Girls basketball beat: The case for prep schools

The number of Connecticut’s high school girls’ basketball players who will be playing on Division I or Division II college teams continues to climb. However, for the players who aren’t getting collegiate attention just yet, or seniors who are not sure what they want to do academically in college, prep school is becoming an attractive option.

Prep schools are almost synonymous with the boys’ game, as the guys use a post grad year to get their grades up or bulk up in the weight room. Choate Rosemary Hall student-athlete Micaela Montini, who graduated from Sacred Heart Academy last year, and Hamden Hall coach Megan Borelli, who coached at Guilford High School from 2007-2010, think it’s a good option for the girls, too.

Now I’m Ready

The first day of classes at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford was nerve-wracking for Montini. Not because the post-graduate was worried about making new friends, but because Montini wanted to make sure she knew where she was going.

“At Sacred Heart Academy all of my classes were in one building,” she said. “I was afraid I’d get lost on my way to class.”

After four years of high school, Montini said she didn’t know where she was going career-wise and was unable to pick a major. She also was not getting a ton of college attention athletically.

That’s all changed.

“I’m definitely getting more looks now that I did the post grad year,” she said.

Montini said Saint Anselm and Trinity College have expressed interest in her. She is taking college level courses and said when she picks a college in the spring; she wants to be a nurse.

She said rushing into college when you’re not sure of what you want to major in is not too smart.

“If you don’t really know what you want to do, you should look into the prep school option,” she said. “It’s a great decision.”

Choate’s tuition is $50,350 if you live on campus and $38,810 if you live off, according to the school’s website.

Montini said going to Choate has paid dividends on the court, where she said a faster-paced game with a shot clock has helped her improve.

“I’ve become faster and stronger,” Montini said. “And playing with a shot clock, you have to think more on your toes. You don’t have as much time to slow down and think about every move you’re going to make.”

Choate plays in the Founders League, and Montini said she doesn’t play against post-graduates too often, but the games are still tough.

“The competition is much better than it is in the other leagues,” she said. “They’re all very athletic and fast.”

A Different Game

Borelli coached at Guilford High School. Currently coaching at Hamden Hall, she said she’s busier on the sidelines now than she’s ever been.

“Each possession you have to do more coaching and the kids have to do more playing,” Borelli said.

Hamden Hall plays with a shot clock in the Fairchester Athletic Association. She said the game is markedly different from the one she coached in the CIAC.

“Even when we would scrimmage the public schools in the preseason, the amount of times that you have to defend for a minute or a minute and a half because the teams are stalling,” she said. “It just speeds the game up.”

The amount of scouts at games is different, too.

“At our championship game, there are six games all in one day, and the stands are filled with college coaches from tremendous academic schools,” the coach said.

She said her team doesn’t see post-grads too often either and the level of competition in the FAA fluctuates.

However, the one constant is college bound students according to the coach. She said the small class sizes, college-level courses and motivated students and faculty make it an environment conducive to learning that should be an option for any parent. Hamden Hall’s tuition is $32,990, according to the school’s website.

“I was a public school kid, I never thought of going to a private school,” she said. “Now that I’m here, just the environment is a really good one and it’s something I would look at for my kids.”
Borelli has gotten a few CIAC transfers, Alyssa Devin (Guilford), Joycelyn Dos Santos (Lauralton Hall) and Kaila Defrancesco (North Branford) all came into the program.

Borelli said she is surprised more families don’t at least consider prep school.

“Educationally it opens a lot of doors for you,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities.”

Sound off



  1. Commenter says

    Not crazy about the prep schools. It’s hard to judge since nearly every basketball player reclassifies as a grade lower. Is that really beneficial, to have a kid repeat his or her junior year (for example)? Or hang out with kids a year younger? For the boy basketball players, prep school is almost like a minor league to get ready for college. I wonder how many top college coaches tell their recruits to spend a year at prep school to get bigger/faster/stronger. It should be about learning, not getting better for basketball. I would hate to see that happen to the girls game…

  2. s21 says

    I believe the prep schools have gotten a bad rep, in terms of basketball talent. When we were looking for high schools for our daughter, we had a choice to make, MHS, Mercy or Kingswood Oxford. My daughter been playing AAU since the 6th grade and she loves basketball. We are a product of public schools and are big advocates for public schools, however we ruled out MHS immediately just because of the coaching- so it was between Mercy or KO- we spoke to our daughter AAU coach and he blatantly was honest with us and said we had a tough decision and no matter what we decided that we couldn’t go wrong and that our daughter was talented enough that she would get plenty of looks. Every one we spoke to told us that the prep schools were weak and the talent pool was minimal. So, I expected weak competition. I have to admit that most of the prep schools do not have deep benches and most could only go 7 or 8 deep, but the starters are very talented and the games competitive. I just think that they do not get enough press and the athletic council (NEPSAC) does not do a good job promoting their leagues like CIAC. Loomis as a point guard (#1) that I would put against any point guard in the state. I invite you to come to one of the games if you have not already.

    • Bill T says

      have to agree with s21. i’ve seen Mercy , South Windsor , Laurelton and Wilton play this season as well as Hamden Hall, Choate and Loomis Chaffee and can attest to the fact that all three preps can not only compete at this level but can also win . Rachel Plotke from Hamden Hall , Micaela Montini from Choate and Stephane Jones from Loomis can handle , shoot and distribute the ball as well as anyone else in the state . As far as the level of competition goes the Fairchester League does fluctuate from year to year and is made up of mostly “C” and “D” size teams (NEPSAC version of LL L M S) and does not allow post-graduates. The Founders League made up of “A” and “B” size schools and does allow post-graduates, competes at a very high level year in and year out. Commenter #1 is way off ! These prep schools offer and incredible opportunity for any student athlete afforded the chance to attend as an undergraduate or post-graduate. But keep in mind that you must already be an outstanding student athlete to be admitted ! If you check out the rosters of all the Ivy an NESCAC athletic teams you’ll find them loaded with student athletes from the NEPSAC schools. Don’t be afraid of the sticker price. Most of these schools admissions policy is “blind to need”which simply means that someone’s ability to pay is not taken into account during the admissions process. Once your in they do everything posssible to make it affordable to student athletes from all economic backgrounds. Nice article Henry !

      • Henry C says

        Thanks! One thing that really resonated with me was Montini saying basically, listen why rush off to college and you don’t know what you want to do? You’ve got so many people who go to these big, prestigious schools, graduate and are clueless b/c senior year was when they realized, you know what, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. Montini is wise beyond her years for thinking like that. Worse yet, some people don’t even go to college because “college life isn’t for them.” Which I never understood. I think she did things the right way and she’ll benefit from it academically and career-wise more than athletically b/c even she gets good enough to play NE-10 D2 ball, which is very good, she’ll have a great career off the court. Some people tend to make a lot of bad decisions academically and even socially freshman year of college, she won’t, very smart young lady.

      • Commenter says

        ” Commenter #1 is way off ”

        So let me clarify somewhat. I think prep schools are great for kids that want an extra year of academics, or want a more advanced edutcation. Some kids need it, some want it. Great. I’m all for it. I’ve seen quite a few of the preps up close and academically they are really fantastic. We looked into one for our daughter.

        However, keep in mind that every girl listed above reclassified and is getting a fifth year of basketball. They also have different rules where your coach can work with you during the off-season and even coach your AAU team. It’s not really fair to compare a fifth year prep school player with regular HS kids. Each one is almost always a year older – imagine Mercy with all those graduated seniors back for another year.

        My biggest complaint is the kids that go mainly for an extra year of basketball. It’s rampant with the boys and quite common with the girls. Colleges will tell a kid that graduated HS that they are close but not quite there in terms of getting a scholarship. Or their parents won’t give up on that dream of a free education. Trust me, I’ve seen it up close – even with the girls. It just doesn’t seem right to me. It should be about academics, not getting an extra year of HS+ level hoops.

        • Commenter #2 says

          I just wanted to clarify/correct a statement that was made that every girl mentioned above reclassified and is getting a fifth year of high school basketball. Alyssa Devin and Rachel Plotke, both guards at Hamden Hall, did not reclassify. In the last roughly 8 years, the Hamden Hall Girls Basketball team has only had two girls reclassify.

          • mark says

            the person above said they are products and support public schools but didn’t choose mhs because the coaching was poor? prep schools are not the answer for most. generally most females leave prep schools with the same options that they had when entering. not always…but generally. the example above that trinity was interested in the athlete…well…trinity is a d3 school that the young lady could walk on to with minimal talent. great school! but if that’s the level of talent she had…..she definitely didn’t need prep.
            the elitist attitude of northeasterners with the over-priced preps and colleges.
            junior college is the right step for a player who may not be ready for the college grind..eother athletically or academically. that’s the way its done in every other area of the country. when it comes to girls basketball….although ct does put out some nice players….most parents who write those big checks to aau programs don’t realize…is this area is regarded as the worst talent pool of any other area in the country.

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