December 14, 2022

Featuring an Infusion of Young Talent, PDS Girls’ Hoops Looking Competitive

PAIGE ONE: Princeton Day School girls’ basektball player Paige Gardner fires a pass in a game last season. Senior guard Gardner, who also stars in lacrosse, brings athleticism to the backcourt for PDS. The Panthers will be tipping off their 2021-22 campaign by hosting crosstown rival Princeton High on December 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team has hit the court for the preseason, Seraphine Hamilton likes the mindset and versatility she is seeing from her players.

“We have a more competitive group and a lot of talent,” said PDS head coach Hamilton, who guided PDS to a 5-13 record last winter. “We are pretty fluid, everybody plays everything.”

The Panthers are getting an infusion of talent with the arrival of four freshmen — Ella McLaren, Jules Hartman, Makayla Rondinelli, and Sophie Barber.

“Ella and Jules bring a lot of the similar things to the basketball court that they bring on the soccer field,” said Hamilton, whose team will host Princeton High on December 15 in its season opener. “Jules is really composed and makes great decisions under pressure. Ella is attack-oriented and athletic. Mikayla and Sophia come fresh off of their AAU season — they are ballers. That is a good addition.”

The return of senior guard Paige Gardner, who stars in lacrosse and has committed to attend Fairfield University and play for its women’s lacrosse program, brings athleticism to the Panther backcourt.

“I have coached her all four years in basketball; she was a little peanut when she was a freshman and now she is an athletic presence,” said Hamilton. “She has grown; she is a D-I athlete on the court and she knows how to cut across the court from lacrosse. Our offense lends itself to the way that she can play.”

Another multi-sport athlete, junior Katie Zarish-Yasunas, who also plays field hockey and lacrosse, gives PDS physical play in the paint.

“Katie is a guard, but she is actually one of our better low post defenders so she ends up finding herself in the key a lot,” said Hamilton. “She is very strong.”

Hamilton depends on junior guard/forward junior Mia Hartman to provide production and leadership.

“Mia looks great, it is going to be really helpful for her to have other shooters on the court,” said Hamilton. “Hopefully she will have a little more time and space this year. I am really lucky to have Mia as one of our leaders this year. She was special when she came in as a ninth grader. She had that focus, but she was also very coachable and always bought into what we were asking. Now we have players coming in who are basketball-focused and Mia is doing a really nice job of taking them under her wing.”

Making big progress from her freshman season, sophomore Nandini Kolli figures to be a factor this winter.

“Nandini played JV last year and she spent the summer playing AAU,” said Hamilton. “She has improved greatly.”

With such a youthful squad, Hamilton believes that the Panthers have plenty of room for growth this winter.

“We are pretty young, we have to develop confidence early on in the season,” said Hamilton. “There is a lot of learning that has to go on. It is being ready to be on the court, even when we are ninth and 10th graders.”