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Notebook

Hamilton’s Steve Haladyna taking his best shot as a freshman for Tufts

Steve Haladyna (right) in action last month for Tufts.

Kelvin Ma/Tufts University

Steve Haladyna (right) in action last month for Tufts.

At Tufts, Haladyna
is told to fire away

Steve Haladyna  is 6-foot-5, but at 175 pounds, the lanky St. John’s Prep grad is the lightest player on the men’s basketball team at Tufts.

Recently, he’s tried making it an advantage.

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As an undersized small forward, Haladyna hasn’t been able to use many of his inside moves at the college level, instead getting pushed around in areas where he would often make a quick cut and go to the rim.

So his perimeter game, which coach Sean Connolly  spent a lot of time honing while Haladyna was at St. John’s Prep — fixing a hitch in his shot that turned the forward into a multi-dimensional scorer — has become crucial.

As the Jumbos’ sixth man, and averaging almost 18 minutes per game in the team’s 6-5 start, Haladyna is third on the squad, averaging 9.4 points per game while shooting 44 percent (12 for 27) from 3-point range.

“It’s harder to get shots down low,” he said. “I’ve been known as a slasher, more of a driver, getting to the rim. I’m trying to move my game more away from the rim.”

Tufts coach Bob Sheldon  wants Haladyna to continue to spend time in the weight room in order to regain his presence inside, especially on defense.

“He’s just got to get stronger,” Sheldon said of the Hamilton resident. “That would be the only thing he’s lacking.

“It’s more of a physical game here. He gets bumped off screens and pushed out a little bit. Once he gets stronger he’ll be making more 3-point plays and won’t have his shot blocked.”

The shot, a slow-motion job that starts from a low position, has been a work in progress since Haladyna was a freshman at St. John’s Prep.

With Pat Connaughton , now at Notre Dame, leading the scoring for the Eagles, Haladyna was coming off the bench to play the post. When Connaughton moved on to South Bend, Connolly needed Haladyna to be a complete scorer, eventually moving him to guard.

“My shot wasn’t good-looking at all,” Haladyna said. “It’s still not good-looking. It’s more about form. It was like a sling shot my first two years. It’s becoming more of a smooth process.”

Ugly or not, it’s worked — so much so that Sheldon wants him to shoot more. That might take a second to settle in: A 25-year veteran coach is asking a freshman to shoot more.

“He’s taking three [3-pointers] a game,” Sheldon said. “We want him to take four or five.

“He comes in off the bench and we expect him to score. He’s an offensive spark for us. He really knows the game.”

Sheldon believes Haladyna, who averaged 22.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in high school, finishing with 1,392 career points, is in line for a great collegiate career. Sheldon said he sent his assistant coaches to “100 of his high school games and they were all over him.”

“We thought he’d contribute,” Sheldon said. “But he really stepped up and is adjusting well to the college game. He just knows how to play offense, moves without the ball, and makes back cuts.

“We’re coming into the meat of our schedule now, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does. He’s done what he’s done so far against really good teams.”

And as he continues to add size, Haladyna may be able to become more of a hybrid scorer; perhaps a more versatile one than he was at the Prep.

“Obviously, since I’m not as strong as these guys right now, it’s been tough — tougher than high school,” he said. “But I’m getting used to it. And finding new ways to score.”

Chiuccariello shines at Salve Regina

Salve Regina women’s hockey coach Michael Cox  remembers Michaela Chiuccariello’s  impact at Winchester High School: “She got a million points up there.”

Now he’s starting to see how it all happened.

Chiuccariello, a 5-foot-2 firecracker playing wing on a first line that includes other Massachusetts natives Taylor Shepherd (Quincy, Fontbonne Academy) and Sarah Markey (Ashland, Hebron Academy), is tied for second on the team in scoring with six goals and two assists in 12 games. The team has scored nine more times than its opponents when she’s playing, and she’s tallied a short-handed goal and a power play goal.

“She’s just quicker to the puck than everybody else,” the coach said. “And it’s not that she’s the greatest skater in the world, it’s just that she wants the puck more than anyone else.”

Chiuccariello finished last winter, her freshman season, with seven goals and 12 assists in 26 games, and that included a second-half slump, as Cox called it, where she lost her confidence. This winter, there’s been no such void.

Freshman Danielle Phalon (Stoneham) has also impressed, with six goals and three assists this year, and Cox said she could be a top-level college player.

“These Massachusetts kids, they’re sort of hidden gems,”  the coach said. “A lot of them are overlooked because they don’t play in the top club programs. So we’ve been pretty lucky trying to grab the few best Massachusetts high school players every year.”

Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at jasonmastrodonato@yahoo.com.
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