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Connelly commits to Hofstra

Joelle Connelly and her family were driving downstate to Seton Hall for an official NCAA visit when they decided to take a detour and see Hofstra.

They never made it to the Big East school in New Jersey.

Upon visiting the campus in Hempstead, Long Island and meeting the basketball family there, the Pioneer senior knew she had found the place she wanted to spend her college years.

The Buffalo News Player of the Year has since verbally committed to Hofstra, an NCAA Division I program and member of the Colonial Athletic Association. Hofstra is coming off one of its best seasons in school history as it finished 26-8 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

Connelly, a 6-foot-3 center, will sign her National Letter of Intent on the first day of the early signing period Nov. 14. Her scholarship covers yearly tuition along with room and board and books. She'll join Clarence graduate Christina Biedny, a junior, on the Pride's roster.

Connelly is listed 13th on the Best Player List in the Northeast by Big Apple Recruiting. She had over 20 scholarship offers including the University at Buffalo, Canisius and St. Bonaventure, but she followed her desire to leave the area.

"I thought about Buffalo's local schools, but in the end I wanted to get out of Buffalo. I want to experience something different," said Connelly. "I loved the [Hofstra] coaches, they were really energetic, and all the girls, it felt like home. It helps that it's 20 minutes from New York City and five minutes from Long Beach."

Hofstra's second-year head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey visited Connelly at her home in Arcade and at school last month. That's when Connelly made her verbal commitment. She is undecided on a college major.

Hofstra's coaches first saw Connelly play at a camp at Penn State. They then followed her during her AAU and high school seasons. But Hofstra was not on Connelly's short list of schools until the impromptu campus visit.

Connelly scored 560 points last season giving her 1,684 in her career. She needs 575 points this season to become Western New York's all-time leading scorer.

e-mail: mmonnin@buffnews.com

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