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Former Montclair High School standout Emily Hall, who played her college basketball at both LIU-Post and Bloomfield, is now playing professional hoops in the BSNF League in Puerto Rico. (photos courtesy of Emily Hall)
Emily Hall was an instant contributor as a freshman at LIU-Post back in 2007-2008 season after a strong scholastic career at Montclair High School.
Hall's Perseverance Pays Off
There were certainly those moments when basketball could have remained indefinitely in the rear view mirror for Emily Hall; however, the former Montclair High standout had other ideas, and her persistence to get back in the game she loves is paying off in a very nice way at the moment.
The 2007 MHS graduate is currently playing professional women’s basketball in the Balocesto Superior National Femenino (BSNF) League in Puerto Rico where she is a shooting guard with Pollitas De Isabell, a team based about two hours northwest of San Juan.
The 5-foot-8 Hall, who turns 25 in November, is just now ascending the pro hoops ladder with the possibility of turning her strong summer and fall (the BSNF season runs through late October) into a contract overseas, perhaps in Europe or Asia.
Living on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico where she is getting paid to play her favorite sport is a big leap forward for a young lady who just five years ago had left Long Island University-C.W. Post and then took two full years off from hoops in order to concentrate on improving her academics in order to get more comfortably back in the college game, including a solid two seasons spent at nearby Bloomfield College.
While continuing to play the game and also teach the fundamentals of it to youngsters (she was a freshman coach at MHS last winter) the dream of making it to a pro league remained in her heart and mind.
“I have been very persistent and relentless when it comes to working out daily, as much as three times on some days, and I just had a feeling that something would come up,” she said. “This past April I went to the Gamble Showcase in Miami. It lasted three days; all players were able to play three games each and only the best of those teams made it to the all-star game.
“I was selected on one of the all-star teams and I was on a great team comprised of all players I had just met and they helped me a lot. Then, I received a text message from the owner of Pollitas, who I had met at the showcase, and he told me to pack my bags.
“Now I’m here!”
The one area of her game which has helped her impact right away in the BSNF league is her trademark defensive tenacity.
“I have been told by many people – officials, coaches and players – that the BSNF is the toughest league in the Carribean,” she said. “It’s really ‘no blood, no foul.’
“To put it in perspective, it takes four fouls here to get into the bonus. They really let you play here with lots of contact, which I love. I am a very aggressive defender. A lot of women here weren’t ready - and still aren’t - when it comes to my ball pressure. My defense has been lifting me to heights here in spite of some officials not liking Americans; you just play through calls down here, just like at home, and fight for everything.”
Hall was always regarded as one of the top defensive players in the state during her career at Montclair High (she was ranked as the No. 7 defender in the state by The Star-Ledger in their state tournament preview in 2007) where she was a standout for Coach Jerry Citro’s Mounties.
“What don’t I remember from coach Citro?,” she says with a smile. “I will always respect him and never forget him: his intensity, drive and passion for the game. He’s a very emotional man when it comes to basketball and I think some of his values of the game rubbed off on me for sure.”
Coming out of MHS, Hall had a solid freshman season at LIU-Post, a Division 2 school, averaging 7.9 points and two steals per game for a 17-12 squad. However, only a few games into her sophomore season in 2008-2009 she had some academic issues and was ineligible to play. Plus, LIU-Post was beginning to pull back on scholarship money for some of its players.
Hall headed back to Montclair and had to rebuild her life in a very big sense both on and – especially – off the court.
“My sophomore year I ended up getting into some trouble (academically) that forced me to come home and that was probably the lowest point of my life,” she recalled. “I thought I was done with basketball and that I wasn’t going to graduate college.
“I didn’t know what was going to come next.”
Jerry Wimberly, the coach at Bloomfield College at the time, stayed in touch with Hall and he urged the ex-Mountie to persevere with her course work as did another strong supporter at Bloomfield College, Athletic Director Sheila Wooten.
“The AD, Mrs. Wooten, and coach Wimberly took me in and embraced me,” said Hall. “They kept tabs on me, stayed in constant touch and I took two years off from playing so I could get academically in good standing in order to play basketball again.
“That’s the longest that I’ve ever been away from playing ball since I started in the seventh grade.”
Not taking a traditional 4-year approach with smooth sailing in college may have been a blessing in disguise because Hall learned some tough life lessons and worked her way back, sticking to the books, getting the necessary grades and then returned to play two seasons of exemplary basketball for Bloomfield College.
She led the Lady Deacons in scoring her senior season, averaging 12.3 ppg to go along with 2.9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals per contest during the 2011-2012 campaign.
After graduating college with a degree in sociology Hall also kept playing in various women’s leagues and got into coaching, including with the Jersey Knights AAU team and at her high school alma mater where she has had the opportunity to work on Bianca Brown’s staff with the Mounties as a volunteer coach in 2012-2013 and then as a fulltime freshman coach last winter.
She has always had her immediate family behind her, including dad Eddie Hall Jr., a retired Montclair police officer, mom Judith Mayo, who once worked in the front office at The Montclair Times back in the 1980s, and younger brother Aaron Hall.
“I’ve had many off-the-court influences who have been there for me all through this journey, and that’s been a big help,” said Hall.
Pursuing another Bachelor’s degree, this time in Biology, is a possible off-the-court avenue down the line for the former Mountie backcourt standout. She has a natural love of animals ranging from dogs to kangaroos and even considers one day studying to be a veterinarian.
“I know that going to school to become a vet is very difficult, but when you put your mind to something and work at it as hard as you possibly can at it, I also realize there are great possibilities within your grasp,” she said. “Right now I’m pursuing a career in professional basketball, but I certainly realize that one day I’ll have to turn to something else to work at with all my passion.”
This winter, she might be back at MHS, working with the younger Mountie girls hoopsters again, or she could be playing pro ball somewhere else overseas.
Regardless of what ensues, she has valued her association with a number of people in and out of basketball, including Montclair’s Brown, a former college star at Wake Forest who played pro ball in Europe.
“Coach Brown has brought her values and experience to the program, and everyone is better for it,” said Hall. “Over the past two seasons I have learned a lot from her and she is definitely a role model for me. I owe a lot of my on-court growth as a player to her; and coaching has definitely helped me as a player as well.”
The adherence to a solid work ethic that Hall has developed as both a player and person simply continues to motivate her as she has persevered in the game she loves.
“I take some things personally when it comes to basketball because this is what I love and now this is how I make a living. I am still learning to separate emotions and actions on the court, but I know that basketball is bigger than just one person.”
The road has not always been a smooth one, but now the sunny ocean coast of Puerto Rico is prettier than ever and the sun shines bright for a one-time Mountie backcourt ace who now dreams about playing pro ball one day in Australia or in Europe.
She continues to work on her game, including her ball handling and perimeter shot, taking a minimum of 200 shots per day. All the time, she remembers how far the journey has been to get to this point.
“I owe a lot to those who helped me through a very rough patch in my life and I always think that I could have done my college days differently; perhaps a bit more traditional,” she said. “So many ‘what ifs’ come to mind. Then I remember that everything happens for a reason. I was meant to fail, fail and fail some more, and overcome each and every one of those obstacles to make me who I am now.
“I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. With my story and my past I feel I can help children with their progressions. For example, if I went to a D-1 school and graduated in four years - a clean-cut collegiate career – it sounds too simple, too easy.
“Having struggles and overcoming them makes it that much sweeter. I appreciate everything that much more!”
Montclair's Emily Hall has continued to make progress on and off the court