NF native, O'Hara junior Amelia Strong to play D-1 for LIU

James Neiss/staff photographerIn this Jan. 9 file photo, Niagara Falls native Amelia Strong, a junior at Cardinal O'Hara, attempts to save the ball from going out of bounds during a home game against St. Mary's in Tonawanda.

For the first time in over a decade, the Cataract City has produced a Division I women's basketball player.

Amelia Strong, who started her high school career at Niagara Falls before moving to Cardinal O'Hara, announced her commitment to Long Island University on Friday.

As a current junior, Strong won't join the Sharks until 2021-22. When she does, she'll be the first Niagara Falls native to play D-1 women's basketball since Destiny Harrison, a member of the NFHS Class of '07 who played at Robert Morris.

"I am happy to set that standard," Strong said during a Saturday phone call. "People in Niagara Falls, there's support but not like a lot of support. I'm happy to be that ... role model for other girls who want to go to that level."

The 6-foot-2 Strong anchored the Hawks to the Catholic High School Athletic Association Class B semifinals in 2018-19, and they were primed to make another run this year.

She averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds for a team that was 21-4 when the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of the winter championships.

Strong was named second team All-Western New York and first team GNN Sports All-Area. Next season, she's got her sights set higher.

"The top goal is to get better at my game," Strong said of her final year of high school. "While I'm already committed to just get better, I want Player of the Year, first team (All-WNY).

"As for our team, we really want to go back down to (New York City for the CHSAA tourney) since we didn't have the chance this year."

Strong also held an offer from Niagara University, where she could have joined fellow O'Hara products Angel and Aaliyah Parker, the sisters who are currently attending (Angel) and committed to (Aaliyah) the Purple Eagles.

She said she chose LIU because she connected with the coaching staff and loved the academic opportunities.

"They see me as a leader and that was one of the big points. You could see they have a real good connection and they treat their players like family," Strong said. "And the campus, I'll be studying psychology, and their classes are not full. It's really almost one-on-one with the teachers."

Strong is thankful for her start in the Cataract City, but she credits the move to O'Hara, a perennial WNY power, with allowing her to break through to the D-1 level.

"It gave me more exposure," Strong said. "... The things I was getting at Niagara Falls High School did help me but it didn't take my game to the next level. I wasn't really playing competition against people who were going D-1 already. I wasn't really getting competition that was going to make me a better player."

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