Woonsocket athletes land D-I scholarships

Woonsocket athletes land D-I scholarships

Left, Woonsocket High senior Logan Coles smiles after signing a National Letter of Intent to continue his throwing career at the University of Kentucky last Thursday afternoon inside the Novans’ gymnasium. Center, Woonsocket native Callie Thibault signs her NLI to the College of the Holy Cross during a ceremony last Friday afternoon at Mount Saint Charles Academy. Right, Woonsocket native and St. Raphael Academy senior Amaya Dowdy announced last Friday that she will continue her basketball career at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Coles (Kentucky), Thibault (Holy Cross), Dowdy (UMass-Lowell) sign National Letters of Intent

WOONSOCKET – In a span of 24 hours late last week, three Woonsocket student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent to continue their athletic and academic careers at the Division I level.

An afternoon after Woonsocket High All-American thrower Logan Coles announced his decision to attend the University of Kentucky, Woonsocket native and Mount Saint Charles Academy softball star Callie Thibault officially declared that she will continue her academic and athletic career up Route 146 at the College of the Holy Cross.

At the same time Thibault, who decided to attend Holy Cross prior to last Christmas, was signing the dotted line on her NLI, Woonsocket resident Amaya Dowdy was doing likewise at St. Raphael Academy, as she cemented her commitment to attend the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and take the court for the River Hawks’ women’s basketball team.

Coles’ decision to attend Kentucky drew plenty of interest around the region and outside it, and he kept his plans to attend the Southeastern Conference university under wraps until last Thursday. Coles sat down at a table in a corner of the WHS gymnasium with Villa Novans head coach Marc Piette in front of a small gathering of family members and school administrators, and after giving thanks to his family and Piette, Coles rose from his chair and unzipped his gray sweatshirt to reveal a black Kentucky t-shirt.

Coles, who plans to major in human nutrition and minor in kinesiology or exercise science, picked the school from a Final Four group that also included South Carolina, Penn State, and Southern Illinois University.

“Obviously, I didn’t get to take any visits, so I couldn’t really go out and see what the campus felt like,” Coles said. “But just from talking to the team and the coaches on Zoom calls and FaceTime, I just felt like I would fit in best with Kentucky. I trust Coach (Keith) McBride and he’s a great coach, and I think that the school environment is everything that I need to take myself to where I want to be at.”

“It’s a great decision,” added Piette. “Obviously, we talked about this for months now, and it came down to four good choices. He met on phone calls with all the teams and coaches, and he thought that Kentucky was a great fit. They have a great coach down there; I know him personally, so he’s not going to get any shortage in the coaching department or anything like that.”

Coles is the 16th student-athlete from Woonsocket High since 2014 to receive either a Division I or II scholarship to continue their throwing career. There were some folks who thought he was going to select Penn State because he had been seen at times wearing that school’s apparel for the past couple of years, but in the end, Kentucky won him over.

“Any of my top four schools would have been a great choice,” he added. “They all have great programs, so this was going to be a hard choice regardless. Penn State has been one of my dream schools forever, but so is the University of Kentucky, and I think it just really came down to a conversation I had with my mom and what we thought was best for me.”

Being unable to visit any schools or sit down for any in-person visits with coaching staffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Coles resorted to his share of virtual tours and hours upon hours of research.

“There were countless nights where I was up until 2, 3 or 4 in the morning, just researching and trying to figure out as much as I could about all the schools,” said Coles, who returned to school in September as the country’s 3rd-ranked thrower in the 12-pound hammer with a personal-best throw of 230 feet, 11 inches and 4th-ranked thrower in the 25-pound weight with a PR throw of 77-4.5. “Because of this corona stuff, I couldn’t go out and do what I needed to do, so I had to do a lot of stuff on my own.”

For those who are close to Thibault, it was no secret where she wanted to play softball after her high school career ended. As a freshman, she fell in love with the Worcester college, as she often made the 30-minute trip there with Mount teammate Talia Williams to watch the Crusaders’ softball team in action and check out the campus.

“Once I got older, I started to look into the school more and what they had for academics,” she said. “Once I knew they had biology – they have a beautiful science building – I decided to go for Holy Cross. They were my first offer and I accepted it on the spot because they were my dream school.”

A middle infielder, Thibault’s career began in the Woonsocket Little League, where she helped Esten & Richard win the league championship and played on the WLL’s Major Division all-star team, but she eventually switched to the travel softball circuit and the Rhode Island Thunder’s program. She played for the R.I. Thunder-Gold Wilson team, and this fall, took the field for the Connecticut Eliminators U18-Gold ballclub.

While Thibault’s decision was an easy one, so was Dowdy’s, as she chose the first school to reach out to her and whose head coach, Tom Garrick, is a native of Warwick who went on to play at URI and spend four seasons in the NBA, mostly with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“After these other coaches heard that I accepted (UMass-Lowell’s) offer, they were trying to make me change my mind,” added Dowdy, “but UMass-Lowell was the first school to make me an offer. They really wanted me and they talked to me a lot.”

Last season, the two-time First-Team All-State center averaged 15.5 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, and three steals per game, reached the 1,000-point mark in her career late in the season, and helped the Saints claim the Division I-C regular-season title.

“(UMass-Lowell) is close to home, and I’m just happy everyone can come and see me play,” admitted Dowdy, who decided to commit to UMass-Lowell in June. “I’ve been playing basketball since I was seven, and all the AAU tournaments and all the work I put in finally paid off.”