A sixth-grader from Stony Brook is making a name for herself on the basketball court.
Julia Greek, the W.S. Mount Elementary 11-year-old can be seen shooting hoops whenever she gets a chance. She dribbles around the house, on the way home from the bus stop, outside of her Stony Brook home and on her Catholic Youth Organization and Amateur Athletic Union teams. All of that practice is certainly paying off.
“I saw her play for the first time in the fourth grade and I was immediately impressed with her skill level, passion for the game and knowledge,” AAU Director Rob Pavinelli said. “She loves the game beyond the prize. It’s not just about winning and scoring. She was well beyond her years in all aspects of the game.”
“Right off the bat it was clear to see what different level she was playing at compared to virtually every other kid we come across.”
As a member of the CYO team, she helped the girls win the championship last year after going undefeated. She scored the most points in the AAU circuit for her age group as a fifth-grader, and was named one of the top point guards in all of Long Island, voted on by the AAU coaches and referees. She earned a scholarship two years in a row for free entrance to a Stony Brook basketball camp when she was 9 years old, after winning knockout, dribbling and free-throw shooting contests. She finished her last AAU season as the leading scorer with 179 points — the next closest to her had 60. She also was a finalist in the Mother Teresa New York State Council Knights of Columbus free-throw shooting contest out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She’s competing this weekend to try to make a third straight appearance.
To Julia, her accomplishments are an added bonus, because she enjoys playing the game so much.
“I love the way that my teammates play with me, and how I can get them open and pass them the ball,” she said. “I’ve always loved to play. I love dribbling and shooting.”
Both are strong parts of her game out on the court.
“I was immediately struck by her,” Julia’s AAU Lightning coach Alex Gayer, said. “Right off the bat it was clear to see what different level she was playing at compared to virtually every other kid we come across. She does it all for us. She brings the ball up, breaks the press, she’s our best 3-point shooter and we have a talented group of girls.”
He said she was a major contributor to the team’s 20-0 record two seasons ago.
“I consider her and one other as the two best players I’ve seen on Long Island,” Gayer said. “What I take away most is she has such a passion for the game. She lives it. She’s there with a ball in her hand every day. She’s been very coachable. She never gives me a hard time on the court. She has continued to develop. She’s a leader on the team and on the court. Everyone looks up to her and when we need a big basket oftentimes she’s the one that provides it for us. She’s really just a pleasure to work with.”
Gayer called Julia the quintessential gym rat, despite the fact that she’s already better than most girls her age.
“You can see she had this natural ability,” Julia’s father Paul Greek said. “As she got older we joined the Boys & Girls club and everyone was surprised by how good she was, even at 7 years old. She had such a knack for dribbling and shooting the basketball. Parents would come up to me after games asking me how old she was and telling me she’s unbelievable. She hasn’t even peaked. It just seems like she keeps getting better.”
Julia said she enjoys playing every chance she gets, and said she’s done a lot of work with her father, sneaking onto whatever court they can find to get in some practice time.
“My dad is very encouraging,” she said. “Sometimes he needs to work me hard, but I like that because I want to get better.”
She said she’s also taken a lot out of playing for two teams with different styles.
“Both teams are different, but I love the way they both operate,” she said. “I feel that my CYO team is more passing and trying to get open, and my AAU team is more driving to the basket and shooting. Every time I practice, I practice every side and angle of the hoop, and I love 3-pointers and that’s what I mostly practice. It’s my best shot.”
Julia has had the chance to practice with the Ward Melville girls’ varsity team. She looks up to the players.
“They teach me things that I don’t do,” she said, adding she looks up to sophomore Lauren Hansen and senior Taylor Tripptree. “[Hansen] practices extremely hard. I’ve seen her play and practice and I want to be like that. She’s amazing, she can hit from anywhere and drive by people. I know she’s working hard to do that so I’m trying to do that, too.”
Hansen said she sees a lot of talent in Julia despite her young age.
“She loves the game beyond the prize. It’s not just about winning and scoring. She was well beyond her years in all aspects of the game.”
“She plays fearlessly,” she said. “In Julia I see a special talent that comes around every once in a while, and I truly believe if she works hard and buys into the process she can be great.”
Tripptree echoed her teammate.
“She already has developed serious skills,” Tripptree said. “During camps she always had to be put in the older groups because she’s so advanced for her age.”
The two said being looked up to by Julia reassures them that they’re doing the right things in working hard and setting an example for the younger talents as proof of what determination can lead to.
“Being looked at as a role model is truly an amazing honor and a blessing, because growing up I looked to older players to model my game off of, so to have younger players like Julia look up to me is incredibly humbling,” Hansen said. “With that said, I try to make sure I’m always pushing myself beyond my limits so players coming up know it takes a lot of work and sacrifice, and it’s definitely not easy to get where you want to be, but you can never be satisfied. Always be hungry.”
Gayer said he sees Julia’s talents taking her far.
“I think she would be one of the best shooters on a varsity team right now,” he said. “And she’s only in sixth grade.”
Julia said her goal once she gets some team practice in after seventh grade at R.C. Murphy Jr. High School next year is to make the varsity team in eighth grade.
“I feel like by the time I’m in eighth grade I’ll be better than I am now, and I want to focus on playing with different people and learning,” she said. “I’m working really hard now and trying to work as hard as I can to get there.”