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It has been a very good off-season for guards on the St. Mary's High School girls basketball team.
Sharell Sanders, the starting point guard for the Spartans, has given a verbal commitment to Caldwell College, an NCAA Div. 2 school in New Jersey, where she will receive a full scholarship.
Her backcourt mate Brianna Rudolph has verbally committed to UMass Lowell, becoming that program's first recruit since moving to Div. 1 earlier this year.
“Playing college basketball has always been something I've wanted to do," Sanders said. "Some people told me that being a scholarship player was not a possibility because of my size, which motivated me. I guess they were wrong."
St. Mary's Coach Jeff Newhall is thrilled to see Sanders get this opportunity.
"We are extremely excited to have a second full scholarship basketball player in our senior class," said Newhall. “Sharell has developed into one of the top point guards in the state.”
Sanders, who is only 5-1, averages 12 points and eight assists per game and is seventh on the all-time scoring list at St. Mary's with 604 career points (Tori Faieta is No. 1 with 1,471). Last year, she was a Catholic Central League All-Star and earned MVP honors in the Walter Boverini Tournament in Lynn and the Hoophall Classic in Springfield.
Sanders enrolled at St. Mary's after moving to Lynn from Malden in 2010. She made the varsity as a freshman, but struggled at times and was placed on the JV team at one point. She rebounded and not only made it back to the varsity, but also played a key role on St. Mary's 2011 MIAA Div. 3 state championship team, scoring 11 points in a 1-point win over nemesis Pentucket in the North semifinals. An honor roll student, she has started the last 48 games at point guard for the Spartans.
"Sharell plays the game as hard as anyone I have coached," Newhall said. "While her lack of size may be a factor at times, she makes up for in speed, heart, work ethic and determination."
Sanders, who will become the second Lynn product to play for Coach Linda Cimino at Caldwell in the last five years -- Lynn English graduate Jeannette Anderson is a senior this year -- said she is pleased to be through with the college-selection process.
"I am really excited to be going to Caldwell and relieved that the process is over so I can focus on my senior year at St. Mary’s," said Sanders, who lives in Chelsea with her mother, Nakia. "I have had a great experience at St. Mary’s and am very thankful for everything the school and the basketball program have done for me.”
Newhall credited former Malden High Coach Joe Levine, his wife, Helen, and daughter Dorothy for supporting Sanders while she was a student in Malden and continuing during her time at St. Mary's. Sanders has also flourished playing for Jim Ridley and Marvin Avery in the Mass. Thundercats AAU program.
Newhall indicated there may be more good news on the horizon as senior Jennie Mucciarone is close to finalizing her college plans. "We are pretty optimistic that Jennie will be getting some great news soon as well," he said, noting that there are currently three St. Mary's grads playing Div. 2 college basketball and receiving scholarships: Tori Faieta at Stonehill, Ann Marie Idusuyi at Assumption and Cassi Amenta at Merrimack, where she is on a full academic scholarship.