COVID recruiting struggles don't stop Indians' Hoyt

Ryan Ames | The Daily StarStamford’s Melanie Hoyt takes the ball to the basket during a Section IV Class D girls basketball semifinal against Cherry Valley-Springfield on March 4, 2020, at SUNY Oneonta’s Dewar Arena.

Stamford’s Melanie Hoyt has overcome COVID-related recruiting challenges to commit to Saint Anselm College.

Hoyt will attend Saint Anselm College — a small private Division II school in New Hampshire with an undergraduate attendance of 2,016 — and play for the women’s basketball team.

“Because of COVID-19 our AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) season kind of really wasn’t a thing until early September, late August …. and your junior year, that’s kind of like the recruiting season, so it kind of became a little difficult,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt played AAU in Albany for the New York Havoc, where she earned scholarship offers from Saint Anselm and Division II Mercy College.

But she said she didn’t have an initial attraction to either school because she was unable to make in-person visits, or meet the players on each team.

Even after visiting both campuses, Hoyt hadn’t made a decision.

“I still wasn’t really sure,” Hoyt said. “I kind of was waiting for that like, ‘OK this is it,’ that moment.”

Hoyt said she gained clarity after Saint Anselm coaches set up a FaceTime with the team. She added that it was important to her that she meshed with the team’s current players and enjoyed being able to talk with them.

“Right after the call I was like, ‘oh my gosh, this is it,’” Hoyt said.

Three weeks later, Hoyt signed her national letter of intent, joining a Saint Anselm team that went 21-7 in the 2019-20 season and was scheduled to face LeMoyne in the NCAA Division II East Region Championship before it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Hoyt, committing to Saint Anselm was the culmination of a family affair years in the making.

“I definitely grew up in that atmosphere of basketball, basketball, basketball,” Hoyt said.

“Plus ya know, being 6-foot-2, it definitely helps,” she added jokingly.

In her junior year at Stamford, Hoyt averaged 20.7 points and 13.7 rebounds per game, earning Class D First Team honors on the New York State Sportswriters Association All-State Team. She recorded double-doubles in all but one of Stamford’s 23 games, earning All-Delaware League First Team and The Daily Star all-area team honors while leading the Indians to the Section IV Class D final.

“When we had high school basketball, there was always that section that was just my family. There was kind of like a designated section, like this huge section of just my aunts, my uncles, my grandparents. ... They’re definitely very supportive,” Hoyt said.

This year, the pandemic canceled Hoyt’s senior season, along with thousands of other high school athletes.

Hoyt said she was looking forward to the year, but tried to be realistic and not get her expectations of having a season up.

“I was kind of in the range of getting my 2,000 points and progressing that school record that I had passed last year, so it’s just a lot of ‘what ifs’ that makes it even more difficult,” she added.

In addition to being a three-sport varsity athlete, Hoyt served as class president all four years of high school, is a varsity club officer, a National Honor Society member and member of the color guard.

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