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Carthage’s Saunders signs with Division 1 Albany

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CARTHAGE — Zakiya Saunders turned down more than 20 colleges to sign a letter of intent to play basketball with the Division I University at Albany Monday.

“And I still have some calling,” said the Carthage Central School senior. Two of these schools include University of Delaware and Siena College.

Saunders, known affectionately as “Z” to her teammates, joined the school district last year when her father, Master Sergeant Vincent Saunders, received a permanent change of station to Fort Drum from Fort Lee, Va.

Prior to signing Saunders told the crowded cafeteria, “When I first moved to Carthage I hated it. Until I started playing.”

It was a good thing she did. Saunders helped to carry the Comets to a 16-4 season where theyfell only in the Section 3 Class A semifinals against Jamesville-Dewitt.

Saunders averaged 16.5 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and five steals per game. She was the Frontier League “A” Division Most Valuable Player and was named to the 2012 Timnes All-North first team.

Having played forward for Carthage, she will play either a point guard or guard position with the Great Danes.

“She set the bar extremely high and she’s the easiest athlete I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching,” said Carthage girls basketball coach Randi Smith. “Zakiya will accept nothing but the best and she refuses to lose.”

“On the court I came off as a mean person,” Saunders admitted. But it was her persistence that drove her teammates to do better.

At the signing they demonstrated their appreciation for her and support of her decision by sporting purple T-shirts that read ‘Z-Money No. 33 Team Swag.’

“She came into Carthage and had an impact here and she’ll have an impact at the next level,” Smith said.

According to Smith, Saunders is the second girls basketball player from Carthage to sign with a Division I school. The last was Kelly Roche, who signed with Fordham University in 1988. Coincidentally, Fordham was the first team the Great Danes played this season.

Albany finished 23-9 last year.

Saunders intends to study sports management.

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