Signings worth the wait for Cougars hoops duo

Smiling Day: Medgar Evers’ girls basketball stars, left, Alisicia Machado and Mikala Casimir are overjoyed to sign with Gambling and Dowling, respectively.
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The were no more sad faces for Medgar Evers high-school seniors Alisicia Machado and Mikala Casimir — only big, wide smiles.

The stress of the recruiting process was wearing down the girls’ basketball stars during their 6–8 season in league play this season, but they signed on to colleges on May 6, and now things are going smoother, their coach said.

“They’d walk into school all sad, but finally it’s a relief that it is all over,” headman Mike Toro said.

The 6-foot-2 forward Machado is headed to Grambling State University, and Casimir will go to Dowling College.

Machado said the decision means the recruiting burden has been lifted.

“It’s like a weight off my shoulders,” she said. “It was stressful, because I’ve seen a lot of my former teammates get signed and everything. I was wondering when it was going to be me, and today is finally the day.”

Grambling showed interest in Machado mid-season after Toro told the team’s new assistant coach Isayra Diaz about her. Machado checked out the school, met with head coach Nadine Domond, and decided the program was for her.

“It’s a very family-orientated place,” Machado said. “That is what I was looking for when picking and choosing where to go to college.”

Machado worked diligently over the summer with Toro and her New Heights travel team to expand on her offensive game. And she further adjusted to playing top-level competition after transferring from Seward Park — a class-A school — to Class-AA Medgar Evers as a junior. She averaged 13.5 points and eight rebounds this season.

“She has matured a lot,” Toro said. “I’ve seen some of the most maturity come out of her than any of the kids I ever coached.”

Machado also had interest from Long Island University, Stony Brook University, and Rider University.

And Casmir suffered additional anxiety during the year, because she wanted a specific major coupled with her basketball opportunity. Casimir has her heart set on studying chemical engineering and was impressed with how hard Dowling coach Suzi Fregosi worked to make sure the school could provide an equivalent in applied mathematics.

“That meant a lot to me,” Casimir said. “She would research. She would ask the admissions people. She would be annoying. That really showed that she really wanted me to come to the school.”

The Golden Lions are getting a player who averaged 10.1 point per game last season. Toro sees the two as a great match, because the team needs a guard, and Casmir will get to stay close to home at the Long Island school.

“They needed a guard, so it actually worked out really well,” Toro said. “It’s Long Island so she will be at home so she will be at home with mom, and mom will be still be able to watch her.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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