Already locked into a prep year at Tilton Academy in New Hampshire, Cassidy Derda zeroed in on her college plans for 2014.
The Rice Memorial High School standout made her decision Thursday night, committing to play basketball at St. Francis College. She’ll begin her career at the Division I program located in New York City during the 2014-15 season.
The 6-foot-1 Derda also looked at La Salle and Fairleigh Dickinson — both of which are Division I schools — but ultimately went with her gut.
“I was very indecisive about it, I went back and forth,” Derda said. “I believe in my heart that’s where I’ll be the happiest.”
St. Francis went 11-19 last season and 8-10 in the Northeast Conference before falling in the league quarterfinals. Derda will join a young team with only one senior listed on the roster posted on the school’s website.
“I am very excited for Cass. Her play this spring has been great,” said Wayne Lafley, Derda’s AAU coach at Lone Wolf Athletics. “She seems to be really focused and developing nicely. St. Francis will be a good fit.”
Derda said a scholarship at St. Francis isn’t available for her until 2014, which allows her to use a year at Tilton to prepare.
“That’s been my goal since I was a freshman, to play at a Division I school,” said Derda, whose mother played at James Madison. “I talked to my family and coaches and we decided it would be better for college after a year of prep.”
After transferring from South Burlington to Rice Memorial following her sophomore year, Derda helped the Green Knights to a pair of Division I title-game appearances and the 2012 crown. She was a Free Press’ first-team all-star selection this winter after averaging 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game.
* Former Castleton State College coach picked to lead St. Johnsbury program: Rich Alercio, who guided the Castleton State College football program in its first two seasons, was named head coach at St. Johnsbury Academy, the school announced Friday.
Alerico takes over the SJA program from Sean Murphy, who stepped down this spring to spend more time with his family. Along with his head-coaching duties, Alerico will also serve as an assistant athletic director at the Northeast Kingdom school.
“In education, the most important ingredient to success is the student-teacher relationship. Likewise, in building a successful Division I football program, you look for a coach who sees himself as a teacher first and foremost and who values that relationship above ‘X-s and O-s. We have found such a man in Rich Alercio,” said SJA headmaster Tom Lovett in a news release. “He is dedicated to teaching football athletes to be competitive and classy winners and, most importantly, men of commitment and character.”
Alerico was forced to resign from Castleton in February of 2011 after he improperly arranged three student loans totaling nearly $22,000 for one of his players. Castleton avoided sanctions from the incident, which the NCAA classified as a secondary infraction.
Last year, as a youth baseball coach, Alerico got into a physical altercation with an umpire after a game at Northwood Park in Rutland Town. Alerico was banned from the park for the reminder of the season by the town Select Board, according to a June 2012 story published in the Rutland Herald.