose, but I am excited because we’re new, we’re fresh, we have a lot of kids eager to learn and they’re talented.” Once the freshmen arrive the first week of July, they will be getting right to work. They will spend part of the month working with a strength and conditioning coach in an effort to get stronger and faster. The rookies will also have set time to work on their individual basketball skills on their own followed by larger practices and will end the summer with a trip to Canada for the girls to gain “game experience,” Bozzella said. As far as their attitudes on coming to the Hall, Bozzella believes they are enthusiastic and ready for South Orange. “When you were younger you got a new pair of sneakers you were really excited,” Bozzella explained. “That’s what these kids are like. They’re excited to play college basketball, they’re excited to compete at the highest level, they’re excited to uphold the position we’ve now established at Seton Hall.” It’s not just the players who are excited. “When you get youth, they kind of rejuvenate you, and I think all of us now are a little rejuvenated now too, so it’s exciting,” Bozzella said. “It’ll be different and it’ll be really fun in a different way.” Olivia Mulvihill can be reached at email@example.com. edu or on Twitter @OliviaMulvihill.
If you build it, they will come: Bozzella adds largest freshman class yet