SOUTHINGTON — As a first-hand witness to the rigors and rewards of college recruiting, Southington’s two-time All-CCC senior guard Janette Wadolowski had an advantage.
Her sister Natalie, a 2016 Southington graduate, went through the process as an All-State softball player and elected to attend Division I Boston College. Janette had her share of Division I schools courting her, but she saw how Natalie’s frustration grew to the point where she no longer plays.
West Point wanted Janette. So did Fairfield. Some of the Ivies were lining up, but when decision time came, she elected to go Division III, where she feels she can best concentrate on a career in medicine. Janette will attend Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and have the chance to play basketball for former UConn star and 2015 Division III coach of the year Carla Berube.
“When I started my recruitment, I was between Division I and Division III,” Janette said. “I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to do.
“At first, I was set; I wanted to go Division I. I didn’t really think about Division III, but the process kept going, I visited Division I schools and I visited Division III schools. I talked more about it with my parents … I want to be a surgeon. I really want to go to medical school and I thought it would be a little easier if I went Division III because I can balance schoolwork with basketball, even though it’s still going to be a lot.”
Medical school, she said was the “breaking point for me.” She had thoughts of other D-III schools — she loved Amherst and Blue Knights teammate Maggie Meehan is at Williams — but the notion of being in Boston was alluring.
“Tufts is very close to BC, so my sister and I will be very close together,” Janette said. “I like the Boston area. There’s so much opportunity there.”
In assessing the benefit of witnessing Natalie’s recruitment, Janette’s decision was as quick and purposeful as declining a jumper for a path to the glass.
“Oh my gosh, it helped me so much! When she was going through it, my parents had to help her because we were all new to it,” she said. “But then when I started, I wanted to get to my schools early. I started contacting as many as possible, all that I was interested in. My sister also contacted schools early and when they started contacting people older than her, she found out, the earlier the better.”
Natalie’s view of Division I carried a lot of weight in Janette’s course of action.
“She’s told me about some of the struggles,” Janette said. “They travel a lot. She missed a lot of school because it’s so time-consuming. I don’t want to miss that much school.”
Passing up a West Point opportunity was very difficult. It loomed as her first choice early in the process.
“I was thinking I was going to go to West Point,” she said. “There was a good, solid three weeks when I was dead-set I was going there. I told my parents. My dad said to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into, but I wanted to go to West Point.”
It was her first official visit. When others ensued, she was drawn by the merits that each had to offer.
“At West Point, your first commitment is to the military and, if they needed me, I had to go. I had no choice. If I went to another school, I’d have the choice to go to medical school if I want to,” she said.
Fairfield was not on her short list.
“They were my first actual offer at the end of my sophomore year and I never really took it. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I was looking more at the Ivy League, West Point and Navy for Division I, and Division III NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference). I wanted to go to a little bit of a higher academic school,” she said.
She eventually turned away from the Ivy League schools when Division III was making more and more sense to her.
“I told all the schools I was just looking at Division III and I narrowed my search down from there,” she said.
Tufts has become a D-III power under Berube’s guidance. She helped pace the 1995 Huskies to a national title and graduated two years later, three years before Wadolowski was born.
“When I first met her, I already knew she used to play for UConn, obviously, but she’s obviously a really great coach,” Janette said. “From what I’ve heard, she’s an amazing person, too. She really cares about the girls. She’s like a sister to them. I already love it.”
Berube is 330-88 in 16 years at Tufts, with Final Four appearances in each of the last four years. She is also coach of the national U16 team.
Janette was ticketed for a starting role as a freshman at Southington, but was lost to the season due to an ACL tear and subsequent surgery. She played in all 25 games as a sophomore and averaged 17.8 points per game, capping her season with a 32-point performance in a second-round loss to Stamford. Southington was down 18 in the first half and came back to take a one-point lead before falling by four.
Last year, Wadolowski sustained a fracture in her left hand in the second game of the season on December 15. She applied the resilience she displayed in her stunning effort against Stamford by returning to action January 23 and finishing the season at less than 100 percent. In 15 games, she averaged 15.9 points., 11.5 rebounds, 2.4 steals and shot 42.4 percent from the floor.
Janette was the starting shortstop on Southington’s softball team as a sophomore, but elected not to play last season due to conflicts with her basketball regimen.
“I noticed I had to miss basketball practices in order to go to softball practices, and it you don’t go to softball practice, you don’t play,” she said. “I talked to [coach Davina Hernandez] about it and it was kind of a struggle because they really needed me there. I understood that, definitely, but I didn’t want to let the team down when I couldn’t be there and I didn’t want to put Davina in a tough situation. I decided to put everything into basketball.”
Janette unquestionably would love to make a major statement in her final year on the scholastic scene, but as the Knights’ lone senior, she recognizes the young team will have a big learning curve. Meehan graduated and shooting guard Hartlee Meier (13.1) transferred to Marianapolis Prep.
Whoever shows up, Janette looks at it with characteristic optimism.
“We have two juniors, but after that we have sophomores and freshmen,” she said. “We’ve got some more height with the incoming freshmen so we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, we’ll do well because we have great team chemistry. We hang out together all the time.”
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