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Versatile Caiazzo ready to step up for St. Saviour

It’s a sight that takes some getting used to for those watching it for the first time – Alyson Caiazzo breaking a press and dribbling the ball the length of the court.

“They are like, ‘You can dribble?’” the 6-foot-2 St. Saviour forward joked.

It’s something that St. John’s Prep will certainly not forget, Caiazzo racing down the floor and putting up a runner off the back of the rim with time running down in the CHSAA Division II semifinals last season.

Had it gone in, the Red Storm’s perfect season and run to the diocesan championship would have ended early. Caiazzo hit a game-winner jumper for the Pandas in a quarterfinal victory over Stella Maris.

“It’s exciting because normally I am the post girl,” she said. “I don’t get a chance. Coaches know what I can do, but they want me down low. There are not a lot of tall girls.”

In the post is where the junior can really control the game. Over the summer she has been working on her hook shot and floater and being stronger with the ball on the block. She is looking to build off a strong end to last year, when Caiazzo averaged 13 points in St. Savior’s two playoff games.

“I just had to be working on it all summer and hopefully next year I will be able to dominate the paint,” Caiazzo said.

Her role will be a much larger one next winter for the Pandas, who won the Brooklyn/Queens Division II title her sophomore year. Caiazzo is just one of two returning starters, along with senior guard Nicole Juliano.

“We are going to have to have the new girls learn to play with Alyson, get her the ball in the right spots where it is easy for her to get into the flow of the game, so she doesn’t have to work as hard to get her shot,” St. Saviour coach Jim Gregson said.

The second-year coach expects Caiazzo, who participated in Coaches Choice USA Final Test college showcase at Manhattan Friday, to step into more of a leadership role after three seasons on the varsity. He knows his job will be create scoring opportunity for her, especially since the opposition is likely to double- and triple-team her. Caiazzo sees it as a chance to show confidence in and improve her teammates.

“You try not to make [just] yourself better, you try to make your entire team better,” she said. “If they are going to be guarding me then we will just work to get someone else the ball or we will work to get me open.”

She said the end of the season motivated her to improve both her skill and her conditioning in preparation for a larger role. Her mobility around the basket could cause other teams headaches and ease the burden early on what should be an inexperienced squad.

“She can move and get her own shot,” Gregson said. “She is not a big person that has to have a spot and you have to get her the ball. She can get to the spot with the ball.”

Even if she starts on the other end of the floor.

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