About four years ago, the Register highlighted five high school seniors who were headed to play Division I women’s basketball. It’s arguably the strongest girls basketball recruiting class to ever come out of the Greater New Haven area.
“I can’t remember a class like this,” then-Branford coach Ted Kaczynski told the Register back in 2009. “This is a special year.”
Now a college career is winding down for each. The Register caught up with Casey Dulin, Keylantra Langley, Lauren Okafor, Courtney Schissler and Kerry Wallack to see how they are doing.
DULIN THE RIGHT THING
Dulin never missed a beat when she headed to Marist after starring at Law.
Red Foxes coach Brian Giorgis uses phrases like “exceeded expectations” and “godsend” to describe his All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference combo guard.
“She’s meant an awful lot to us,” he said. “She basically runs the show.”
Dulin is coming off a season where she helped lead Marist to an eighth-straight conference title and earned All-MAAC second-team honors. The 5-foot-10 Dulin averaged 10.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game as a junior. She scored a career-high 25 points against both Hofstra and Rider and is 245 points away from becoming just the 20th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
She broke into Marist’s starting lineup as a sophomore and immediately became an impact player. She’s improved her perimeter game while still boasting the ability to get the basket, make her teammates better and defend well.
All is reminiscent of her remarkable career at Law, where she became Milford’s all-time leading scorer with 1,639 points.
Now she’s looking to polish off another remarkable career, this time at Marist.
“Success athletically and academically,” Dulin said. “Three MAAC titles in three years. It’s everything I could dream of.”
A KEY FOR THE RED STORM
Langley has played in three NCAA tournaments, including a trip to the Sweet 16. She’s stepped on the floor with a handful of WNBA stars and scored a career-high 16 points at Madison Square Garden, the World’s Most Famous Arena.
“Coming to St. John’s has been a great choice,” said Langley, who is from Bridgeport. “I love it here.”
It’s been a solid three years for the Red Storm guard, and the former Lauralton Hall all-stater is looking to emerge in her final season.
As a Crusader, Langley was ranked as a top 40 recruit. She was a two-time Register All-State pick and a McDonald’s All-America nominee. She averaged 15.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a senior.
The 5-9 Langley has provided St. John’s with versatility and reliability. She’s played point guard, shooting guard and small forward, while also defending multiple positions. She had a couple of spot starts and gave the Red Storm quality minutes off the bench and averaged 3.4 points to go with 25 assists and 13 steals last season.
She’s had some big games. Langley poured in her career-high 16 against Seton Hall at MSG and followed that up with eight points and six rebounds against Pittsburgh. Red Storm coach Joe Tartamella says she hit clutch shots during the Big East tournament and drew charges in critical spots.
“Key’s grown a lot since she was a freshman,” Tartamella said. “Her skill, IQ, thought process; I’m excited about her senior year and hoping she has the best year of her career. She knows she holds that in her hands.”
Langley and her coach are on the same page.
“I want to have my best season,” she said. “Go out and lead the team and excel in every aspect of the game.”
A NEW HOME
Okafor is just anxious to get back on the floor.
The 6-3 inside force decided to transfer from Providence to James Madison and sat out last season.
“I definitely am excited,” said Okafor, who is from New Haven. “There’s nothing like basketball season. I’m excited to get back out there and get into action.”
Okafor was named to the Big East all-freshman team in her first year as a Friar. As a sophomore, she started 24 games while leading the team with 25 blocks and adding 5.4 rebounds. But Providence coach Phil Seymore stepped down and Okafor chose to transfer.
The year off, she said, was difficult. But it was also a valuable learning experience. It allowed her to see the game from a different angle. She practiced with the team, improving her shooting ability and conditioning.
She will give James Madison, a program which reached the WNIT final in 2012 and WNIT quarterfinals last season, a significant boost in the post.
Okafor will have two years of eligibility left. She hopes to play more of an offensive role than she did at Providence.
“I’m looking forward to the fresh start,” she said. “A clean slate.”
While at Hopkins, Okafor averaged 18.1 points, 18 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. She was simply a punishing presence inside for the Hilltoppers, using her strength and athleticism. James Madison should reap the benefits this season.
BREAKING OUT AT BRYANT
Coming out of Branford, Schissler was considered a ’tweener. With that came some concern.
Where would she fit in at Bryant? Would she be quick and athletic enough to play on the perimeter? Big and strong enough to play inside?
Schissler found success doing a little bit of both.
She’s improved her shooting and ball-handling while still using the physical toughness she showed at Branford.
Schissler had a breakout junior campaign, leading the Bulldogs in scoring for most of the year and averaging 8.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and one steal per game. She posted her first career double-double against Rhode Island (18 points and 12 rebounds), scored a career-high 25 points against Holy Cross and knocked down six 3-pointers at Robert Morris.
“I got my shot,” said the 5-9 Schissler, who was home playing in the Hartford Pro-Am this summer. “I was waiting for my opportunity and it finally came.”
And Schissler certainly capitalized.
“She’s the ‘X’ factor on the floor for us,” Bryant coach Mary Burke said. “Her greatest asset is her work ethic. She’s a hard-nosed, tough kid. We have high expectations for her.”
Schissler should be used to that. At Branford, she was selected as the Register’s Female Athlete of the Year as a senior (she also played volleyball, tennis and swam for the Hornets). She finished with 1,705 career points. And, of course, there is her fondest memory, which was the Hornets’ stunning run to the Southern Connecticut Conference title during her final season.
“How can I forget it?” Schissler said. “That was one of my best experiences. No one thought we could do it.”
After three years at Rhode Island, Kerry Wallack has yet to have a defined role.
That might be her most valuable asset.
She pulled down 18 rebounds in a game against Fairfield — the most for a Rhode Island freshman since 1982. As a sophomore, she provided a spark off the bench with 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals against Bryant. Last year, she posted 20 points and 10 rebounds while playing the point against VCU.
“Wherever we need her,” Rams coach Cathy Inglese said. “At the moment in the season, wherever we need her is where we are going to use her. She has the ability to learn and play different positions and she doesn’t fight about where you’re going to put her.”
The 5-11 Wallack starred at Hand, but missed her senior season with a torn meniscus suffered during soccer season.
Wallack thrives on the perimeter, but is capable of playing the post for the undersized Rams (6-23 last season) because of her toughness and strength. She’s seen her minutes decline, going from 18 starts as a freshman to seven last season, while averaging 3.0 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. A series of ankle injuries have also hindered her.
“I’ve had ups and downs,” Wallack said. “I haven’t had a steady part. I hope to play a bigger role than I have.”
Whatever happens this season, Wallack will continue to work hard and do what is asked of her — no matter what it is.