‘Best player I’ve ever coached,’ Cifonelli says
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
Real rebounders never share.
Basketball player Brianna Squier noticed a tendency of her teammate Azariah Wade. “You always steal my rebounds,” Squier said with mock outrage and considerable respect.
“She just comes out of nowhere,” Squier explained, “and it’s like: ‘Oh, well, that’s not in my hand anymore.’”
The six-foot Wade’s madness for rebounds has helped land her a spot on the Division I University of Hartford basketball team next season. Last week she signed her National Letter of Intent with her parents at her side.
The Hartford Hawks play in the America East Conference. Head Coach Kim McNeill said in an email:
“Azariah is the perfect fit for our program both academically and athletically. She is an explosive player that is very versatile and can impact the game on both ends of the floor. Her versatility will allow her to play several positions in our system. I’m excited about the impact that Azariah can have on our team.”
“I chose Hartford,” Wade said, “because when I walked on campus I was greeted by the amazing coaching staff; the girls were nice, they’re amazing, and I just fit in well. I knew that if I went there I would be welcome, I would be accepted, and I would be able to continue my basketball experience.”
“She’s the best player I’ve ever coached, by far,” Grimes Girls Basketball Coach John Cifonelli said. “By far, yeah, absolutely. Because she possesses physical tools that very few kids have. And you combine that with the fact that she just has an incredible desire to learn, and to be coached, and to want to get better every time she’s on the court.”
In last season’s sectional final, Bishop Ludden topped Grimes. Wade scored 10 points despite playing with a severely sprained shooting wrist and with a face guard for her broken nose — “a shell of herself physically in that game,” Coach Cifonelli said.
He added: “I wish everyone could have seen her at full health. How the game would have changed, who knows, and you tip your hat to how Ludden played that day. But for her it would have been nice for her to show the whole package on that stage.”
Going into her Hartford career Wade will be fine, but she will miss her senior season at Grimes because she tore a knee ligament trying out for a summer all-star team.
Last season Wade was named to the All-CNY Small Schools first team, and to the all-state third team for Class B. She is also a three-time Liberty Conference all-star. Her career numbers for the Lady Cobras are 1,570 points (the Cobras’ all-time record, for boys or girls, Coach Cifonelli said) and 1,444 rebounds. Grimes has no official records for rebounds, but the coach can’t imagine that anyone else is even in that ballpark.