By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara University athletics department had a busy Tuesday, announcing four national letter of intent signings in men's basketball and women's lacrosse.
New basketball coach Chris Casey brought in his first transfer, signing Emile Blackman from Division II LIU Post — Casey's former team. Blackman was recruited by Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rivals Siena, Marist, Manhattan and Fairfield, according to Rivals.com, before committing to Casey at LIU Post.
He was rated a two-star prospect out of Half Hollow Hills West High School in Dix Hills by ESPN, where his scouting report raved about his athleticism and ability to play above the rim. In his first year at LIU Post, the 6-foot-4 guard/forward played sparingly in his first 20 games.
In his last six games, when Blackman averaged just over 26 minutes per game, he averaged 16.8 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the field and almost 58 percent on 3-pointers.
Blackman, who is the nephew of Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, will have to sit out a season per NCAA rules. He's the third player to sign with Casey in the past week, joining New Jersey prep forward Aaron Bodie and Philadelphia high school guard Karonn Davis.
Casey was unavailable to comment as he works to sign players to make up for the departures of Juan'ya Green, Ameen Tanksley and T.J. Cline, who all transfered after the departure of former head coach Joe Mihalich. Green and Tanksley joined Mihalich at Hofstra, while Cline signed with Richmond.
Niagara's women's lacrosse team also announced three signings, highlighted by Niagara-Wheatfield senior Laura Messer. She joins Amanda Yavorek (Canandaigua) and Holly Vulpis (Port Jefferson) as the newest members of first-year coach Wendy Stone's 11-woman class.
Messer is a four-year starter for N-W, a two-time captain and was named second-team All-Western New York as a junior. She plays center for the Falcons, but will move to defense at NU.
"She's one of our senior leaders," N-W coach Kristen McGuinness said. "She's helped carry the team this year and helps keep control of the game. She wins draws and plays both offense and defense.
"Offensively she's strong, but defensively she's pretty relentless," McGuinness continued. "She works pretty hard on defense and has a natural tendency to cause turnovers. ... She's a lefty, but she really has become versatile on both sides of the stick, and that ability to use both hands is very big for her."
Vulpis will also play defense. She comes off of six years playing with the Long Island Yellow Jacket's, Long Island's girl's lacrosse travel program where she served as captain and was named MVP during her junior year.
Yavorek is a goaltender from Canandaigua Academy, where she spent four years playing varsity. She backstopped the team to Section V Class B championships in 2009 and 2011.Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.