Shannon Duer was not expecting to start for the NYIT women's basketball team. Especially not right away because she's a freshman and that doesn't typically mean big minutes, she said.
"But it happened and when he told me I was starting in the first game of the season, I was so overjoyed," Duer said on Wednesday. "I didn't know what to think."
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She is now considered a favorite for the East Coast Conference Rookie of the Year. Duer, Islip's all-time leader in points and rebounds, has started all 19 games and is averaging 11.8 points and 8.5 boards. The 5-7 guard is a key reason NYIT (13-6, 9-4) is primed for a playoff run.
"I did not come in thinking I'd start. Not at all," Duer said. "I thought as a freshman, you sit and learn and practice. But I've worked hard, really hard, and this has just been awesome."
Though the college game "is a lot faster and it's been an adjustment, of course," Duer said, an improved jump shot and a focus on defense has eased the transition. Duer has earned four weekly conference honors and on Monday was named ECC Rookie of the Week.
Duer believes things could get even better. NYIT will play District of Columbia, which is in first in the ECC, at 1 p.m. Saturday and Duer said a win is more than possible. After all, the game will be played at SUNY-Old Westbury, where the Bears are undefeated this season (8-0).
"I had a feeling our team would be pretty good and get pretty far," Duer said. "I may not have had expectations of starting, but I had expectations for the team and it's good to see it all happen."
Millender leads Suffolk CC
Chris Millender has changed since graduating from Longwood in 2012.
Known for his inside game, he's developed a three-point shot. He has increased his knowledge of basketball, according to Victor Correa, his coach at Suffolk CC. He has also grown three inches, and is now 6-5.
And he's also learned how to dominate. Games like the one he had Tuesday night, when Suffolk CC topped host Queensborough CC, 76-47, have become common. He had 37 points and 11 rebounds. After the win, Suffolk CC (14-2, 15-3) is now ranked No. 7 in the nation among NJCAA Division III schools.
"It's a lot of fun to be on a winning team and be the one who is looked at to score and rebound," Millender said Wednesday.
The forward is averaging 19.3 points and 14.1 rebounds heading into Thursday night's game at Hostos CC.
"Chris will take us to wherever it is that we go,"Correa said. "The best thing about this team is that guys know what their roles are."
For Millender, his role is leader.