Tags Posts tagged with "Basketball"


Geoff, Bob, Karen and Patrick Engel at a previous Hoops for Hope event in memory of their family member. File photo by Kevin Redding

Hope House Ministries will host the 7th Annual Jake Engel Hoops for Hope Fundraiser at the Cedar Beach Basketball Court, 244 Harbor Beach Road in Mt. Sinai on Friday, July 28 from 4 to 8 p.m. with a 3v3 Basketball Tournament, food, music, basket prizes and raffles. All are welcome to enjoy a fun, exciting night. All proceeds to benefit Hope House Ministries. To register for the 3v3 tournament or for more information please call 631-473-8796 or email at [email protected]. 

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Old Field’s Alex Sobel in action playing basketball for Middlebury College. Photo from Middlebury College Athletics

By Thomas Cullen

Old Field’s Alex Sobel has made quite a name for himself on the basketball court.

Old Field’s Alex Sobel in action playing basketball for Middlebury College. Photo from Middlebury College Athletics

Playing for the Division III Middlebury College Panthers of Vermont in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, Sobel became the first player in conference history to be selected as both NESCAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.

Sobel also was named D3hoops.com’s Men’s All-America Teams, Player of the Year for 2022-23.

The 6-foot-8-inch, 230-pound forward credits his success to all of the people he has played for throughout his career.

“The coaches on Long Island put a lot of time and effort into teaching the fundamentals of basketball,” Sobel said. “Chris Agostino my CYO/AAU coach, Alex Piccirillo, my high school coach at Ward Melville and Krissy Foley, my summer league coach on Long Island, were all involved in making me the player I am.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sobel took a year and a half off of school between 2020 and 2021. That didn’t seem to slow him down at all. When he returned to the court as a junior, he was rewarded with a starting role. This led to more minutes which resulted in a higher scoring average. His list of accomplishments are as impressive as they are long. He dominated both ends of the floor with a fantastic scoring touch and superb defensive ability.

This season, Sobel eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in a January victory over Bowdoin, 80-60. He ended his Panthers career with 1,227 points, placing him 11th in the school’s record book. He averaged 19.4 points per game and netted 20 or more points in 11 games this season. In addition, the forward rang up double-figure point totals in all 26 games this year and 36 straight going back to last season.

For his career, Sobel had 39 double-doubles, placing him ninth among active Division III players. He posted 17 of those this season, placing him 12th nationally. On the defensive side of the ledger, he blocked 101 shots, which was good for second place in Division III this season. His nod for the All-NESCAC First-Team honorees was the second year in a row he was selected.

“Alex Sobel was a special player for us to coach,” said Panthers head coach Jeff Brown. “His skill set allowed us to use him in so many different ways. His ability to affect the game on both offense and defense energized our team throughout the season. He provided so much excitement with his play in games and practices.”

“His skill set allowed us to use him in so many different ways. His ability to affect the game on both offense and defense energized our team throughout the season.”

—Jeff Brown

When Sobel was asked about the proudest moment of his career so far, he said it was the game against Keene State on Jan. 16.

“They were ranked number four in the country, and we beat them [86-82],” he said. In that game Sobel tallied a double-double with a career-best 31 points and 16 rebounds. He also dished out six assists and he blocked five shots. 

Unfortunately, his Middlebury career ended on a down note when the Panthers were ousted from the NCAA Division III Tournament by Nichols College, 73-66, in a second-round game in early March. Even in that loss, Sobel led both teams in scoring (29 points) and rebounds (15).

With a computer science and American studies double major, Sobel is unsure of what he wants to do for a career when he finishes school. However, he does have his basketball future mapped out. Currently he is working through his last year of basketball eligibility due to the year and a half he lost because of COVID. He would like his next stop to be with a Division I school, with either Stony Brook, Sacred Heart or Fairfield as potential landing sites.

“Next season I would like to be with a winning team and compete for a championship,” Sobel said. “After that I would consider playing professionally overseas in either Israel or France.”

By Daniel Dunaief

Learning a new basketball system was challenging: learning German was even harder.

For India Pagan, who speaks English and Spanish, communicating with her coach and fans in her first experience in professional basketball after graduating with a Master’s from Stony Brook University proved difficult.

Early in the season, playing for BC Pharmaserv in Marburg, Germany, head coach Patrick Unger spoke to her in English, but he’s “translating it in his head in German,” Pagan said. Sometimes, she took what he said the wrong way.

When Unger said something, Pagan recalled that she “took it in a personal way, which make me get in my head,” she said.

After speaking with Unger, she cleared the air, which helped her understand more of what he wanted.

Pagan lived and worked a continent away from her family in New London, Connecticut, who had been regular visitors and supporters during her college playing days as a member of the Seawolves.

Moises Pagan, India’s father, was grateful for the opportunity to connect with his daughter electronically. “Thank God for FaceTime,” he said. “That helped.”

Off the court, Pagan adjusted to life in a different culture while living in an apartment with three teammates. She and her teammates had some of the typical issues that affect college students who move in with strangers when they first start living life apart from their families.

Some of her teammates were more attentive to cleaning their dishes or buying necessities.

One of Pagan’s biggest frustrations was that she likes to sleep late. Some of her teammates would knock on doors and ask for something in the morning.

“One thing I learned is that when I get another roommate, I’m really going to set boundaries” so that she can get the rest she feels she needs, Pagan said.

In addition, Pagan, whose parents grew up in Puerto Rico and who has a strong cultural and national identity tied to the island territory, found it difficult to purchase the kind of foods she knows she enjoys eating.

Pagan’s parents Moises and Carmen sent their daughter a care package filled with spices and packaged foods. The only problem: it took 28 days to arrive. The parcel “sat in Frankfurt for eight days,” Moises Pagan said. He called the post office in the United States, and representatives said they also saw that the package wasn’t moving, but that there was “nothing they could do.” When the food items finally arrived, India brought a teammate who spoke German with her, to translate.

Amid local and global health concerns, Pagan said the team had its share of illnesses. In her first week in Germany, she was sick. “You have to be kidding me,” she recalled thinking. “I’m sick already and we weren’t even playing games.”

Pagan got the first week off. After that, she said, players on her team passed along a few colds, which weren’t Covid but were still unpleasant.

On the court

While Pagan had an opportunity to play and continue to develop her game, the team didn’t make the playoffs and was heading into the final few weeks of the season with a losing record. “We know we’re a good team,” Pagan said. “The majority of games, we lost by a couple of points. We never found our rhythm this season.”

Pagan went from helping lead the Stony Brook women’s basketball team through successful seasons to debuting on a professional team that struggled to put wins together. “Basketball will always be fun, but losing so many games by five points got really frustrating and obviously isn’t for anyone,” she said.

In addition to receiving ongoing and positive support from her parents, India Pagan also remained in touch with Ashley Langford, who coached Pagan during her final year at Stony Brook.

“It’s always great hearing from [Coach Langford],” said Pagan. Langford reminded Pagan that she’s a great player, that she should attack and play her game, and should believe in herself. “Small phrases like that” really helped, Pagan said.

Langford said she tries to remind all first-year professional players that there’s a learning curve and that there will be moments they don’t enjoy. “What I tried to tell India, too, is that it’ll get better and stick with it,” she said.

Langford also highlighted how the officiating is different. Players might get called for travels more or less often in one league. She urged Pagan to dominate, which, the coach said, would make it difficult to take her out of the lineup.

“You’ve got to make him play you,” Langford urged.

Personal growth

Pagan felt she grew as a basketball player and as a person. She described the German style of play as “quicker and more physical.”

When a shot went up, her coach wanted everyone to go for a rebound, rather than sending one or two guards back to protect against a fast break on the other end.

“In some respects, I am a better basketball player,” she explained. “I learned some new moves and learned a lot about my game.”

During the season, Pagan and two of her teammates couldn’t go home for Christmas. They visited with their head coach and his family, which included three children. “I was thankful for the family I got to spend time with over here,” Pagan said. She also visited bigger cities, which were over an hour and a half from where she lived, as often as she could.

When she returns home, Pagan is looking forward to visiting with family, eating crab legs and taking a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts.

She has not decided where she’ll play next year and is exploring various options, including joining a Puerto Rican league.

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Ward Melville set the tone of the game early, nearly shutting out Lindenhurst in the first eight minutes of play as the Patriots found their rhythm and outpaced their visitors, 54-27, in a non-league home game Dec. 2.  

Ward Melville junior Tyler Jean-Noel led the way for the Patriots with four field goals and two free throws for 10 points. Ben Sano added eight, along with Brady Reyling and Luke Chitkara, netting 7 points apiece. 

It was the Patriots’ second victory in as many games to launch their 2022-23 campaign. The team retakes the court when they host Connetquot to begin league play Dec. 12. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m.

India Pagan at Stony Brook University with her parents at graduation.

By Daniel Dunaief

With sneakers on her feet and a ball in her hand, India Pagan will circle the globe in a landmark year.

India Pagan
Photo from tStony Brook University

First, she earned a Master’s Degree in coaching at Stony Brook University, completing a five-year stint in which she also received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. After a brief journey home to New London, Connecticut to visit with her family and celebrate, she and her family took a long-awaited cruise to Honduras and Mexico. 

Now, the 6-foot,1-inch power forward, who completed a distinguished basketball career at Stony Brook, is practicing with the Puerto Rican National team, with whom she also traveled to the Olympics last year in Tokyo. Pagan and the team will travel to Serbia for a scrimmage and then to Australia to play in the World Cup.

But that’s not the end of her journey. After the World Cup, Pagan, 23, will fulfill a professional goal, as she signed a one-year contract to play professional basketball in Germany with the BC Pharmaserv Dolphins in Marburg, Germany. North of Frankfurt and east of Dusseldorf, Marburg is home to the Marburger Schloss (Marburg castle) and numerous medieval churches.

“It’s always been my dream to play overseas, so it’s a dream come true,” said Pagan, who is listed as a starter for the Division 1 German team. “To get paid to do what I love is really cool.”

The reality of becoming a professional basketball player started to sink in after she told family members she had signed a contract. When she shared the news with her mother Carmen Pagan, her mom “flipped out,” Pagan recalled. Her sisters Melody and Taina and family friends were similarly excited and “freaked out” about Pagan becoming a professional basketball player.

Reaching such a dream requires familial “teamwork,” said Carmen Pagan. “Any family member that is part of that group, everybody has to be committed to be there and support the child in different ways,” including emotionally, financially and academically.

When Pagan started playing basketball at the age of 11, the family made a “huge commitment” that included missing a “lot of birthdays, and a lot of family functions. We were always on the road, traveling throughout the United States” said India’s father Moises Pagan, who credits his daughter’s willingness to seize any opportunity to play as a catalyst for her basketball career.

One Friday night years ago, India received a call about a high school showcase in Queens. Despite heavy rush hour traffic and a five-hour commitment, she “didn’t even twitch,” he recalled. She said, “Dad, I want to go.” That’s where Stony Brook’s previous basketball head coach Caroline McCombs, who led the team from 2014 to 2021, saw her play.

Pagan is one of a few former Seawolf women to become a professional basketball player, joining Kaela Hilaire and Shania “Shorty” Johnson, who have also played in Europe.

Professional connection

After a solid showcase following her season, Pagan received numerous offers from agents to represent her. Choosing an agent was “like picking a school all over again,” she said. “I just had to see who was the right fit.”

Pagan selected Stephanie Stanley, president and founder of Merit Management Group who also represents one of Pagan’s favorite WNBA players, Washington Mystics Guard Natasha Cloud. That, however, was only one of several reasons she chose Stanley. The down-to-Earth Pagan thought Stanley was “like an old auntie. She had me laughing.”

Stanley, whose clients sometimes call “Momma Steph,” said she appreciated Pagan because she “likes players who hustle, play hard and look like they’re having fun out there on the court.”

Stanley also offered advice about the kinds of things to be prepared for when playing overseas. A team told one of Stanley’s clients they would provide transportation. When the player arrived, the team gave her a bicycle. “Lesson learned,” laughed Stanley. The player, however, realized that everyone used bicycles to get around in the country and appreciated the chance to lose a few pounds by pedaling back and forth to practice.

Another client had a choice of prepared meals or a financial allowance for food. The player sent Stanley pictures of food neither of them could identify. Stanley said these rookie contracts cover the cost of living and playing basketball. Rookies are “going to learn how to budget,” she said.

In the bigger picture, Stanley said the overseas market, particularly with Americans no longer comfortable playing in Russia amid the imprisonment and nine-year sentence of Brittney Griner, is having a “rough year.” Players who might have played for a top tier Russian team are heading to Turkey, Italy, Spain or France. The dislocation is affecting leagues around the world at every level. “Any player that signed now is impressive,” Stanley said. “It’s a rough year.”

Stanley added that rookies typically sign for one year in any league as players look to advance to more competitive leagues where they might also earn more money.

Pagan, who will be sharing an apartment with three other players when she arrives in Germany a day or so before the team’s first game, is excited for the opportunity and feels like the team and coach Patrick Unger, who lived in the United States for a year, support her. Unger has reached out to her on FaceTime. 

At the same time, the team, which consists of several German players, includes players who speak English. The team pays for utilities, housing and transportation and is providing money for groceries.

While Pagan is excited to get on the floor and start playing with her new teammates, she knows she needs to contribute. “I have to prove myself,” she said.

SBU contributions

India Pagan
Photo from the Pagan family

If Pagan finds the same kind of success in professional basketball that she had at the college level, she could be starting a promising career. She ranks eighth on the all-time scoring list at Stony Brook University, second in career field goal percentage and eighth in total rebounds.

Ashley Langford, head coach of a Seawolves team that won the America East conference championship last year in her debut season, was pleased for Pagan. “It’s awesome,” Langford said. “It’s what she’s been striving for her whole career.”

Langford appreciated the contributions on and off the court that Pagan made and the work her former basketball stand out put into enhancing her game. On the court, Pagan was “always really skilled,” said Langford. In the last year, she asserted herself more physically, moving closer to the basket and drawing contact from defenders, Langford said. She enjoyed watching Pagan show emotion on the court, flexing after she created contact and heading to the free throw line for a chance at a conventional three pointer.

Off the court, Langford admired the leadership role Pagan took in welcoming newer teammates, showing them around campus, offering advice about college athletics and helping them feel like a part of the Seawolves family and basketball program.  “That’s not me or anyone else telling her, ‘You need to connect with freshman.’ That’s her doing it on her own. That’s who she is. She wants everyone to do well,” said Langford.

Pagan encouraged her new teammates to snack because players don’t always have time for a structured meal and encouraged them to “use academic advisors wisely,” she said. “They’re there for a reason.”

While Pagan is excited about the next stage in her life, she is grateful for the time and opportunities she had at Stony Brook. “Eventually, that chapter had to end,” she said. The Stony Brook team will “always be a family.”

Growing fame

Pagan, who joined the Puerto Rican women’s team at the delayed 2020 Olympics last year in Tokyo, has started to develop an international fan following. Recently, she was at a WalMart in Puerto Rico and someone walked up to her and asked to take a picture with her. While Pagan was born and raised in Connecticut, she plays for Puerto Rico because both her parents are from Puerto Rico.

She  was also recently eating at a Chili’s restaurant with her teammates when an interview she did appeared on TV screens around the restaurant. “The waiter was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s you,’” Pagan said. Her teammates enjoyed the excitement.

Pagan has also received and responded to messages in German on social media. Once her professional season starts in Germany, Pagan will be far from home, where her parents can’t take the Bridgeport or Orient Point ferry to come see her the way they did at Stony Brook, a place the entire family still feels at home.

Indeed, one of the more emotionally challenging moments during her world-traveling basketball journey occurred when she played in Chile for three weeks. At 17, Pagan found it difficult to be so far from family, Moises Pagan recalled. That experience prepared her for her current plan to travel to Germany. “It makes the transition [to Germany] so much easier,” he said. FaceTime and a commitment to basketball have allowed Pagan to focus on her sport. “She just wants to make everyone proud, playing the game she loves,” he added

The Royals of Port Jefferson stayed just ahead of the Frogs of Carle Place on March 9 in the Class C Long Island Championship game at Shoreham-Wading River High School until halfway through the 3rd quarter when the Nassau champions tied the game at 28 all. 

From there, Carle Place edged ahead with their surging defense controlling the boards and put the game away 55-44 to advance to the New York State regional finals Mar. 12. 

Lola Idir topped the scoring chart for the Royals with 3 triples, 3 field goals and a pair of free throws for 17 points. Senior forward Abigail Rolfe scored 4 from the floor and was again perfect from the charity stripe — sinking 5 for 13 points — and senior Annie Maier nailed 3 triples and a field goal for 11. The Royals conclude their 2021-22 campaign with an impressive 17-4 record.

Port Jeff junior Amy Whitman boxes out in the class C/D championship game Feb 19. Bill Landon photo

The Royals of Port Jefferson continued their winning ways with another victory in the Suffolk Class C/D Championship round of the playoffs at Newfield High School Feb. 19 where they steamrolled over Smithtown Christian 63-20.

Port Jeff senior forward Abigail Rolfe did what she’s done all season doing her damage from the paint leading her team in scoring with 25 points. Lola Idir a long-distance threat netted 20 and teammate Amy Whitman banked 5. Rounding out the game book for the Royals were junior forward Alexa Ayotte with four points and senior Camryn Spiller drained a triple, as did freshmen Anna Matvya and Maitreyea Driscoll-Stremich.

The win lifts the Royals 10-0 in league VII 16-2 overall where their only losses this season were against two top tier League I teams, Sachem North by only five points and to William Floyd by seven points. Talk about playing up!

Port Jeff continues the 2021-22 campaign with in the sub-regional final, aka the Long Island Championship round at home March 9. Game time to be determined.

All photos by Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River junior Tim Manzello looks for the rebound for the Wildcats in a league VI home game against Bayport-Blue Point Jan 28. Bill Landon photo

Bayport-Blue Point at 6-2 was too much for Shoreham-Wading River where the Wildcats fell 62-32 in a league VI matchup Jan. 28. Senior Liam Leonard’s pair of three pointers and Joey Marchese’s three field goals led the Wildcats with six points apiece, Aidan Clifford followed with five and Joey Marchese netted four. The Wildcats retake the court with a road game at Mt. Sinai Feb 3 with tip-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Photos by Bill Landon 

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Port Jeff senior Camryn Spiller looks for the rebound in a league VII road game against Center Moriches. Photo by Bill Landon

The Port Jefferson Royals led from the opening tip with senior Abigail Rolfe battling in the paint all game to lead her team with 18 points in a 50-37 victory over Center Moriches Jan. 18. 

Rolfe scored 4 fields goals and went 10 for 11 at the free throw line in the league VII road game. 

Lola Idir nail 3 triples and a pair of field goals for 13 points, Annie Maier and Amy Whitman scored 7 points a piece, Camryn Spiller hit a trey and Caitlyn Dickhuth banked two. 

The win lifts the Royals to 3-0 in league 7-2 overall. The Royals retake the court where they’ll host Babylon on Jan. 21. Game time is 4:30 p.m.

— All photos by Bill Landon

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Comsewogue had their hands full in their league IV season opener against West Babylon, where the Lady Warriors faced a stout defense resulting in several turnovers in the 58-28 loss at home Dec. 18. 

Jalyn Kirschenhucter was the bright spot for the Warriors scoring 3 triples, 4 field goals and a pair of free throws for 19 points. 

The Lady Warriors retake the court with a pair of road games against Hauppauge on Dec. 20 with a 4 o’clock start, and the following day against Eastport South Manor with a game time scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

— All photos by Bill Landon