PROVIDENCE — The gangly young girl who was taller than most of her teachers in eighth grade at North Smithfield Middle School signed a pretty important document on Wednesday morning.
Corinne Coia, now a 6-foot-4 senior at The Lincoln School, signed her letter of intent to attend the University of Rhode Island next year on a full basketball scholarship.
“I had three main reasons for choosing Rhode Island,” Coia announced during a short speech at her press conference inside the Boss-McLoughlin Gymnasium. “ I wanted to play for my state school. My family and friends could come and see me play there. And I can play for one of the best coaches in the country (Cathy Inglese).”
Coia’s parents, Jay and Corey, sat beside her at the main table and also penned their names to the letter of intent. Her extended family sat in the audience.
“We’re very happy Corinne came to Lincoln School,” Corey Coia admitted. “She passed 6 feet when she was in eighth grade. She was taller than most of her teachers. We wanted to get her into basketball and other sports and let her develop. Sending her to Lincoln School was the best move we ever made. After one year, she was a whole new person.”
Corinne came to Lincoln School after averaging 12 points and 20 rebounds for North Smithfield in her freshman season. She also played AAU ball with the R.I. Breakers under coach Bill Coughlin, who passed the word to Lincoln School coach Christina Batastini-Sheehan, a former all-stater at Classical who played on a Final Four team in 1997 at Stanford University.
“Corinne had a teammate in AAU who played for Lincoln School,” Jay Coia recalled. “Her father told us about Lincoln School. Christina came to see Corinne play a few times and that’s when we decided to send Corinne to Lincoln School.”
“Christina is really the reason why Corinne developed so well as a basketball player,” Corey Coia added. “If Corinne had a bad game, she would ask Christina what went wrong and Christina would have the answer. The next game, Corinne would score 30 points. Christina is an amazing teacher.”
Batastini-Sheehan, one of the all-time great female basketball players to come out of Rhode Island, has a pretty good idea where Coia will fit in at URI.
“Corinne has real ability as a post player,” the coach said. “She can run the floor and has really good hands. She hasn’t played a whole lot of basketball and hasn’t hit her peak yet. Right now, I see her as a post player in college but if she develops an outside shot, she could play some ‘4’ (small forward).”
Coia, who carries 200 pounds on her 6-4 frame, has the strength to handle playing the low post against Division I athletes.
Batastini-Sheehan commended the URI coaching staff for diligent recruiting of this home-grown talent.
“Cathy Inglese was very involved with Corinne,” she said. “URI was one of the first schools to attend her games. They did an excellent job of selling their program and their school to Corinne.”
Inglese said last month she wants to recruit Rhode Island players and this signing would seem to confirm her words.
“I think Cathy just wants to recruit players,” Batastini-Sheehan said in an honest assessment. “Whether they are from Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Arizona, URI wants to recruit the best players it can.”
Coia certainly fills the bill. She has averaged double figures in both points and rebounds at Lincoln School and is on track to score over 1,000 points and collect over 1,000 rebounds. She averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds per game last year while leading Lincoln School to an undefeated season and the NEPSAC championship. She was the first-team all-star center in the conference.
Coia has also served as the starting goalie on the soccer team at Lincoln School, taking advantage of her height and long arms to lead the SENE in saves per game as a sophomore.
“I want to thank my AAU coach, Bill Coughlin,” Corinne mentioned in her speech. “Attending Lincoln School was one of the most rewarding decisions I have made in my life.”
There’s still one season left in her high school career.
“I want to pass 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds,” she admitted. “I think it’s doable. I definitely want to help our team win another championship.”
To show the impact Coia has made at Lincoln School as a student-athlete, the head master of the school, Julie Eels, opened the press conference with a short introduction.
“This is very exciting for Lincoln School and for the state of Rhode Island,” Eels said, “because it is the first time in recent memory that a girl from Rhode Island has signed with URI. ‘CC’ does a beautiful job at Lincoln School. We like to say ‘CC’ has excelled in the three Cs: Classroom, community and on the basketball court.”