Isla Brennan walked into NBS last weekend and there was a calmness surrounding her, I have not seen since she was a 6th grader. She had this big smile on her face. She played so relaxed it was noticeable. She must have had a little secret that she was keeping inside. Yesterday Isla Brennan, gave U of Sciences in Philadelphia a verbal commitment.
Isla Brennan watched her dad win a state title at Middletown South when she was a 8th grader ( http://nothingbutskills.com/its-1979-all-over-again-middletown-south-are-champs/). It was a great moment in Middletown South basketball and she had a front row seat. So when she joined her father the next year, it was no surprise. She was a gifted player with a typical coaches daughter IQ. Isla Brennan had a banner freshman year. She showed that she was a special talent. She averaged 8 points and 3 assists a night. The team went 25-4 and 12-0 in the conference. She was considered on the best babies in the Shore Conference. Isla Brennan, was living a dream and life was about as good as it could be on and off the court.
They say when it rains it pours and Isla Brennan over the years has seen has seen the biggest of storms. Like when Stephanie Karcz’s aunt died unexpectedly, it was a real shock to the Middletown South family. But when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, things real got shaky at Middletown South. This was personal for the Brennan family and Isla. It had to be a shock to their system. The Karcz’s are like family to the Brennan’s and the impact on Isla and her young teammates were felt all season. Isla Brennan, was forced to grow up and deal with not just basketball but life as well. It was a year that some how was filled with wins and sadness. But if Isla Brennan thought the tough times were behind her….she had no idea!
If you wonder why Isla Brennan, just may be the happiest player in New Jersey today. It’s not just because she gave a verbal to U of SCIENCE’S OF PHILADELPHIA. It may be because her father was there to share in this moment. It’s no surprise that she will be going to college on a free education. That was decided years ago, but having her father there to share in such a big moment is a blessing. She has watched her dad survive triple by pass surgery and be forced to step away from coaching.(https://www.app.com/story/sports/high-school/basketball/2016/01/08/middletown-south-coach-survives-health-scare-shore-support/78417220/) It was a time that saw the entire community come together and show how much coaches, fans and players truly love her father. He is not just one of the best coaches in the state. But one of the most well liked as well. Yet to Isla, Tom Brennan is a dad first. There relationship, is so different than most coach/daughter relationships. It’s one that is built on trust and true respect for each other. The only way to explain it, is for you to watch them interact with each other. They talk and have real dialogue. No yelling or dictatorship that often fills father/daughter, coach, player relationships. There relationship that goes way beyond basketball. I think in some small way, they both feel blessed.
Last year, Isla Brennan had back issues that really put her basketball season in a hole. It was tough on her, her teammates and her dad’s return. It was not easy, not being 100%, when your team needs you and they play the type of schedule Middletown South plays. In all the years of watching Tom Brennan’s teams, one thing was always clear. His teams always get better during the season. It’s almost like clock work. Middletown South, if there not known for anything, it’s that they always over achieve and play defense. Isla Brennan, was in and out of the lineup all season. Tom Brennan, would never admit this, but he knows that’s the reason his team had a disappointing season by Middletown South’s standards. It was because his daughter was injured. They was no big wins over a RFH team with 8 Division 1 players, no wins over a RBC with 9 D1 players. It was season of disappointment and ISLA BRENNAN health was the main reason why. But it’s strange, this spring and summer. Just about every Middletown South player has re-dedicated themselves to basketball and getting better….and I think I know why.
This off season something happen to Isla Brennan. She started showing up for after school workouts. She did this with her shins hurting most days, yet refused to stop. I was amazed by her commitment. But what was even more shocking was her attitude. She seemed to live on every word of advice or detail. She wanted to become not just a good player, but the best. It was strange telling to sit down or take a break. She keep saying something over and over...”I DON’T WANT TO FALL BEHIND” she said it was such passion, you knew that Isla was on a mission….and that’s exactly what she did, stay on a mission. This season, Middletown South is going to be back in the Top 20 and are going to be a serious contender….Isla Brennan is going to be the biggest reason why.
I told Isla Brennan, I felt she need to play against better AAU competition. I told her that she and her teammates, were not prepared to play against top competition, not because they were not talented enough. But because they simply had not seen enough elite players at one time on the floor. Isla Brennan embraced this and decided that she had something to prove. It’s why she joined Mary Beth Chambers Jersey Shore Elite team. It was a step up in competition, she had all the pressure on her that comes with playing in front of tons of coaches. This was all new to her. Yet she wanted all this and the pressure, she responded in the right way and has not looked back. I spoke to Coach Hartzel at U of Science’s about Isla this summer. She expressed how much Isla, would mean to her program. I told her I thought she would most likely end up at a D1 school. But Coach Hartzel wasn’t listening, she felt she had something Isla wanted…and guess what? I knew she was right on July 31, because I asked Isla Brennan about a few D1 schools that day. She said and I quote… “I REALLY LOVE SCIENCE’S, IT HAS EVERYTHING I WANT IN A SCHOOL” … That’s why ISLA BRENNAN is the most relaxed player I know these days. She has everything she wants, her Dad, Family, Friends, Teammates …and a free education. ..CONGRATS ISLA YOU HAVE EARNED IT…