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Saturday, July 16, 2016: UConn recruit rejoins Ossining for senior season

   Leading off today: Not that the program was in need of a boost, but the Ossining girls basketball team got a huge dose of good news Friday when Andra Espinoza-Hunter announced she'll be returning to the four-time defending NYSPHSAA Class AA champions next season.

   Espinoza-Hunter is a UConn commit who was an eighth-team all-state selection as an eighth-grader in 2013 after averaging 12.4 points in helping the Pride to their first state championship alongside current Connecticut guard Saniya Chong. She left that summer to attend Blair Academy in New Jersey for the past three seasons.

   Her specialty in the 2012-13 season, her second on the varsity at Ossining, was perimeter shooting. She made 71 3-pointers that season.

   Ossining will be bringing back a loaded squad next season, including rising sophomore Aubrey Griffin, a first-team all-state pick last winter. Classmate Kailah Harris was a seventh-team pick, and fellow Class of '19 member Jaida Strippoli was an honorable mention selection.

   A frustrating ending: Dave Fernandes is being replaced as boys basketball coach at Horace Greeley and says he can't find out why. Fernandes told The Journal News that every question he posed to AD Pete Kuczma last week resulted in him being told the school wanted to take the program in a different direction.

   "I said, 'Twenty-four years coaching varsity basketball and all the years I've known you and that's all you're going to tell me?'" Fernandes told the paper.

   The Quakers finished 8-13 last year, and Fernandes lost

  
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assistant Gary Abrams, a trusted volunteer coach, just two games into the season over a preposterous district policy that prohibits volunteers from coaching their own children. Imagine for a second what would happen across more than 600 school districts if that was a state rather than a local rule and it was also applied to paid coaching positions.

   More changes: Xaverian has named 1983 graduate Tom Burns to replace Jack Alesi, who returned after 21 seasons, as its new boys basketball coach. Burns has been a teacher, guidance counselor, dean of students, alumni coordinator, and director of the summer basketball camp at Xaverian while also assisting Alesi in many capacities over more than two decades.

   Alesi, who compiled a 345-250 record, will remain at Xaverian as the school's finance director.

    • Nate Merritt has been hired as the athletic director at Brighton, which lost AD and Section 5 President Fritz Killian to Fairport earlier this year. Merritt previously supervised at Allendale Columbia's physical education, health teachers and coaches for five years. This past year he served as the private school's vice principal for grades 9-12.

   Putting him in perspective: Vaughn Harper, who died last weekend at the age of 71, might be the most underrated and overlooked player in Syracuse University basketball history, Syracuse.com wrote this week.

   Harper played at SU from 1965-68 at the end of the Dave Bing era. In his three-year collegiate career, Harper led Syracuse in rebounding twice and scoring once. He left school as SU's No. 2 all-time rebounder as well as a thousand-point scorer.

   He arrived at SU by way of Boys High in Brooklyn, where the "Kangaroo Kid" led the squad to the city championship in 1963.

   Volleyball notes: Kim Cleary has stepped down as Suffern's boys coach after eight seasons and seven Section 1 championships, citing a desire to spend more time with her family. Cleary has been a driving force behind getting the sport established in the section.

    • Scarsdale will introduce a boys volleyball team this fall, giving Section 1 its first program outside of Rockland County. The program will join Suffern, Clarkstown North and Clarkstown South in a league.

   The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has added Nfinity Athletic as the presenting sponsor of its girls state tournament as well as the official shoe. Nfinity specializes in shoes, apparel and accessories for female athletes.


  
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