By Tom Benoit
October 17, 2012 3:00 PM

 photo courtesy of Siena Athletics

When freshman Symone Kelly gave her verbal commitment to play for Siena College in the summer of 2011, she had made her decision early because she had found all of what she was looking for in a school.

 “I liked the program, I liked the conference, and I loved the school.  It’s very family-like and that’s what really attracted me to go here.”

 But toward the end of her senior year at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, NY, the 6’2” standout learned that she would not be playing for the coach that had recruited her to play at Siena with the announcement that Gina Castelli was leaving after 22 years as head coach.

A native of Wyandanch, NY Kelly was a highly touted forward from Long Island.  A 3-star recruit according to ESPN HoopGurlz with a rating of 85, she had been given scholarship offers from such schools as  Hofstra, Delaware, Boston University, Sacred Heart, Mount St. Mary’s and Loyola (Md.).  As the only incoming freshman, new Head Coach Ali Jaques made a point to let Kelly know that she was still coveted as a Siena Saint.

 “She was very energetic she was very positive” said Kelly of Jaques, “ and when I came she sat me in the office and said I know I didn’t recruit you but I’m really excited to have you and I want you to do your best here.”

 “It wasn’t what I expected” explained Kelly of the departure of Castelli “but I loved the school and I decided to come anyway. I’m glad I came because coach Jaques is amazing.”

 Although somewhat soft spoken, don’t let that fool you, she has aggressiveness to her game as she describes.

 “I’m a really aggressive post, a power forward. I like to rebound and I like to score.  I like to hit and get hit.”

 Much as Jaques has won her over, the feeling is mutual, as her new head coach liked what she saw and heard from her team’s new addition very early on.

 “About day 3 in practice Symone took me aside and said, “Coach, I REALLY like contact”. She likes getting hit and she likes hitting people and you don’t hear a freshman say that very often. I love the aggressiveness she has in the paint and I think that brings a great dimension to our program. I think games are won on the block and on the free throw line and I think Symone’s got a lot of innate ability to score around the basket and that’s fun to watch.”

 As Kelly prepares for the start of her first college season she is adjusting well off the court as well and is happy with her decision to stick with her choice to go to Siena and play for the Saints.

 “Everything is great. The teachers and our academic advisor are amazing.  Everything is just good. I like the campus and I just like everything about the school. The atmosphere, the community feel to the school, that just makes me feel like home. I’m looking forward to just being a part of this team and coming in between the lines everyday and just playing hard, doing whatever I have to do to help contribute to the team’s best interest.”

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