OSWEGO — Channeling her inner-point guard, Mary Culeton seized control of her basketball future while working against pressure over the past year.
The Oswego High School senior verbally committed earlier this month to play NCAA Division III women’s basketball at Fredonia State University next year.
Culeton finalized her collegiate choice after being recruiting by nearly a dozen schools over the last six months since she and Oswego girls varsity basketball coach, Joe Babcock, co-created a prospect profile on the Field Level Recruiting app.
Culeton and the Buccaneers were awaiting word on the potential of a high school basketball season entering the week after the state indefinitely postponed the campaign due to COVID-19 concerns on Dec. 11.
“I have been so excited and when I finally made it official, I had so much relief,” Culeton said. “The stress that came with everything in picking out the right college and I’m just so happy I picked that college.”
Culeton was able to visit the campus in October though parts of the athletic facilities were closed due to COVID-19.
The decision ultimately came down to academic fit for the soon-to-be finance major, who noted Fredonia’s internship program and believes the proximity close to Buffalo and Pittsburgh will help her future career ambitions.
On the court, Culeton aims to contribute to the squad coached by Sarah Cartmill that finished 9-16 overall and 5-13 in the SUNYAC last season.
“I really liked how the campus was and liked the coaches, they were all so sweet, and I talked to one girl on the team that really helped me out answering any of my questions,” Culeton said of her visit.
Culeton trained with Babcock during the past summer and the duo spoke of her collegiate goals and how they would be impacted by a potential lost or delayed scholastic season ahead. Much like her style of defense, they opted to get aggressive and put Culeton’s name out to prospective coaches through the Field Level app.
Culeton used video clips provided by the school to create a highlight package to upload onto Field Level with information about her as a player and student, leaving contact information for both she and Babcock.
Collectively, the pair heard from about a dozen coaches in and around the state that were interested based on the profile.
“I think it was the biggest thing, it helped me so much,” Culeton said. “With everything going on this year, it would have been so hard to find a college and be able to play school ball, and even with not knowing if I’m going to have a season or not, it would have been very hard for coaches to get into contact with me.”
Babcock said that they aimed to showcase her greatest strengths on the highlight film, seeking out clips of her playing strong defense, stealing the ball, leading fast breaks, and handling the ball.
Babcock described his 5-foot-7 guard as a great rebounder for her height and position, a leader and hard worker. She was among the Salt City Athletic Conference leader in total steals last year as a junior while finishing top three on the Buccaneers (8-13 overall) in scoring and rebounding.
Culeton was also showing improved confidence as a shooter headed into her fourth and final varsity campaign, according to Babcock, but her versatility and high motor are what flashed to college coaches that contacted him.
“She’s a very hard worker, loves the game, she’s going to lead and that’s the type of girl you want on your team, I truly believe she’s going to have an outstanding college basketball career,” Babcock said.
He added: “You go from feeling terrible for this student-athlete that might not have any chance to play high school basketball her senior year to now knowing, she’s going to be playing basketball for another four years in college, so I was exceedingly happy, and I’m thrilled that she doesn’t have to end her basketball career the last game of her (high school) junior year.”
Culeton first heard of the Field Level app while playing AAU basketball for Jim Muckey two years prior, but first utilized it to full capabilities this past summer while searching for alternatives as area summer leagues were called off and her club schedule was postponed from spring to summer and drastically reduced.
Culeton played for the Syracuse United AAU team this year, joining several other Section 3 standouts for socially-distanced practices and tournaments, all of which were played out of the state due to coronavirus restrictions. She played for the Port City Blue Wave in past years.
“It was one of the best things, because there’s not much basketball going on with everything so with that, I was so happy to just be able to go to practice with them, and especially playing in games,” Culeton said. “I was very fortunate to have that AAU team.”
Culeton is holding out hope as are many of her peers for a reduced final high school basketball campaign this winter.
She has dealt with multiple delays and cancellations this year as a softball and fall volleyball player while her older sister, Clara Culeton, had her senior seasons in volleyball and basketball called off at SUNY Oneonta.
“I’m always trying to be positive,” Mary Culeton said. “I know this year isn’t the best year and every player is going through it, even my sister, she’s a senior in college and couldn’t play her two sports this year, and everyone is struggling with that right now. I’m hoping we have a season, if we don’t, I’m going to try to find ways to work on basketball, but I really hope we have a season.”