Eric Emmerling's NH College Notebook: Granite Staters find success on the basketball court at RPI
Coincidentally enough, the 2012 Mr. and Miss New Hampshire Basketball honorees are presently freshmen starters and engineering majors at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Former Merrimack standout Tyler Gendron is averaging 10 points and 2.8 rebounds an outing while shooting 46 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point land for the 8-6 men's team. Ashley Clough, a three-sport star from Keene High and resident of West Chesterfield assumed a starter's post on the women's team (9-5) upon completion of the field hockey season and is contributing 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds a game.
RPI coaches believe each player - both New Hampshire Union Leader All-State Basketball Team members - will be impact players before graduation day in 2016.
"We were pretty darn lucky to get those two," said John Greene, coach of the RPI women. "Both demonstrated a good work ethic and witnessed the fruition of hard work in high school. I think they wanted to be around like-minded teammates and students at college."
Men's coach Mike Griffin joked that Gendron was born to play hoops at RPI. The 6-foot-5 forward was born in nearby Albany, .N.,Y and resided on campus in married student housing while his father Pete earned an engineering Master's Degree.
"It's hard to be a freshman starter. Tyler's primarily a shooter now, but he's getting better and better at other things like rebounding and defense. He's going to be a well-rounded player," said Griffin. Gendron has hit double-digit scoring figures nine times this season.
"Making the transition from high school to college defense is the toughest challenge and Ashley has already made a key contribution," said Greene, who has Clough, a 6-foot forward, guarding opposing post players. "She's already a versatile player offensively and defensively."
Clough scored one goal in 10 games on the Engineers' field hockey team. "When the field hockey team had a day off she wanted to play pick-up games with the basketball team," said Greene who has coach several multiple sport athletes at RPI. "We didn't think that was a good idea."
Both Gendron and Clough have Granite State teammates at RPI. Sophomore Michelle Reid, a Pinkerton of Derry graduate, averages 3.4 points and 2 rebounds and sparks the team's defensive effort while coming off the bench. The guard missed half of last season to injury and seems to log more playing time as this season progresses.
Jamie Zajac of Merrimack, a former three-sport starter at Bishop Guertin of Nashua, is a three-year starter and senior tri-captain scoring 11.8 points and averaging 4.1 assists. Griffin described his point guard as one of the physically and mentally toughest players he's ever coached.
Eric Hatton of Atkinson, an all-state quarterback at Timberlane of Plaistow, leads the Engineers with 23 steals. Zajac has 22 while Gendron has 20 pickpockets. An occasional starter or first man off the bench, Hatton is good for 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds a night.
Hatton's most impressive stat is academic. The senior aeronautical engineer major has earned an "A" grade in every course, save one.
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SWIFT SWIMMERS: Marc Marois of Derry raced his final lap in the Keene State pool last Wednesday. "It was very surreal. I can't believe it was my last meet at home," said the senior, now training for the upcoming NEISDA championship
Marois claimed the state title in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 breaststroke as a Pinkerton senior before recording first place finishes in the 200 and 400 IM as an Owl freshman. He secured All-New England honors in six races the past two years.
"Marc has always been real strong for us. You could throw him in at any time and he'd score," said Jack Fabian, the Keene State swimming coach.
Sophomore Kathleen Lamontagne of Manchester, a Trinity High graduate, finished second in the 200-yard freestyle and 400 free relay for the Saint Michael's College last week.
St. Rose University freshman Eric Howard of Amherst earned first place spots in the 100- and 200-yard free against St. Michael's last Saturday. The next day against Bentley University, he finished first in two backstroke events as well as the 200 IM, and followed that effort by earning first in the 50 backstroke at the Bob Mowerson Sprint Meet in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Tuesday.
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HINT OF SPRING: The American Baseball Coaches Association has selected Franklin Pierce University junior first baseman Zach Mathieu of Derry (Pinkerton) an East Region Preseason All-American and listed UMass-Lowell sophomore outfielder Luke Reynolds of Manchester (Memorial) a Newcomer To Watch.
Reynolds recently transferred from Northern Essex Community College where he was a first team all-region selection and a member of the All-World Series Tournament Team.
Mathieu experienced an impressive season last spring, finishing among the top 50 players in the country by scoring 59 runs, tallying 87 hits including 22 doubles and 13 homers with a .672 slugging percentage. He hit .429 and drove in 49 runs.
Eric Emmerling's weekly New Hampshire College Notebook appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at email@example.com.