By Joseph Staszewski
St. Francis Prep forward Sofia Recupero is handling the high expectations for her while learning to compete in arguably the best girl’s basketball league in the country and building her game from the outside in. With her freshman season as a starter on the varsit team behind her, she is on her way to showing why she is one of the city’s top young players.
The St. Francis Prep rising sophomore is well-past her adjustment period of playing eighth-grade CYO basketball to competing against some of the best players in the country in Christ the King’s Sierra Calhoun and Nazareth’s Bianca Cuevas in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens. It took time for the 6-foot-3 forward to get used to the speed of the high school game and any hesitations she may have felt early on.
“It’s an honor for me to actually be able to play with girls that have their name out there, like Sierra Calhoun and Bianca Cuevas,” Recupero said. “The first game I was really intimidated by them, but I just thought they are just like any other girl.”
Most kids her age and size need to add a perimeter game. Recupero is already an excellent outside shooter and post passer, but needs to develop her back-to-the-basket moves and ability to attack the basket off the dribble. The well-mannered Recupero needs to be more assertive on the court, according to St. Francis Prep assistant Coach and NYC Heat travel team Coach Kevin Wagner.
“You got to give her that mean streak,” Wagner said. “It comes out of her when the other team is very physical. She will respond to that.”
This summer with her travel team, the Heat, she is averaging 15 points per game and starting to post more double-digit rebound performances. It says a lot when she plays alongside Terriers rising senior Kayla Hourany, who is a ball magnet in the paint.
Recupero, because of her high basketball IQ, has also taken over organizing the defense on the court and expects to be a more vocal leader next season. Wagner thinks she could be a mid-major Division-I player if she reaches her full potential.
“She knows how things are suppose to happen, when they are suppose to happen,” Wagner said. “She knows what the other team is doing, identifies it right way.”
Recupero’s development will be key to St. Francis Prep moving the program back in the right direction after a number of lean years. She already has a comfort level with rising sophomore wing Monica Zhivanaj, who she has played with since the fifth-grade. The expectations are always easy to handle in a young player. When things don’t go right, she thinks she is letting down those around her.
“It’s hard because I have to live up to people’s expectations,” Recupero said.
So far she is progressing well and gaining confidence.
“In basketball I am more aggressive,” Recupero said. “If I get mad then it doesn’t matter who you are. I’ll just do whatever [it takes].”