Lockport native, NCCC product Cierra Harrison going D-1

Photo courtesy NCCC AthleticsLockport native Cierra Harrison, a NCCC sophomore, attempts a free throw during a game this season in Sanborn. Harrison is committed to continue her career at D-1 Detroit Mercy.

Make that four Division I players on last year's Niagara County Community College women's basketball team.

Lockport native Cierra Harrison, who played her high school ball at Cardinal O'Hara, has verbally committed to the University of Detroit Mercy, NCCC coach Nate Beutel said Tuesday.

Harrison joins Newfane native Paige Emborsky (Abilene Christian), Nickelle O'Neil (Saint Peter's) and Aubrey Halloran (Niagara) in going D-1. Molly Mahoney, NCCC's fifth starter, is headed to D-2 Georgian Court.

"Up to this year, Kenetria (Redfern) last year was our only (D-1 player)," Beutel said. "Never in my wildest dreams would I think that we'd be able to send four more the following year. It just shows you how special the last two years have been for our program. The talent, the work ethic, the ability to showcase their talents and have them all earn scholarships while winning 61 games, that's really what junior college is all about."

Harrison, sophomore guard, averaged 15.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in her lone season with NCCC, helping the Thunderwolves to a 30-1 record, the NJCAA Division II Region III title and a spot in the national tournament before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of play this spring.

She started her college career at Monroe CC, a former national power which cancelled its 2019-20 season after its head coach, Tim Parrinello, was placed on leave while facing accusations of financial aid violations. Harrison and O'Neil, an O'Hara teammate, both transferred from MCC to NCCC for the 2019-20 season.

"They won a ton in high school," Beutel said. "But for the two of them in particular, the was an opportunity to kind of come out of the shadows. Maybe they were the second option in high school, but now this was their opportunity to kind of really blossom and showcase what they have."

Harrison, a lanky 5-foot-9, was a Swiss army knife for the Thunderwolves, finishing second on the team in scoring and assists and third in rebounding. She also spent time atop NCCC's devastating press, helping the group average 18.2 steals per game.

She evolved as the season went on, Beutel said, leading NCCC in scoring during conference play.

"She really kind of showcased different ways to score the ball down the stretch," Beutel said. "... In high school she was the kind of kid that sat in the corner and just waited for drive-and-kick 3s, and now she became a kid that could score at multiple levels."

Detroit Mercy went 3-27 last season but brought in a brand new coaching staff. AnnMarie Gilbert took over the Titans as of April 24 after posting a 135-18 record in five seasons at D-2 Virginia Union.

"They're kind of looking to turn the program around with a lot of fresh faces," Beutel said. "I think there'll be ample opportunity for her to go out there and hopefully earn some playing time."

Harrison is the first Lockport native to go D-1 in women's basketball since Emma Sobieraski, who played for Bryant from 2012-16.

Harrison, who Beutel said is verbally committed at this point, did not respond to an interview request.

Recommended for you