Jaywalking: Chmyzinski on the brink of history

  • Turners Falls' Maddy Chmyzinski drives towards the basket guarded by Quaboag's Jillian Routhier during their semi-final game at UMass' Curry Hicks cage Monday, March 6, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Monday, December 11, 2017

It did not take long to figure out how to correctly spell Chmyzinski.

I would be willing to bet that if you looked back at stories written over the winter when Maddy Chmyzinski first started playing basketball as an eighth-grader for the Turners Falls High School girls’ varsity basketball team five years ago, her name was likely spelled several different ways.

Even being a fellow Polack, I remember struggling to correctly spell her last name. I always wanted to put that “y” before the “m.” It’s pronounced ‘chim-zynski,’ and yet that “y” is positioned after the “m” in her last name.

While we at the newspaper eventually figured out the proper spelling, there is someone who will want to ensure that the senior guard’s name is correctly spelled. That would be the person who sews it onto the 1,000-point banner that hangs in the Turners Falls gymnasium. Tonight, weather-permitting, Chmyzinski will likely become the first female to ever score 1,000 points in the history of the Turners Falls girls’ basketball program.

The senior enters tonight’s game against Athol High School needing 13 points to hit the mark. The game begins at 7:30 p.m. and the Turners Falls athletics department sent out a tweet on Monday letting people know that the game was still on. I would check on that again today depending on the snowfall that has been forecast, but hopefully she will get the chance to make history tonight because she is certainly ready.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Chmyzinski said on Sunday. “Being the first girl, I’m nervous, but I’m excited.”

Chmyzinski began playing basketball in fifth grade. Her best friend Kylie Fleming was playing for the Montague Parks & Recreation Department and urged her pal to play.

“I was probably the worst player on the team,” she joked. “But I stuck with it. My dad really liked watching me play.”

By the time Chmyzinski was in eighth grade she began playing AAU basketball for Mass Frenzy, and said that her coach at that time — coach Walter was all she remembered him by — really began helping her hone her basketball potential.

“He pushed me to be the player I am today,” she said. “He taught me a lot and I really kept succeeding.” 

Her sophomore season really was the year that Chmyzinski saw her scoring rise to the next level as she nearly topped 400 points that season. Chmyzinski said that part of what helped her that season was working with former Pioneer Valley Regional School and NBA player Adam Harrington, who gave her several pointers to improve her foul shooting. While she was not sure just how much her free-throw percentage increased, she said it was significant. 

“I enjoy learning new things,” Chmyzinski said. “Adam Harrington really helped with my foul shots. I knew how to shoot them, but I never really shot them well. I probably increased my scoring by five points.”

That is especially important for someone who currently stands at just 5 feet, 5½ inches and likes to drive to the hoop. Chmyzinski routinely finds herself at the foul line, and shooting a high percentage is key to her team’s success.

Turners Falls coach Ted Wilcox said that last season was when Chmyzinski really matured into a well-rounded player. He said that she was always a fearless player who could carry the team on offense, but as she began to develop a sense of knowing when to pass vs. knowing when to shoot, she became all the more lethal.

“When I started playing some of the current seniors as eighth-graders, they could score, but they made a lot of mistakes,” he began. “Then, the next year, Maddy was a freshman and she scored a lot of points, but she took a lot of shots. The next year, again, she took a lot of shots and scored a lot of points, but I saw glimpses of her starting to mature as a player. Instead of just being hell-bent on driving to the basket, she would stop and pop, or pass to the open player. And last year, she did more of that. She got the team even more involved. That’s the progression line and that’s been great to see.”

Chmyzinski agreed that her development has included being aware of what defenses are giving her. She said that when defenses focus on her, she is confident in dishing the ball off, and that in turn has made her more dangerous because defenses are less able to key on her.

“Not all players recognize that,” Wilcox said. “That’s the difference between a person who can score, and a person who can score and also be a team player.”

Chmyzinski’s time with the team has already been historic. When she began playing varsity as an eighth-grader, she played sparingly for a team that went 4-16. She managed to score 68 points that season, including 18 in the season finale, a preview of what was to come for the next four seasons.

The next year saw Turners Falls improve to six wins (although the team had to forfeit three due to an ineligible player) and Chmyzinski scored 168 points. She had the breakout sophomore season where she scored 388 points and helped Turners Falls qualify for the postseason with a 10-10 record, the first time it had qualified for the western Mass. tournament in 21 years. Last season, Chmyzinski again piled up points with 342 and Turners went 15-5 in the regular season. It then defeated Lenox High School, 51-47, in overtime in the WMass Division IV quarterfinals for the team’s first playoff win since the 1993-94 season. Chmyzinski said that among all the accolades she has achieved, getting the chance to play at the Curry Hicks Cage may have been the sweetest.

“When we broke the streak of not going to the Cage and winning a tournament game, that felt so good for me and my teammates,” Chmyzinski said. “We’ve been together for so long and it felt great.”

Who knew five years ago that as Chmyzinski and the rest of that eighth-grade class continued to grow they would be breaking all sorts of records at Turners. First tournament appearance in over two decades? Check. First tournament win and trip to the Cage in over two decades? Check. First-ever female player to eclipse 1,000 points at the school? Get the pen ready for another check mark tonight.

And while you’re at it, get the banner ready to add a new name to the list. And make sure to spell-check that name.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com. Like him on Facebook and leave your feedback at www.facebook.com/jaybutynski.