St. Joseph standout hoopster Spinelli picks Frostburg State

Sunday, August 20, 2023 | 5:06 PM

Julie Spinelli has one more high school basketball season remaining at St. Joseph, and she has set expectations high herself and her team, which returns every player from last year’s WPIAL Class A semifinalist.

She also has her eyes focused on her future beyond high school as she now knows where she will call home starting next year.

The reigning Valley News Dispatch Girls Basketball Player of the Year verbally committed to continue her athletic and academic pursuits at Division II Frostburg State in Maryland.

“I am definitely relieved and happy to have this decision behind me,” Spinelli said. “The process was a little crazy with all the things you have to look at and all of the important decisions, but at the same time, it also was a lot of fun.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in college. I didn’t care what level, but the dream has come true and I am so excited.”

Spinelli made the verbal commitment a week ago and made the decision public through Twitter on Thursday where she thanked God, her family, her coaches and all of her teammates, both in AAU and at St. Joseph, for the support through her seasons of play and during the recruiting process.

Frostburg and Spinelli connected initially in April as the Bobcats coaches saw her play with Slaam Basketball at an AAU tip-off tournament.

The relationship flourished from there, and Spinelli made a visit to the campus. The offer from Frostburg came in May, and she mulled it over along with other Division II offers from Pennsylvania’s Kutztown, Shippensburg and Pitt-Johnstown as well as one from Ohio’s Notre Dame College.

“The coaches were so nice and welcoming, and they made me feel like such a priority,” Spinelli said. “I really enjoyed walking on campus and seeing everything they had to offer. I could see that it was where I belonged.”

Spinelli said the program, led by second-year coach Jenna Eckleberry, is on the rise. The Bobcats were 9-21 last season, capping their campaign in the Mountain East Conference tournament with the program’s first MEC tournament win.

Coach Eckleberry is familiar with the Pittsburgh area as she played her first season at Robert Morris before transferring to Fairmont State for her final three.

As a sophomore, she led Fairmont to its first NCAA postseason appearance, and she hopes to bring similar success to Frostburg. Spinelli hopes to be a key part of the Bobcats’ future expectations and goals.

“The program is still in kind of a rebuilding stage. She has eight freshmen coming in for this season,” Spinelli said.

“There are a few others like me coming in next year. Coach (Eckleberry) has a lot of energy and has really been looking to start fresh with the program. The program has a bright future, and I am really excited to be a part of it.”

Spinelli enjoyed another standout season for the Spartans in 2022-23. She helped lead St. Joseph to 20 wins (20-7) and its second straight WPIAL semifinal appearance before a tough loss to eventual WPIAL and PIAA champion Union at North Allegheny.

During that game with the Scotties, Spinelli scored her 1,000th varsity point.

She finished the season averaging an Alle-Kiski Valley-best 18.9 points and added 9.7 rebounds and 4.7 steals per contest.

The Spartans hope to take that next step and shoot for a WPIAL title under new coach Geoff Dutelle.

“Things have been going well,” Spinelli said. “We just finished our summer league, and with the open gyms, we made a lot of progress. I am super excited to see what we can do this season.”

Dutelle said he’s excited for Spinelli’s short-term and long-term future in the sport.

“I am thrilled for her,” Dutelle said. “I’ve only known her a few months, but I was able to quickly see how grateful she is for all of her opportunities in basketball. Every coach she talked to and every place she visited there was genuine interest.

“I know coming down to the final decision wasn’t easy for her. Everybody knows that she puts in the time, and she reaps the rewards. She had a busy AAU schedule this summer, but she came to as much (high school team) stuff as she could. She is highly committed to the process.”

Between AAU games and basketball workouts, Spinelli, who also plays volleyball in the fall and softball in the spring, had a busy summer.

That work also featured preparation for the volleyball season. She and her Spartans teammates kick off their season Aug. 30 at Allderdice.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at


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