January 8, 2014

From basic training to basketball

More news about: Newbury
Newbury freshman Toni-Marie Migliore tracks down a ball against Elms. Migliore spent the summer completing basic training for the Army National Guard.
Newbury athletics photo

Before her freshman year of basketball at Newbury, Toni-Marie Migliore spent her summer enduring some intense training. But, for 12 weeks she didn’t take a single shot, snare a single rebound or handle a basketball at all.

Migliore’s summer training was the Army National Guard’s Basic Training. Instead of sneakers and gym shorts, she was in boots and strapped into full army gear. In the blazing Oklahoma summer, she carried an M-16, slept in tents, went days without showering and patrolled her area late into the night.

Joining the National Guard was an easy decision for Migliore. With a brother already in the Army, she knew wanted to maintain her family’s military tradition. So, three days after graduating B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River, Mass., Migliore left home for two days of preparation on Cape Cod before shipping off to basic training in Oklahoma.

She said the quick turnaround was unfortunate, skipping out on having a graduation party and missing many of her friends’ own celebrations. But, she said the 12 weeks she spent in training was well worth it because of how much stronger she was when it was over.

“It was kind of sad but it was good to go and experience what it was like to be in the military,” Migliore said. “I don’t regret going or missing anything because I became a stronger person by doing that.”

Migliore’s days in basic training began at approximately 4:30 a.m., followed by an hour of physical training. Then, she packed for the day in full gear and set out her tasks, which varied from learning to use weapons and hand grenades to going on road marches.

The rigorous days of training were made even tougher by the intense heat of Oklahoma in the summer. Migliore said the drill sergeants worked hard to make sure that everyone was properly hydrated, but there were times when it was difficult to avoid the effects of the 100 degree days.

“It was so hot,” she said. “We didn’t have any cold water. It was so hot that everything we had was just warm. That’s what made it awful. They tried their best to make sure we stayed hydrated but it gets so hot that when you’re sitting there waiting to do something, you start falling asleep.”

Migliore said most days had some sort of activity scheduled until about 8 p.m., and concluded with bedtime at 2100 hours (9 p.m.) She said that just about everything in basic training follows a rigorous schedule, which makes for very limited independent decision making. She said once she returned to Massachusetts, it was actually something she missed and had trouble readjusting to.

“Coming back and having so much time on my hands, I didn’t really like it,” she said. “I kind of wanted to go back to be honest. I made some really good friends there, so it was weird not being with them 24/7.”

Much like her quick transition from high school to military life, Migliore had just one week in between training and her move into Newbury. She said the quick turnaround was stressful, but with the help of her parents, she was able to move in on time and had a strong first semester academically and with the basketball team.

Coach Nate Stailey said on the court, he and Migliore have been working on transitioning her from a forward into more of a guard, playing along the perimeter. He said he has seen her military background shine through in basketball with her dedication to learning the new position and commitment to improving her game. He said he has also been impressed with how well Migliore has handled her first semester of college classes.

“She constantly wants to learn and I think that’s something that comes from that military experience,” Stailey said. “You don’t want to keep doing the same thing over if it’s wrong. You want to do it right and that’s one of her big things. Dedication and time management is a huge thing. She had a nice opening semester and did a nice job in class.

We have a freshman seminar class and she was the top student in her class.”

So far, Migliore has appeared in all eight of Newbury’s games, starting four of them. She has racked up 21 points and 29 rebounds in 141 minutes on the floor and Stailey said her upbeat personality will help her develop into a stronger player as her college career progresses.

“She’s pretty outgoing and very happy and smiling all the time,” he said. “She wants to enjoy herself and I think that comes from being in Basic. She’s told me she had to go three months without smiling, and now she wants to smile.”

After her freshman year is through, Migliore will once again return to military life. With Basic Training completed, her next step is Advanced Individual Training, which she will again travel south for, this time to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. There, she will focus more on her specific job in the National Guard, which is automotive transportation.

For six weeks, Migliore will be in classrooms and participating in field training, learning to operate military vehicles like humvees. She said despite completing basic training, it’s completing this part of her military career that makes her more official in the eyes of upper ranking individuals.

“No one upper rank like a sergeant or a drill sergeant can say anything to take it away from me, because I went through all the training,” she said.

In the meantime, Migliore has to stay vigilant to stay at peak performance for basketball, her monthly drills that have her traveling back to Cape Cod to complete, and her schoolwork. But, after enduring the challenging summer, her basketball skills have quickly returned.

“Coming back from basic training, I was in the best shape of my life,” she said. “That was a relief because I didn’t touch a basketball all summer. That was my biggest worry coming back. It kind of fell into place, like riding a bike. You continue to do it and it doesn’t seem like it’s too different.”

Stepping up

On the road with approximately 40 seconds to go, the then undefeated Albertus Magnus men’s basketball team found itself up by one point, on the cusp of its eighth win of the season. But, this wasn’t an out of conference Division III matchup, nor was it against a Great Northeast Athletic Conference opponent. The Falcons were on the verge of taking down Division I Central Connecticut State.

Unfortunately for Albertus Magnus, a turnover and some timely Central Connecticut free throws led to the division-I team taking a three-point victory. But, head coach Mitch Oliver said despite the loss, his squad left Detrick Gym in nearby New Britain, Conn., with an immensely valuable experience.

“For three of the last four years we’ve made the NCAA Tournament,” Oliver said. “I’ve always wanted to play a division-I game because I don’t think we’re going to play anyone as good if we’re fortunate enough to make the tournament again. So, it kind of helps prepare for the postseason.”

This was not the first time the Falcons have shared the court with a division-I opponent, falling to Yale last year, 112–63. But, for a team that went 24-5 in 2012-13 and earned an NCAA playoff berth, keeping a Division I school on the brink during the Dec. 29 game, showed that the team is poised to make another run.

Senior Darius Watson, a New Britain native, dropped a game high 26 points in his homecoming against Central Connecticut. Oliver said Watson has been a consistent presence for the team with his quiet but hardworking nature, and has developed into one of the Falcons’ leaders in his senior year. He said scheduling a game against a Division I opponent was the perfect way for Watson to show what he could do in his hometown.

“What better way to do it than in your senior year on an undefeated team going in there in front of your hometown?,” Oliver said. “So, that was a nice Christmas present for him to go in there and have that opportunity.”

The Falcons also received strong contributions from junior forward Victor Ljuljdjuraj, who scored 24 points and snagged 14 rebounds. Junior guard Eian Davis contributed with 12 points, seven assists and three steals.

In addition to benefiting the team by making the players adjust to stronger competition, Oliver said scheduling a game against a Division I squad is beneficial to the program as a whole. He said it becomes a fun event for fans, many of which traveled just over a half hour to attend the game. It is also a way to maintain a strong program, he said, with many recruits attracted to the possibility of playing on a big stage.

“Getting that exposure and playing Central is a good thing we can tell future recruits,” Oliver said. “We’re playing Division I games and getting exposure out there and it’s something you’ll have for the rest of your life.”

Rivalry renewed

A huge weekend is brewing in the NESCAC with Amherst vs. Williams matchups for both the men and the women. The men’s tilt will see the No. 5 Ephs travel to face the No. 8 Lord Jeffs on Jan. 11. Williams stands at 10-1, having rebounded nicely from an early season loss to Southern Vermont. Amherst, 7-2, was upset by Emerson on Dec. 7 and fell in overtime to Division II Nova Southeastern on New Year’s Day.

Fans of offense should be in for a treat in this conference matchup with Amherst averaging approximately 92 points per game and Williams averaging approximately 88. Amherst’s Aaron Toomey and Connor Green are both averaging more than 20 points per game and Williams forward Taylor Epley leads the Ephs with a 16.2 points per game average.

On the women’s side, it’s a battle of unbeatens when No. 3 Amherst visits No. 10 Williams on Jan.11. Both squads have been downright dominant, with Williams playing a stifling defense, with the highest opponent point total reaching 64 points so far this year. Amherst has been led by Marley Giddins and Megan Robertson, who are both averaging 13 points per game.

New York state of mind

The Empire 8 has been a bit of a surprise on the women’s side with Ithaca College picked as early season favorites. The Bombers have looked good and are off to a 7–3 start, but find themselves behind Hartwick and Elmira in the conference standings. Hartwick took down the Bombers at home on January 3, 63–60. The Hawks have since received five votes in the top 25 poll and the then No. 18 Bombers have dropped out of the rankings.

The men’s race in the SUNYAC features six teams above the .500 mark, with SUNY-Oswego leading the way at 8–1 and 2–0 in the conference. Buffalo State, Cortland, Plattsburgh, Brockport and Geneseo all have six wins. None of the SUNYAC teams have cracked the Top 25 yet, but look for an exciting race for the conference title as these New York squads continue their conference schedule.

Newcomers

The Bowdoin Polar Bears and the Babson Beavers have taken over the No. 24 and No. 25 spots respectively, in the men’s Top 25. Bowdoin stands at 9­–0 and is the NESCAC’s only undefeated team. Junior center John Swords leads the team, averaging 15.4 points per game, and at 7 feet tall, is averaging approximately 10 rebounds per game. Bowdoin begins conference play on January 10 when it hosts Connecticut College.

Babson is 9­–2 and is one of six NEWMAC squads with an above .500 record. Freshman forward Joey Flannery has started all 11 games for the Beavers and is averaging 20.1 points per game. The Beavers have a tough road ahead in a tight conference that includes 10­–1 and No. 6 ranked WPI, and will begin their conference schedule on January 8 against Emerson.

Contact me

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and is looking forward to what should be a thrilling 2014 in the east and northeast. We have plenty of tight races on the men’s and women’s sides and with tons of action remaining, I can’t wait to cover it. Please help me out by sending along any story ideas to cory.francer@d3sports.com. Thanks for reading.

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Justin Goldberg

Justin Goldberg is a newspaper copy editor and freelance writer in southwest Virginia. Originally from New York, he played Division III basketball in that colder region of the country, but moved to Virginia in 2008 to earn his M.F.A. in creative writing. He has written for multiple publications, including C-VILLE Weekly and The Roanoke Times. He is happy to join D3hoops.com for his first season as the Around the East-Northeast columnist.