Kaela Hilaire ended up where she wanted to be all along.
The Floral Park point guard, who was Newsday’s girls basketball player of the year, announced last weekend that she will be attending Seton Hall University. She originally committed to the University of Albany, but asked for her release and reopened her recruitment after coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson accepted a job at the University of Central Florida.
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Hilaire, who led Long Island in scoring at 29.8 points per game last season while leading the Knights to a Long Island championship, said Seton Hall recruited her before she committed to Albany but never made an offer.
“I actually wanted to go there,” Hilaire said of Seton Hall, where she’ll be coached by Anthony Bozzella, a graduate of Glen Cove High School. “They run the system I like to run. I like the coach. I know a few of the players already, and can’t go wrong with the Big East.”
Seton Hall (23-9) fell to Creighton in the Big East semifinals in March. The Pirates qualified for the NCAA Tournament, earning the eighth seed, but lost to No. 9 Duquesne in the first round.
Hilaire also considered Towson and Rhode Island. But, with an impressive handle and outside shot, she believes she‘ll fit seamlessly into Seton Hall’s guard-oriented, up-tempo offense.
“Hopefully,” she said, “I can bring them back to the NCAA Tournament.”
Albany (28-5), which has won the last five America East championships, was coming off its most successful season in program history. The No. 12 Great Danes upset No. 5 Florida, 61-59, to earn their first Division I NCAA Tournament victory. They fell to Syracuse in the second round.
Hilaire said she learned on April 1 that Abrahamson-Henderson was leaving Albany and taking her staff with her.
“I was kind of disappointed because I knew it could happen, but I didn’t think it would happen to me,” Hilaire said. “It kind of made me stressed out all over because I didn’t really like the recruiting process. I just wanted to get it over with. That’s why I committed early.”
The process didn’t take long after she reopened her recruitment. Hilaire said she visited Seton Hall earlier this month and made her decision shortly after. On April 16, she tweeted, “I have committed to Seton Hall University #SecondTimeAround.”
“I’m really excited,” Hilaire said. “It’s close to home. Kind of similar to Albany, just a bigger conference. I’m looking forward to it.”