Duanesburg brings big-time freshman class, big-time goals to small-school N.Y. girls hoops
By Jeff Gilbert
On warm summer days, the young and talented Duanesburg (N.Y.) High School girls basketball team likes to hang out by the pool at Allison and Kaitlyn O’Hanlon’s house. Or you might see them at a restaurant, enjoying teenage laughs around a big table.
But when you don’t see them – when it’s just them – that’s when they’re in a gym working. That’s when their basketball sisterhood is at its strongest.
“These girls are like my family,” star freshman Allison O’Hanlon said. “If we do have a season, we want to be ready.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has meant decreased contact with non-family members, but the Duanesburg girls are finding ways to train, even if they can’t all be together at once. New York hasn’t permitted them to practice normally as a team or play games. This past week the state said teams could begin practicing and scheduling games on Feb. 1 based on what their county health departments allow.
“We all really want to play, we all really love basketball,” O’Hanlon said. “But we obviously understand what’s going on. We all want to play, but we also want to be safe.”
Coach Chris Herron has not had to beg his team to pursue weights and cardio training, skill development drills and shooting practice. This team, which features five talented freshmen (three of them started varsity as eighth-graders), an experienced junior point guard and one senior starter, is pursuing a goal of winning more than one Class C state championship.
“Everything we do, we do out of love, and, obviously, for the biggest goal, and that’s winning,” O’Hanlon said.
Herron, in his fourth year as head coach, said, “What I love about these ninth-graders is it’s about winning. They set individual goals, but when it comes to playing they don’t focus or look at them.”
Duanesburg is one of the smaller Class C teams in its league with a typical graduating class between 50 and 70. The Eagles’ version of Michigan’s famed Fab Five freshmen from the early 1990s breaks down like this:
Allison O’Hanlon: She is a 5-foot-8 combo guard with a reputation as the best shooter not only in the Capital District, but in all of Upstate New York. In a recent workout, using a shooting machine, she made 54 out of 55 and 112 out of 136 3-pointers.
“What she’s done over this break since Covid started is really remarkable,” said Scott Alvarez, president of Scout My Game. “She’s working out with college players, she’s the best shooter in upstate New York and I don’t think there’s any exaggeration there at all. She’s the No. 1-ranked freshman in Upstate for sure. Anyone that’s watched her play recently would say the same thing.”
O’Hanlon was first-team all-league as a seventh- and eighth-grader for the varsity. She was all-state last year and led the team in shooting: 50% field goals, 80% free throws and 35% 3-pointers. She averaged 15.5 points a game last year and is on track to surpass 1,000 points during her freshman season, depending on how many games the Eagles play.
“Everybody thinks she’s a junior,” Herron said. “There’s two levels to Allison. The first one is preparation. I’ve been coaching for 20 years and I’ve never had a kid with this type of regimen and determination in a sport. When I open the gym at 6 in the morning, she’s there every day, taking a thousand shots a day on a regular basis. She’s a gym rat. That sets her apart from other kids.
“The second thing is her handle, her shooting, control of her body, especially at that age, and her coordination is very high. Yet, she’s very unselfish, plays hard all the time and is always looking for teammates.”
Herron said O’Hanlon is a legitimate Division I prospect and is already getting phone calls.
Alex Moses: She is another 5-8 combo guard and one of the most improved players in the Capital District since the end of last season. She was second-team all-league as an eighth-grader and averaged 6.4 points a game. Moses is known as a great ball handler and an improved finisher and 3-point shooter. She has grown three inches since last season.
“Alex has really come a long ways since seventh grade,” Herron said. “Her ability to play basketball is just off the charts. I love how she sees the floor, and I can really see her becoming a leader with the basketball.”
Hannah Mulhern: She is a good post player at 5-8 with a good mid-range touch who can also step out to the 3-point line. She battles on the boards and is a good passer. She was second-team all-league last year as an eighth-grader with averages of 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.
“She’s a very good shooter and good off the dribble,” Herron said. “And she plays really good defense.”
Kaitlyn O’Hanlon: Allison’s twin is a 5-6 guard who was the MVP of the JV team last year. She is a steady player and guards the other team’s best guard. She had multiple call ups to varsity as an eighth-grader, and will be a backup guard this year.
“She has a very high basketball IQ and is very good defensively,” Herron said. “She is really working on her offensive game, and that is definitely going to help in the long run.”
Lauren Capron: She will bring some needed height to the varsity at 5-10. She has good post moves and an excellent mid-range game, leading the JV team in scoring last year. She played varsity in last year’s sectional tournament. She is competing for a starting spot.
“She brings size that we lack,” Herron said. “But not only is she big, she can shoot. When you’ve got a big in girls basketball that can get on the boards and then step out and drain a 3 at a consistent level it’s pretty rare.”
The Eagles, who finished the 2019-2020 season 18-4 and were ranked in the state top 10 most of the season, are led by 5-6 junior point guard Maddy Meyer, who was the team and league MVP as a sophomore and is a 1,000-point scorer. She began her varsity career as an eighth-grader, so she understands the challenges her younger teammates face when stepping up to varsity. And she appreciates their mature approach.
“They were so willing to learn,” Meyer said. “And every time we were at practice they were understanding the game. They’re such good players and so confident, so it was really easy. It was really different than the team dynamic when I first started.”
The senior starter is Meyer’s sister Taylor Meyer. Her younger sister describes her as a good leader, strong rebounder and good decision maker. Together they will lead this young team, but Maddy doesn’t expect a leadership void in the freshman class.
“I view myself as a leader, but I also view everyone as a leader because we have such a strong connection that it’s everyone helping out each other,” Maddy Meyer said. “I just love the dynamic. It’s more of a team that’s not just thinking about themselves. It’s mostly about how can we all work together to win.”
The team does more together than play basketball and hang out at the O’Hanlon’s pool. They involve themselves regularly in community service. This year they collected for Toys for Tots.
“It’s a charitable group,” Herron said. “They’re not just great basketball players, they’re great people. I think that gets thrown around sometimes, but this is one of those groups where it really sticks true. This is a group of girls that really cares about other people.”
So remember the names: Allison O’Hanlon, Alex Moses, Hannah Mulhern, Kaitlyn O’Hanlon, Lauren Capron. When they hold state championships in New York again, they expect to be there.
“Those are my people,” Allison O’Hanlon said. “We’re going to do a lot together in life.”