THOMASTON – Parents, pictures and chicken strips with maybe a non-alcoholic toast thrown in for good measure. Call it a celebration Sydnee Eggleton style.
That’s what you do when you become a Big East basketball player. The former Thomaston High All-Stater realized a dream Nov. 11 officially signing a national letter of intent to attend Seton Hall on a full scholarship.
“It’s kind of surreal to see how far it comes,” said Eggleton who is currently in her senior year at Peddie School in Highstown, New Jersey. “It’s beyond exciting. “It’s everything I dreamed of.”
Seton Hall was also in a pretty good mood when it came to their new recruit.
“I love everything about her,” said Pirates head coach Anthony Bozzella. “She plays so hard and that is a skill that we can’t teach here. If it’s not in you, it isn’t there. She is a physical player and not afraid of contact. We like that at Seton Hall. She is going to be a big asset. “
Despite the fulfillment of a long-time goal of playing on a Division I level, the rugged 5-foot-11 Eggleton knows there is still a season to be completed at Peddie and much work to be done before taking on the college level.
“I don’t see the upcoming year as a time to relax now that I’ve signed,” said Eggleton. “I need to prepare myself to be a better player. It’s a different speed level and I know there will be some culture shock. I want to be prepared. I know the coach (Bozzella) will be watching me. I know I have to perform.”
Seton Hall’s recruitment and Eggleton’s acceptance of the Pirates’ offer capped off an at-times difficult two-year process. After playing a major role in leading the Golden Bears to an undefeated Berkshire League championship while earning All-State honors for the 2020-21 season, she made the difficult decision to leave Thomaston and attend Peddie, feeling prep school was necessary to play at the next level.
Knee surgery for a torn meniscus during the summer of 2021 and bout with Covid in the fall caused her to miss much of the early season and there was a struggle making the adjustment from Thomaston to a new prep school program that struggled.
“I was used to the Thomaston intensity and the level of expectation,” said Eggleton. “We went undefeated my last two years at Thomaston. Coaching styles were different. I was used to Coach Mac (Bobby McMahon) and I needed more time to create connections. In Thomaston I had been playing with the same players since fourth grade.”
Eggleton missed a half dozen games and once she got comfortable averaged 15.6 for 14 games with several powerful performances. There was a 35-point, 17 rebound effort against Mercersberg Academy along with a 25 and nine effort against Highstown followed by 23 points and 10 boards against Princeton Day.
Eggleton credits her AAU experience in helping her to the Division I level and she caught Seton Hall’s attention while playing for her AAU team, Exodus, N.Y. based in Brooklyn during a tournament in April.
“They told me they liked my size and work ethic and making plays happen for the team,” said Eggleton. “They came to all my games and that was important to me. It showed that I was high priority.”
Eggleton visited the Seton Hall campus in June and July and accepted the Pirates’ offer in August.
“It was not too big of a campus and it felt like a place that I could be comfortable for four or five years,” said Eggleton. “I saw a lot of the girls there and how many coaches were also there. I was impressed at how well they got along with the coaches out of season. “
Eggleton also sat down with the coaches and was impressed with their honesty.
“We talked about expectations and where I fit in,” she said. It felt genuine. “Nothing was sugar-coated and on a personal level they want to see us succeed.”\
The Pirates see Eggleton as a small forward and there is work to be done this season.
“They want me shooting more corner threes with deeper range,” said Eggleton. “And just finishing around the rim and rebounding better. “Being able to work on my mid-range shooting is a big deal.”
Bozzella is confident Eggleton will work on an already attractive arsenal that she will bring to the Pirates.
“Sydnee has college 3-point range she just needs to get more consistent with that and her shooting,” said Bozzella. “She needs to get stronger and increase her foot speed but she has an excellent work ethic and is not coming into a situation that she can’t thrive in.”
Healthy, well-adjusted to the Peddie program, Eggleton is ready to roll into a big season before Seton Hall. She also will have time to take care of another adjustment – UConn. Like for most in Connecticut, the Huskies are top dog.
“I’ve been a UConn fan all my life,” laughed Eggleton. “I remember rooting for Brianna Stewart and Katie Lou (Samuelson), to think about playing against UConn is surreal. It is a challenge I will face and look forward to. I am more excited than nervous.”
Eggleton is just the third girl out of the Thomaston basketball program to ever reach the Division I level, joining Tanya Ramos (Quinnipiac) and Casey Carangelo (St. Francis-New York).