Every summer presents new challenges for travel programs, but the Empire State Basketball squad is pretty well set for 2017.
“We have eight players returning who were on our 17U team last year,” noted Nick Volchok, with is the club’s owner and head coach. “Those kids have played together for five years, and they have developed into a strong group.”
That unit will be competing at the 2017 Deep South Classic, which will be held in Raleigh, NC from April 20-23. The tournament, which will feature some of the finest travel teams in the nation, will be played at the Raleigh Convention Center. There will be 20 courts in the building, keeping the entire event under one roof in downtown Raleigh.
“We sent down there for the first time last year, and we just loved it,” Volchok said. “We had great games in a great facility, and they do a tremendous job running the event. We just had a great time.”
Empire State will be led this summer by Katie Downey, a 6-1 power forward who has verbally committed to Fordham. The All Star Girls Report has Downey listed as the No. 384 prospect in the Class of 2018.
“Katie is a stretch four with a great outside shot and great footwork inside, and she is a high IQ player,” Volchok said.
The club will also get a strong contribution from Avery LaBarbera (5-5, PG, 2018, No. 439), Maria Violante (6-0, F-P, 2018), Danielle Scaperrotta (5-5, PG, 2018) and Naya Rivera (5-9, CG, 2017).
“Avery has unbelievable court vision and an amazing outside shot,” Volchok said. “She is a high IQ player with an active motor, and she gives you whatever the team needs. She will have 10 or 12 assists one game, and then have 28 or 30 points the next game.
“Maria missed last July with a torn labrum, so she is a little under the radar right now. We’re happy to have her back because she’s an almost guaranteed double-double every game. She has a nice shot from the foul line extended, and she finishes well against contact.
“Danielle is pure toughness, and she is as aggressive as they come. She is an excellent defender, and offensively she gets into the lane and creates opportunities for her teammates.
“Naya missed last year with an ACL injury, but she should have a good summer. She is super athletic, and she can defend any position one through four. Offensively, she has good ball handling skills and she is a great facility.”