SARATOGA SPRINGS — One of the area’s top basketball players knows where she’s headed.
Dolly Cairns, a rising senior at Saratoga Springs High School, recently committed to play women’s basketball for the University of Rhode Island, a rebuilding program with a new head coach in Tammi Reiss.
“Our first conversation was about an hour long,” Cairns said Tuesday, a day after she tweeted out word of her commitment. “We were like the same person. She told me she reminds her of herself at my age.”
That strong connection with Reiss left Cairns comfortable and eager to make her commitment to Rhode Island, an Atlantic 10 Conference member that went 8-21 last season before hiring its new coach. While Cairns didn’t make public her college decision until this week, the 17-year-old called Reiss hours after leaving the Rhode Island campus last Wednesday to offer her verbal commitment.
“I wanted to commit there before I ever visited,” said Cairns, who listed UAlbany, American, Army and Marist as top options among other schools she considered.
Along with Cairns, Shenendehowa rising senior Bella Stuart also made a recent Division I commitment. Stuart committed to play women’s basketball for the University of New Hampshire.
Cairns has starred for head coach Robin Chudy’s Saratoga Springs girls’ basketball program since she joined the varsity team as a seventh-grader. A Daily Gazette All-Area first-team selection the last two seasons, Cairns was named the Suburban Council Player of the Year for the 2018-19 campaign after averaging 17 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 as a junior, and shooting 89.6% from the foul line.
In her varsity career, Cairns has totaled 1,479 points. That leaves her 39 shy of her school’s record.
Cairns said her college recruitment started as a high school freshman, but she credited Keith Danzy of the City Rocks AAU program with connecting her with Reiss.
“And I chose Rhode Island because of the people,” Cairns said. “I had a chance to develop a relationship with the head coach who I really love. . . . She described what she wants to do there, and it fits exactly what I want to do, too.”
To put it simply, that’s to build up a Rhode Island program enough for it to compete for league championships. Cairns said Reiss — a Syracuse assistant for the last four seasons — views her as the lead guard the program needs.
“It’s the right fit,” Cairns said. “It’s perfect.”
Cairns helped lead Saratoga Springs to an appearance in last season’s Section II Class AA championship game, and scored a game-high 27 points in the Blue Streaks’ 62-54 loss to Shenendehowa. This offseason, Cairns said the Blue Streaks have been motivated as they start to prepare for the 2019-20 campaign.
“I’m excited,” Cairns said. “We’re all excited for it.”