We’re back again, this time to pick up squads from the best players the Capital Region has to offer in girls’ basketball.
Like with our fantasy draft we did two weeks ago with boys’ basketball, the entirety of a player’s career was considered. To be considered, a player had to compete for multiple seasons for an area high school, and only players that competed in, or later than, the 1975-76 season — the first with a formal Section II tournament — were eligible to be selected. Along with five players, each draft selector picked one coach.
Besides sports department staff members Michael Kelly, Jim Schiltz and Adam Shinder, one guest participated in the draft. That’s Marisa Jacques. A Troy native, and graduate of Catholic Central High School and Union College, Jacques has worked for Spectrum News since 2002. Jacques covered sports for years and served as the station’s sports director, and recently became a Senior Executive Producer/Anchor at Spectrum News.
With all that out of the way, here we go. As our guest, Jacques gets the first pick.
(Note: Players appear with their names used during their active playing careers in the area.)
Jacques selects . . . Julie McBride
She’s a Catholic Central graduate and that’s all you need to know. (“Here’s to our own CCHS. Here’s to our colors grand.”)
McBride dominated Section II in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She scored her 1,000th career point at Catholic Central as a junior, and in her senior season led Section II in scoring by averaging 31 points per game.
McBride played in 113 career games at Syracuse University and is in the top 10 in scoring and 3-pointers. In her senior season at Syracuse, McBride averaged 16 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.
McBride enjoyed a lengthy and successful professional career both here in the states and overseas. McBride was an undersized guard. Probably four inches away from a successful WNBA career, but she played with a chip on her shoulder.
Kelly selects . . . Caryn Schoff
In hindsight, we should have seen that Jacques pick coming. Will she put together a full team from her alma mater? We will find out.
With the draft’s second pick, I get to start my team with Schoff and her state-record 3,548 points. In six varsity seasons, Schoff’s St. Johnsville teams finished 146-7, won two state championships and once had a 64-game stretch without losing. Later, she played at Syracuse University.
My favorite piece of Schoff’s high-school career, a large part of which saw her star alongside her sister Wendi? While all the points and wins are incredible, it’s hard not to pick out that Caryn Schoff shared the 1995 Miss New York Basketball award with Chamique Holdsclaw, one of the sport’s all-time greats.
Shinder selects . . . Anita Kaplan
In terms of a combined high school and collegiate resume, it’s hard to match what the 6-foot-5 Kaplan can offer. At Bethlehem, her 2,445 points sits as the fourth-highest total in Section II history.
That set the stage for her to head to Stanford University, where she played for Albany native Tara VanDerveer. Kaplan was a four-year starter for the Cardinal, winning an NCAA championship in 1992.
Schiltz selects . . . Jennifer Scanlon
One of the greatest in a long line of Shenendehowa players, Scanlon scored 1,681 points in her high school career from 1988-92, and averaged 23.4 as a senior when she earned the New York Miss Basketball award. Her senior season also included a second all-state first-team nod and All-American recognition from USA Today and Street & Smith.
Scanlon’s Shenendehowa teams never lost a Suburban Council game, went 93-10 overall, captured Section II Class A titles from 1990-92, won a state flag in 1990 and finished second in 1992.
The 5-foot-10 guard/forward played four seasons at Duke, scored 1,377 points there and made a pair of NCAA tournament appearances, and competed afterward in Sweden.
Schiltz selects . . . Katrina Springer
At 6-foot-5, Katrina Springer was a dominant inside force at the high school and college levels, graduating from Broadalbin-Perth in 1988 with a then-Section II record 2,704 points and graduating from Southern Nazarene in 1992 with a record 2,688 points.
In high school games she piled up 54 points, 47, 45 twice and 44 twice, and her 770 points as a senior still ranked No. 3 in area history. Her 2,704 career points remain No. 2 in area history.
Springer helped Southern Nazarene win the NAIA national title as a freshmen, and her numerous records there include 309 blocked shots. She averaged 19.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in her Southern Nazarene career.
Shinder selects . . . Becky Gottstein
There’s a lot of great sets of siblings in Section II girls’ basketball history that are going to be represented on these rosters, and I’ll make a pick from one of those legendary families here.
Sisters Becky and Carolyn Gottstein were the driving force behind the great Albany teams of the late 1990s. Younger sister Carolyn finished her career with the higher scoring total (2,020-1,753), but I’ll go with older sister Becky in this spot. Becky Gottstein helped lead Albany to the 1997 Class A state title, then went on to a terrific collegiate career at Boston College, where the 6-foot-1 forward ranks in the top 10 all-time for the Eagles in both career scoring and rebounding. She led the Big East in rebounding as a sophomore, was a first-team All-Big East selection as a senior and averaged double figures in scoring in every season of her career in Chestnut Hill.
Kelly selects . . . Debbie Barnes
I’m not quite establishing that the main criteria for my team is that you needed to dominate at the high school level while starring alongside your sister, but it’s getting there.
So after taking Caryn Schoff, I added Barnes to my squad. On a talented team that also featured her sister Laura, Barnes helped lead Shenendehowa to state championships in 1988 and 1990, plus scored 1,684 points during her career playing for head coach Ken Strube.
Before playing at the University of Richmond, Barnes was 1990’s Miss New York Basketball. She was the first Section II player to earn that honor.
Jacques selects . . . Maureen Holohan
I found myself screaming at Shinder after both of his picks. I wanted both of those bigs. Thought about Kaplan and Gottstein as potential No. 1 picks.
The Barnes sisters, phenomenal. Strange story; I watched an opposing player throw a ball at one of their faces. I believe it was Debbie. I never forgot that. It was kind of shocking.
Back to my gem of a pick. Holohan led Troy to its first ever state championship in 1989. Big shoutout here to my dad for taking me to see this team play. Nikki Hilton and Marcel Harrison were on that team too, but Holohan was a standout, and was rated as one of the top 50 players in high school and was a high school All-American.
She had a bunch of Division I scholarship offers, but ended up picking Northwestern, where she was a three-time All-Big Ten player, and finished up her college career in the program’s top-10 in points (1699) and steals (204). She was able to overcome a devastating knee injury to have all this success in high school, college and a professional career.
Jacques selects … Carolyn Gottstein
A four-year starter at Albany, Gottstein scored 2,020 career points and averaged 4.2 blocks per game. She won a state championship in 1997, was first-team all-state in 1999 and 2000, and Miss New York Basketball in 2000. She joined her sister at Boston College.
Kelly selects . . . Shawn Shafer
Some of the early picks, to me, were relatively easy to make . . . and, then, right around here is when this draft could start going in a lot of different directions.
For me, I considered six players — and one coach — at this spot, but took Shafer, who starred locally at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons and Siena College, and it’s a pick that comes with the approval of longtime Daily Gazette writer Bill Buell — I cheated on this pick, and found some help since I was struggling to make up my mind — who covered Shafer during her high school career. Shafer was the MVP when ND-BG won the 1986 Class A state championship and then led Siena in scoring average in each of her three seasons for the program.
Buell caught up with Shafer for a story last year, and I found this quote within the article from longtime Shenendehowa head coach Ken Strube to be particularly striking about the former ND-BG star: “She was the best player in Section II, on the best team in Section II. Shawn was fluid and explosive at the same time. It was a pleasure to watch her play, provided she wasn’t playing against us.”
Shinder selects … Ken Strube (coach)
Speaking of picking coaches … and Ken Strube …
Maybe the third round is a little early to take a coach when there’s so many great players left on the board. Maybe I’m the guy who jumps the gun on taking a kicker in his fantasy football draft. But, honestly, the value here is so incredibly high and with Schiltz getting back-to-back picks up next, I couldn’t resist.
Strube’s resume is, pretty much without question, the greatest in Capital Region girls’ basketball history. His 588 wins is more than 200 (!) ahead of his next-closest competition on the Section II all-time list, and his Shenendehowa teams compiled an absurd .790 winning percentage during his tenure from 1979 to 2012. Strube’s teams won 23 Suburban Council titles, 10 Section II championships, nine regional titles and a Section II-best four state championships (1988, 1990, 1993 and 1999). Under Strube, Shenendehowa won 13 straight league titles from 1987-99 and another seven in a row from 2006-12. Oh, and from 1986-94, his teams won 112 league games in a row. In the Suburban Council. Seriously.
My team will have five of the greatest Section II girls’ hoopsters on the floor, and they’ll be led by the greatest coach.
Definitely not jumping the gun.
Schiltz selects . . . Kate Fagan
Long before Kate Fagan was talking about sports on ESPN and writing books, the 5-foot-9 guard was putting together a superb resume at Niskayuna where she started for six seasons, was named a first-team Suburban Council all-star four times (MVP as a senior in 1999) and led the league in scoring three times. She averaged 18.7 as a junior, 20.6 as a senior, and scored a school-record 1,439 points.
Fagan started as a junior and senior at the University of Colorado, played on four NCAA tournament teams, and made the Big 12 Academic first team four times. She averaged 12.8 points as a senior with 79 3-pointers, and later won a pair of championships with the Colorado Chill of the National Women’s Basketball League.
Schiltz selects . . . Val Higgins
A premier post player who stayed local, Higgins scored a then-school-record 1,218 points at Schalmont and 1,137 at Siena College where, as a senior in 1991, she was named the MAAC Player of the Year and earned several academic awards. Higgins’ stat line that season included 19 points and 9 rebounds per game, and her career field goal percentage was over .500.
Higgins averaged 17 points and 14 boards as a senior at Schalmont when she repeated as the Colonial Council MVP and repeated as a Gazette All-Area selection. She won league and Section II Class B titles in basketball and softball as a junior.
Higgins’ dad, Tim, was a star at Mohonasen, and her sons — Zac, Jesse and Shane O’Dell — were key players at Schalmont.
Shinder selects … Laura Barnes
Taking advantage of the Capital Region’s legacy of stellar sisters is a strategy that a bunch of us have relied on so far, and I’ll go back to the well.
After taking Ken Strube last time around, this time I’ll go with Shenendehowa’s all-time leading scorer and complete the set of twins selected in this draft with Laura’s sister, Debbie, going to Team Kelly a couple rounds earlier.
Along with her sister, Laura Barnes led Shenendehowa’s 1988 and 1990 state championship teams, putting up a program-record 1,723 points in the process. Like her sister, Laura went on to play Division I basketball at the University of Richmond.
Kelly selects . . . Amy Bolen
With the 15th overall pick, I’m taking one of the state’s most-prolific scorers in Bolen, who scored 2,573 points during a high school career spent between playing at Middleburgh and ND-BG. That ranks her No. 3 all-time in the area.
Following her high school career, Bolen played four seasons at St. John’s, scoring 923 points in 111 appearances. Bolen led St. John’s in 3-point makes three times during her career, and remains one of the school’s all-time leaders for 3-point accuracy at 40.2%.
Jacques selects . . . Tanya Hansen
Hansen was the first female player in Albany history to score 1,000 points. She finished her career with 1,096 points and 925 rebounds.
Hansen went on to star at Rutgers where she averaged 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds during her career, plus had 245 career blocks. Rutgers made four straight NCAA Tournament appearances during her time there. During her senior season, she averaged more than 20 points per game and nearly nine rebounds per contest.
I want to take a moment here to yell, again, at Shinder: Really, man, you stole my bigs and now Strube? I think you’re doing it to spite me.
Jacques selects . . . Marcell Harrison
One of the “Big 3” from Troy’s 1989 state-championship team. I have two from this team, and someone better pick up the third.
Following a successful high school career at Troy, Harrison starred at George Mason where she scored 1,499 points (sixth all-time), hit 143 3s (fourth all-time), dished 421 assists (fifth all-time) and had 237 assists (second all-time).
Kelly selects . . . Nikki Hilton
The 6-foot-2 star from Troy put up some great numbers at George Mason where she graduated in 1994 as its all-time leader in rebounds (1,037) and double-doubles (44). The three-time All-CAA first-team selection is also in the school’s top-20 all-time for blocks and steals. She averaged 15.9 points as a senior, 13.5 in her four-year George Mason career, and is No. 5 all-time there with 1,565 points.
As a junior at Troy in 1989 she helped the 26-1 Flying Horses win their first Section II, regional and state championships. Hilton averaged 14.4 points as a senior and made the all-state Class A second team.
Shinder selects . . . Carly Boland
Time for the most-modern pick of the draft thus far, the ultra-versatile Boland was a star for Shenendehowa, leading the Plainsmen to Section II Class AA titles in both 2014 and 2016 and finished her career ranked fourth in school history with 1,671 points.
Boland was a three-time all-state selection, earning second-team honors in 2014 and 2015 before being named to the first team as a senior in 2016, when she was a finalist for the Miss New York Basketball Award and led Shenendehowa to the Class AA state championship game.
The 6-foot-1 Boland just wrapped up her college career at Binghamton University, where she started at guard each of the last two seasons.
Schiltz selects . . . Sheila Dixon
The most honored player in the history of Schenectady High School girls’ basketball, Dixon was named to the Gazette All-Area first team for the second time as a senior in 2009 when she led the Patriots to a school-record 19 wins and their only Big 10 title.
The guard played four varsity seasons and averaged 13.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists as a senior. She turned in the greatest individual effort for a Schenectady girl that season with 35 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 93-92 overtime win against Amsterdam.
Dixon played four seasons at Brown, averaging 11.0, 13.1 and 12.7 points in her final three, and finished with 1,070 career points. She was twice named an Ivy League second-team selection, earned a team MVP award, and was twice selected Brown’s top defensive player. Dixon later played in Scotland while studying for her masters degree at Edinburg University, and afterward played for FC Barcelona in Spain.
Schiltz selects . . . Sean Organ (coach)
With a heavy emphasis on defense and quick ball movement, Organ has led Averill Park to 11 Section II Class A championships in his 14 years with the program. His Warriors claimed their seventh straight area title this season and won a regional semifinal game, too, before state play was halted due to the coronavirus.
Organ’s 2010 edition followed up its Section II title with regional, state and federation championships and finished 26-1 when he was named the state Coach of the Year and Katie Duma was selected the Class A Player of the Year.
Averill Park won Section II and regional flags again in 2011 and 2012.
The Averill Park social studies teacher sports a 258-103 record with the Warriors.
Shinder selects … Dolly Cairns
Let’s wrap up the player selections with the youngest of the bunch — and someone who hasn’t left high school yet.
Nine players in Section II girls’ basketball history can say they scored more than 2,000 points in their careers, and Saratoga Springs’ Cairns is the newest member of that club, having reached that milestone in what ended up being the penultimate game of her high school career and ultimately finishing eight on the area’s all-time scoring list with 2,033 points.
This pick is also a projection into the future, as Cairns will next head to the University of Rhode Island after graduating this year and should prove to be a dynamic lead guard at the collegiate level.
Kelly selects . . . Pam Macek (coach)
Plenty of worthy candidates here — Macek, though, is the selection, and the numbers speak for themselves. Macek collected 266 wins and won 77.1% of her games at St. Johnsville.
Obviously, there was great talent on those St. Johnsville teams, but it takes more than talent to win back-to-back state championships, 64 consecutive games at one point and numerous Section II championships.
Jacques selects . . . Gordie Johnson (coach)
One more draftee and Jacques takes Watervliet legend Gordie Johnson. Johnson coached boys and girls at all levels. He coached the Watervliet girls for 17 seasons, winning seven Section II championships and more than 200 games.
Beyond the success he had over the years, Johnson truly cared about his players. I saw that earlier on in my career and it continued up until the end. Johnson was tough, but fair, and had a real soft side when it came to his players. I looked at my team and thought who could coach these girls, if this really was a team, and Johnson was the answer.