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Ohio State University

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Girls hoops will rely on speed, defense to remain zealous

Former Commack star point guard Samantha Prahalis, above playing for WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, will be the head coach at Ward Melville this season. Photo from Facebook

By Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville is looking to maintain its competitive edge.

The back-to-back League I title-winning girls basketball team is readying for a new challenge following the loss of senior leaders Taylor Tripptree, Kiera Ramaliu and Hannah Lorenzen, with head coach Bruce Haller.

That’s where veteran Samantha Prahalis comes in. The former WNBA standout, who scored 2,372 points for Commack, the fifth-best total in Long Island girls basketball history, will lead her old high school’s rival team this season. After she steered Ohio State University to four straight NCAA tournaments from 2009 to 2012, she completed a two-year stint for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and played four years professionally in Europe. The 5-foot, 7-inch point guard said she was ready to return to her roots in New York, and decided it was time to give back.

Ward Melville’s Lauren Hansen moves the ball during a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

“It’s cool because I can tell them I’ve been in their shoes and I know what they’re going through,” she said. “I’m very lucky to be with a great district, have some great support and some great kids for my first year. I think the best part about coaching for me right now is helping these kids, and its pretty unique, because I can help them in a way maybe others can’t.”

The Patriots are looking forward to learning from Prahalis’ experiences. Ward Melville senior Shannon Brazier said the team’s style of play is already changing.

“She brings a whole new level of style of play and intensity that I think we were all excited to learn,” Brazier said. “Every single one of us have been working hard since the summer to get ready for the season, because it’s a pretty new team, losing most of our starters and getting a new coach, and we’re really proud of the progress we’ve been making, working together.”

Brazier said her coach wants her new team to have a defense that matches its offense.

“It’s no question that in the past we have had really strong shooters and a strong offense in general, but this year she’s been teaching us a lot more about defense and really focusing on this aspect of the game,” Brazier said. “Her emphasis on this side of the game has already started to greatly improve our skills. With a great number of our team graduating a lot of us had to step up and fill in those holes, and I think we’re all doing a good job at that.”

Prahalis agreed, adding she’ll be leaning on Brazier to command the Patriots this season.

“She’s vocal, and probably our best defensive player,” the coach said of one of her two remaining seniors. “She knows where to be, she has really good instincts.”

Ward Melville’s Shannon Brazier shoots from the free-throw line during a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

The team will continue to rely on its speed and hustle in grabbing rebounds and forcing turnovers. With work on the defensive side of the ball, more offense should come.

The other two captains this season will be juniors Noelle Richardson and Lauren Hansen. Rounding out the roster will be juniors Bre Cohn and Lauren Walters, and underclassmen Molly Cronin, Jamie Agostino and Sarah Bucher.

“Lauren is not the most vocal person, but she leads by example,” Prahalis said of Hansen. “I’m asking a lot of her on all sides of the ball and, so far, she’s responded. She’s special — I don’t think a player like her comes around too often. The way she dribbles a ball, her shot, you have to see it to believe it.”

Hansen was one of Ward Melville’s leading scorers last season, Prahalis said, with 22.7 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore and will be big for the team this season if she can repeat these statistics. Prahalis added the now-junior standout has more than just a natural ability.

“She’s skillful, and I think that’s a testament to her work ethic,” the coach said. “You don’t wake up that way. You get that way by being in the gym and working hard.”

Hansen said she’s looking forward to seeing what she can take away from her coach.

“Coach has done everything that I aspire to do, so for me I hang on every word that she says,” said Hansen, who has received offers from Ohio State and the universities of Miami, Georgia and Pittsburgh. “Her experience is something we all look up to and her ability to relate to us as players I think is extremely beneficial to our relationship with her. We all really understand that if we’re going to do any damage this year it’s going to start on the defensive end. I think the girls, myself included, definitely have to step up big this year and mature quickly on the court, but so far they’ve done a great job of that and I think we can hold our own and make a statement this year against top talents on Long Island.”


Samantha Prahalis brings experience

A six-year varsity starter for Commack is calling Division I rival Ward Melville her new home court.

Samantha Prahalis, 27, accepted the coaching job for the Patriots in September after an extended basketball career that included playing for four years at Ohio State University, two years for WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury — as the sixth overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft — and four years professionally in Europe.

“The professional experience was good — I got to play at every level, which is pretty rare, so I’m grateful for that,” said Prahalis, who averaged 15.1 points and 6.8 assists per game over four years at Ohio State, and holds the Big Ten’s career record with 901 assists. “But I’ve been traveling my whole life. I’m a big family person, and I don’t like being overseas for seven months out of the year.”

Previous head coach Bruce Haller stepped down citing scheduling conflicts as a professor at Molloy College.

“I just felt like I’d been through a ton in my career on and off the court that I can help other players who are coming up,” Prahalis said of throwing her hat in the ring. “I didn’t think I would want to coach when I was younger, but while I was overseas I realized I wanted to give it a try. I’m just as determined as I was as a player, but this time around its teaching my kids and helping them and the team succeed. This new chapter of coaching is special to me.”

Ward Melville athletic director Pete Melore said more than just Prahalis’ résumé stood out to him during the interview.

“She never talked about how good she was at basketball,” he said. “What impressed me the most is her humility. It was all about paying it forward.”

He said while Haller was outstanding, he’s hoping Prahalis’ experience playing for multiple coaches at different levels will help her be successful at the helm.

“I think she’s patient, she runs a good practice, but you can see that competitive fire there from when she was a player,” Melore said. “There’s a good knowledge base and she learned a lot overseas. Her goal getting into coaching is all about her giving back to the kids the same positive experience she had as a player.”

Cody Carey, on right, is biking cross-country with fraternity Pi Kappa Phi to spend time with people of all ages dealing with disabilities through dinners, dances, kickball games and more. Photo from Cody Carey

By Kevin Redding

Cody Carey wanted to do something a little more adventurous this summer than work double shifts at a local restaurant. So the Miller Place-bred junior accounting major at Ohio State University decided to strap on a helmet, hop on a blue Giant Defy road bike and push himself further than he ever thought possible.

Joined by 29 other members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity from all over the country, Carey, 21, is currently on a 67-day, 4,000-mile bike ride from Seattle, Washington, ending Aug. 12 in Washington, D.C., with scheduled stops along the way to spend time with people of all ages dealing with disabilities through dinners, dances and games.

Cody Carey meets disabled people on his cross-country Journey of Hope. Photo from Cody Carey

The Journey of Hope is an annual fundraising bike excursion hosted by the fraternity’s national philanthropy, The Ability Experience, since 1987 that raises funds and awareness for people with physical and mental disabilities — ranging quadriplegia to Down syndrome to autism.

“It’s incredible to see, especially with everything in the news about students today and this next generation,” The Ability Experience Chief Executive Officer Basil Lyberg said. “It’s very encouraging to understand the power that young people have to impact their communities and that they’re not just talking the talk, they’re out walking it. And in our case, riding across the country.”

Split among three teams of cyclists, each team takes on a different route that ultimately converges in D.C. Individual riders are required to raise $5,500 to contribute to an overall goal of $650,000, and Carey, the only Ohio State student on the ride this year, has already raised $5,799 through an online campaign.

He said members of the fraternity, which spans colleges and universities across the country, are encouraged to participate in the ambitious experience and he knew it was something he would regret not doing.

“I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone and do something that’s essentially life-changing and that I’ll never forget,” Carey said. “This experience has definitely made helping people even more of a strong value of mine. Everybody should help anybody they can on a daily basis.”

Cody Carey finds some time to sightsee on his trek. Photo from Cody Carey

Since embarking June 6 on the Journey of Hope’s TransAmerica route, Carey and his fellow cyclists have pedaled through seven states, including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, hitting the road each day at 6 a.m. and wrapping up in the early afternoon. The riders generally sleep on gym floors and YMCA’s within the towns they visit, and travel an average of 75 miles per day. During a 12-hour bike rides, the athletes aren’t allowed to listen to music for safety reasons. Carey laughed about the long rides, and admitted there are parts of home he misses.

“How much I miss my bed,” he said. “There’s lot of chatting with the others, lots of silence, and lots of wind.”

He has ridden through sprawling peaks and snow-capped mountains in Montana, crossed over valleys in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, past cornfields in Kansas and said he has loved “taking in the big, beautiful country on two wheels.”

But for Carey, nothing compares to the experience of meeting locals from each state during the ride’s friendship visits. After a morning of pedaling, cyclists visit local groups supporting people with disabilities and take part in a long list of activities, from drawing with kids to playing wheelchair basketball and kickball to having lengthy conversations with teens and adults who face challenges every day.

“It’s been extremely heartwarming,” he said of the visits. “Many of the organizations say it’s like Christmas when we come by. We just make sure the adults and kids are having a great time. You don’t realize everything you have until realizing it can be taken away like with the people we’ve met that have suffered injuries, and with those who are disabled their whole life.”

Referring to the impact it has had on his fellow cyclists, he said, “I’ve never seen a group of guys cry as much as I do now.”

He recalled a special moment in Casper, Wyoming, when a man who recently suffered a brain tumor relayed a resonating message.

Cody Carey meets disabled people on his cross-country Journey of Hope. Photo from Cody Carey

“We were all about to get up and go play some games over in a park when he stood up and sat us all back down to tell us not to stress over the little things in life,” Carey said. “Because, he said, you can wake up one day and have something like what he experienced happen to you and your whole life could change. He told us to enjoy every second we have as we are, which was really touching coming from a guy now considered disabled. It kind of just pointed out all the stupid things we stress about in our regular lives.”

Preparation for the journey consisted of getting on a bike just a week and a half before heading to Seattle, Carey admitted, but being an athlete during his days in Miller Place provided him with much-needed mental stamina. He played soccer, which he competed in at a national level, and lacrosse, too.

“I’m so excited for him, he’s always been in terrific shape and he probably has thighs the size of tree trunks now,”Carey’s mother Elizabeth Hine joked. “I’m proud as heck of him. Between seeing the country and all the people, he says this is the best summer he’s ever had.”

Just two days into the cross-country ride, Carey said the group logged 125 miles over 24 hours while passing through Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state.

“Everyone on that route, except one person who suffered hypothermia, finished, and at the end of it we all looked at each other and said, ‘That’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done in our lives,’” Carey said. “We all say that our bike is our disability and we have to overcome it each day.”

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Jeff Boals joins the Seawolves after spending seven seasons as an assistant at Ohio State

Jeff Boals coaches the Ohio State University men's basketball team from the sideline. Photo from Ohio State University

Jeff Boals, who spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State University, has been named the head men’s basketball coach at Stony Brook University.

“[I am] extremely excited to become a part of the Stony Brook community and university,” Boals said. “[I am] grateful for the opportunity that Dr. Stanley and Shawn Heilbron have given me and I look forward to working with the team, building upon the success of last season and continuing it into the future. I can’t wait to get started.”

That success last season was Stony Brook’s first Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship appearance, after an 80-74 victory over the University of Vermont in the America East Championship. With the win, the Seawolves earned their 26th single-season victory — a new Division I program record for the Seawolves. The No. 13 Stony Brook team played No. 4 University of Kentucky in the NCAA tournament’s opening Round of 64 but fell, 85-57.

Jeff Boals, on right, cheers on the Ohio State University men’s basketball team. Photo from Ohio State University athletics
Jeff Boals, on right, cheers on the Ohio State University men’s basketball team. Photo from Ohio State University athletics

Boals will be officially introduced as the 11th head coach in the program’s history to the Stony Brook community at a press conference on Monday, April 11, in Island Federal Credit Union Arena.

“Jeff Boals will be a great addition to the Stony Brook community,” the Boston Celtics’ player Evan Turner said. “His commitment, passion and knowledge of the game is second to none. I’m excited to see the rise of the Stony Brook basketball program.”

A member of Thad Matta’s staff since 2009, Boals helped guide Ohio State to seven postseason appearances, including six NCAA Tournaments. The Buckeyes, who won or claimed a share of three Big 10 titles, advanced to the Final Four in 2012. Ohio went 193-62 during Boals’ time in Columbus.

“Jeff has done a remarkable job at The Ohio State University in his seven years as a Buckeye — he is certainly ready to be a head coach and has an amazing opportunity at such a fine institution,” Matta said. “Jeff has a great basketball mind and will bring energy and enthusiasm to the great situation that Stony Brook University offers.”

Boals was instrumental in bringing some of the top players in the nation to Ohio State, including current NBA stars Jared Sullinger and D’Angelo Russell, along with Aaron Craft, the all-time steals and assist leader in Ohio State history. He also coached Turner, the 2010 National Player of the Year, during his collegiate career with the Buckeyes.

“My focus during this search was to find the right person who could lead Stony Brook men’s basketball to new heights, and Jeff Boals is the right guy at the right time,” Heilbron said. “He is prepared for this opportunity, which comes at a critical time in our history following our first America East title and NCAA Tournament appearance.”

Jeff Boals, who was formerly an assistant coach at Ohio State University, will replace Steve Pikiell at the helm of the Stony Brook men's basketball team. Photo from Ohio State University athletics
Jeff Boals, who was formerly an assistant coach at Ohio State University, will replace Steve Pikiell at the helm of the Stony Brook men’s basketball team. Photo from Ohio State University athletics

Prior to Ohio State, Boals spent three seasons at the University of Akron, as the team’s recruiting coordinator while working with players. The Zips advanced to three Mid-American Conference championship games, winning the title in 2009. It was Akron’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 1986.

“The first thing about Jeff is that he’s won everywhere he’s been,” said Keith Dambrot, Akron’s men’s basketball coach. “I like to think of Jeff as a diversified coach. He’s a terrific recruiter, understands in-game strategy and is relentless.”

Boals also recruited Anthony “Humpty” Hitchens, an All-freshman performer, and Zeke Marshall, a national recruit.

“Jeff has coached at the highest level as a member of Thad Matta’s staff at Ohio State and he understands what it takes to win,” Heilbron said. “I am excited for our players to learn from him on the floor and, more importantly, he will serve as a strong mentor to our student-athletes in all areas of their lives outside of basketball.”

Boals spent two seasons (2004-06) at Robert Morris University and four years (1999-2003) at Marshall University. In his final season at Robert Morris, the Colonials posted their first winning record in 15 seasons. He also spent a total of four seasons at Division II University of Charleston in two different stints.

A 1995 graduate of Ohio University, Boals was a two-time captain and four-year letterwinner for the Bobcats, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 1994. The following year, Ohio University won the Preseason NIT Championship after wins over Ohio State and No. 14 Virginia, as well as George Washington and New Mexico State, at Madison Square Garden.

“Knowing that he is pursuing his dreams to be a head coach is big time,” Los Angeles Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell said. “He has always been super supportive and a major mentor to me and my family throughout my process. P.S. [I] just became a Stony Brook fan.”

—Stony Brook Athletics