Hampden Academy junior guard Bella McLaughlin has verbally committed to attend Providence College on a basketball scholarship.

The 5-foot-7 17-year-old McLaughlin believes the exposure she received from playing for the Maine Firecrackers AAU basketball team in a tournament in Washington, D.C., last summer was instrumental in her opportunity at Providence.

Providence College head coach Jim Crowley isn’t allowed to comment on McLaughlin until she signs a National Letter of Intent her senior year but Hampden Academy coach Nick Winchester said there is no doubt in his mind McLaughlin will be a contributor at Providence.

Hampden Academy junior guard Bella McLaughlin has verbally committed to the Providence College women’s basketball team. Credit: Courtesy of Kelley McLaughlin

“She is driven. She is an elite defender who works as hard on the defensive end as she does on offense. She is a tremendous athlete,” Winchester said.

“She is a strong kid with a real good shot. And she’s smart. She deserves everything she receives.”

McLaughlin went for an unofficial visit to Providence College on Sept. 8 after talking to the coaches and it didn’t take long to accept their scholarship offer.

“The second I stepped on campus, it felt so right. The atmosphere, all the students. I really liked the coaches,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a decision I’m really confident about.”

While on campus she met Emily Archibald, a Providence freshman from Kennebunk who was a former Miss Maine Basketball and the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year.

“She was super sweet. She was very welcoming. She showed me the ropes. I really enjoyed watching her and the team play at The Pit [in Orono],” said McLaughlin, referring to PC’s 66-61 overtime win over UMaine on Nov. 1.

McLaughlin loves playing defense and will be working on her game over the next two seasons in preparation for her transition to college basketball.

“College players are faster and stronger. I want to develop a more consistent shot and refine my skills,” she said.

She is looking forward to going to Providence but she said she intends to stay in the moment.

“I don’t want to rush high school. I love high school and I intend to enjoy these next two years on the court and off the court,” said McLaughlin, who averaged 10 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals in Hampden Academy’s abbreviated 2020-21 season.

Her attending Providence is dependent upon her being accepted into the school and meeting NCAA eligibility requirements.