The first of what Daniel Dade hopes is a slew of basketball scholarship offers has arrived, and it comes from a program with a sudden connection to his hometown.
Dade, a sophomore guard from Springfield who played for Pope Francis last season, received a scholarship offer Monday from LIU-Brooklyn. It's a program with a newfound connection to Springfield following its recent hire of former UMass basketball coach Derek Kellogg last week. Kellogg, a Springfield native, attended Cathedral High School, which recently combined with Holyoke Catholic to form Pope Francis.
LIU wasted little time extending an offer to Dade, one of four players from his AAU team, the New England Playaz, to receive an offer from the Blackbirds following a tournament in Dallas.
Dade received word of the scholarship offer -- his first -- while sitting in health class on Monday.
"It's exciting knowing all your hard work is paying off," he said. "It's just hitting me. Like, whoa, I really got an offer my sophomore year. I'm just thankful for everybody that's been around me."
Dade scored 25.2 points per game as a sophomore at Pope Francis, the third-highest per-game mark in all of Western Mass. It was his second -- and final -- season with the program, saying Tuesday he will attend Woodstock Academy next year, joining newly-hired coach Tony Bergeron, who previously coached Springfield Commonwealth Academy.
Dade spoke highly of his two years at Pope Francis, saying he hopes to put the school "back on the map."
"Pope Francis means a lot to me," he said. "I loved it. Everybody there is so nice, they're so supportive. They support me every day. They'll always be there for me."
He was also eager to thank both his parents, as well as the New England Playaz, where he has played AAU the past two seasons. He credited his time playing AAU -- this past weekend's tournament was a part of the "evaluation period" in NCAA men's basketball recruiting, which allows coaches to attend tournaments and recruit athletes -- with helping up his recruiting stock.
Dade did admit it takes some time getting used to the recruiting atmosphere.
"The process is just like, wow," he said. "When you're seeing all these colleges coming and looking at you, it's crazy. They're coming to watch you. Sometimes you get kind of scared, but you have to toughen up and play through."
That his first offer came from Kellogg, a fellow Springfield native, and the LIU program was an added bonus for Dade, who said he didn't previously know LIU was zeroing in on him. Dade said he is friendly with Jaylen Franklin, a Springfield native who played at MacDuffie before committing to UMass as a preferred walk-on while Kellogg was there.
Franklin had mentioned that Kellogg was a fan of Dade's game, Dade said.
Another local product, 2017 Springfield Commonwealth guard Shyheim Hicks, signed a Letter of Intent with LIU as well, committing to the Blackbirds in 2015.
Of course, a commitment is a long way away for Dade, who will travel to Atlanta next weekend for yet another AAU tournament. Even more exposure, whether at the AAU or prep level, will likely follow.
"It’s more motivation to keep working harder and see that it’s working," Dade said. "It’ll definitely push my recruiting stock. I’m just trying to help people out that helped me out today.”