ROCHESTER — To determine the quality of small-school girls basketball that’s played in Section V year in and year out, look no further than the Nazareth College Golden Flyers women’s basketball program.
Equipped with six players that were All-Stars in their respective leagues within Sec. V, the Flyers continually sport a roster with local, Rochester-area flavor. Suppose you look deeper, at the top of that list of former Sec. V standouts are three GLOW Region greats who are Naz’s top three scorers this season.
“Section V is a powerhouse, so it really helps prepare these girls for college,” said Naz head women’s coach Kelly Dunne. “They’re getting to play with and compete against players in high school who go on and compete at all levels in college. Even some (Sec. V) teams that don’t have college basketball players on it, have all-around great athletes that make them better each day because of their strength and speed.”
Bath-Haverling graduate Jadyn Abrams, Pavilion grad Kim Davis and Batavia grad Ryann Stefaniak have propelled the Flyers to their best start in recent memory. Naz was riding a six-game win streak and held an overall record of 8-2 and a 7-1 mark within Empire 8 Conference play as they prepared for a matchup with the Keuka College Wolves on Tuesday night.
Abrams has led the way for the Naz women and holds a scoring average of 17.7 points per game to go with 6.8 rebounds per game. Her 22 made 3-pointers is the most on the team, while Davis is second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.1 points along with 7.9 rebounds per contest. Davis’ 15 blocks are the most on the team. Stefaniak pours in 10 points per game, grabs 4.9 rebounds per game and doles out two assists per contest.
“They all have great personalities and are really fun to be around,” said Coach Dunne about her top-scoring trio. “They’re all also great young women. They’re hard-workers on the court and also in the classroom.”
Abrams, Davis and Stefaniak hold a cumulative GPA of 3.74.
“That’s insane,” exclaimed Dunne. “Especially since all three of them study difficult majors.”
Abrams and Davis both study physical therapy, which has led to a budding friendship between the two. Stefaniak is leaning toward a major in anthropology.
“Jadyn and I have become very close friends being in the same year and in the same major,” said Davis. “We work out and do homework together a lot which has just made us even closer.”
Once competitors on the court in a tough Livingston Conference, Davis and Abrams are now best pals.
“Kim is now one of my closest friends at Nazareth,” added Abrams.
Stefaniak is a year behind Davis and Abrams. But a friendship between the three has developed quickly over the past two seasons.
“I’ve developed a cool bond with both Kim and Jadyn. They’re both a year older than me, but they’re also both players that I look up to very much,” said Stefaniak. “Kim and Jadyn are super talented players, but they’re even better people. Kim is the nicest person I know, and she will always check up on her teammates. Jadyn is always making me laugh and leading by example.”
The bond created between the three has led to great success on the court. Each of the Flyers’ terrific threesome credits the challenges they faced during their high school playing careers with preparing them to thrive at the collegiate level.
“Playing in the Monroe County League prepared me for collegiate basketball because of the competition and all of the good players in the league,” said Stefaniak. “Sectionals were never easy for us at Batavia. But I knew that playing against so many talented players was only going to make me a better player myself.”
Some may believe that playing for schools such as Pavilion and Bath-Haverling, which play in a conference comprised of primarily Class C and D programs, would have trouble drawing interest from top-level college teams. Abrams and Davis are proof to the contrary.
“Coming from a small school doesn’t impact your motivation or how hard you work towards succeeding at the next level — these are things that you can control,” said Davis. “Competing at the next level may be a little more of an adjustment, but if you develop a strong work ethic and have the grit and determination to succeed in high school, then that will carry over to your collegiate experience and make the transition possible.”
“You always have a chance to succeed at the next level no matter where you’re from — it’s all about how much work and extra time you put in,” added Abrams. “Even if you’re from a small town, there are other opportunities to take advantage of like camps and AAUs that will dramatically change your game.”
The former Rams standout says that if it weren’t for her decision to play AAU, it would have been difficult for her to make such a smooth transition to the collegiate level.
“Playing AAU with girls from Rochester and all over was the best thing for me to get better because you’re playing against tougher competition than what you play in high school,” said Abrams. “You’re also making new friends and you’re just playing more basketball. You’ll gain so much experience that will help you as you continue to play your sport. Anyone is capable of taking their game to the next level if they really want it.”
Once Abrams decided on pursuing a collegiate career, Nazareth was immediately at the top of her list. Then, upon a visit to the college, Abrams was hooked.
“When I came for my overnight (visit) for basketball, I fell in love with the team, the campus and the environment,” said the Bath-Haverling grad.
For all three members of the Flyers’ trio, Naz was the perfect fit.
“I like that it’s a fairly small school since I came from a small high school and that it’s only about an hour away from my hometown,” said Davis. “The location and beautiful campus further influenced my decision to come here.”
Another factor that weighed into each player’s decision to choose the Flyers was Coach Dunne.
“I picked Nazareth because I’ve only ever heard good things about this school and Coach Dunne was always so supportive and thoughtful during my recruiting process,” said Stefaniak. “When I did my overnight visit, I could tell that this team was more like a family than just a team and that tight-knit community was exactly what I wanted.”
During the recruiting process, Stefaniak and Abrams were top targets from the start. Davis came along later on in the process. When it’s all said and done, Dunne feels fortunate to have landed all three GLOW region athletes.
“My coaching staff and I were able to go to a bunch of Batavia and Bath games when we were recruiting Jadyn and Ryann,” said the Flyers head coach. “We didn’t get to go to any of Kim’s games because we started recruiting her late, but we were able to watch a good amount of film on her.
“I can’t say enough great things about these three young women. They all have bright and promising futures ahead of them, and I’m so happy they chose to come to Naz. Before their real careers start, I’m happy that I get to coach them for two, possibly three for Ryann, more years.”
Each member of the Flyers’ top-scoring trio brings a different element to the court, says Dunne.
“Jadyn is probably one of the best shooters I have ever coached or really have been around, to be honest,” said Dunne. “She has great form and an unbelievable touch around the rim. You can tell she grew up around basketball and had a great coach since the day she was born.”
Abrams’ father, Randy Abrams, is the head varsity girls basketball coach at Bath-Haverling High School.
“Kim is by far one of our hardest workers during practice, but especially outside of practice,” added Dunne. “Since she came on to campus, she was the one who would be getting those extra shots in or getting that extra workout in each morning. We can count on her to just continue to get better because we know she is putting that work in.”
Davis leads the Empire 8 in blocked shots and is also inside the top five in both rebounding and field goal percentage.
“Ryann was known as a shooter in high school, but she does so much more than that,” said Dunne. “She rebounds for us, finds her teammates, and scores when we need her to. She also gets to the rim at will. We always say when she does it, she glides. Just like I said earlier about how it’s fun to watch Jadyn shoot from the outside, it’s fun to watch Ryann take it to the rim.”
Stefaniak is inside the top five in almost every major offensive category within the Empire 8 this season.
It’s not every year you see three players from the same region combining to lead a collegiate program the caliber of the Naz women’s basketball team. What Abrams, Davis and Stefaniak have accomplished this season, and will continue to accomplish for another year following, should not only make the GLOW region proud but Section V proud as well.
Three players, each from small schools, are doing big things at the next level. And they’re doing it together.
Section V’s might is on display every night on Mike Daley Court.