Amy Mallon received two calls when she took over as coach of the Drexel women’s basketball team in 2020.
They came from guards Keishana Washington and Hannah Nihill. The duo already knew Mallon well, since she has been with the Dragons for 16 years as an assistant and associate head coach before taking over the top job.
“They both immediately called me when I took over the head coach position and said, ‘Amy, whatever you need us to do, we’re there,’” Mallon said. “And I thought that alone told me they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get this team to win.”
Mallon is a mentor to Washington and Nihill. She was involved in the recruiting process of both players, watching Nihill play on the Philadelphia Comets AAU team and seeing Washington come over from Whitby, Ontario.
Washington, a senior, and Nihill, a fifth-year senior, are in their fourth year playing together. Washington, who was named the Colonial Athletic Association player of the week on Monday, leads the Dragons in scoring (17.9 points per game) and has a team-best 25 three-pointers. Nihill, a Cardinal O’Hara graduate and the reigning CAA defensive player of the year, leads Drexel in minutes per game (35.8) and assists (5.0), and averages 12.3 points.
“They’re connected, they played together for so long now,” Mallon said. “When you know your team is connected, that’s going to help them down the line.”
With Washington and Nihill leading the way, Drexel (14-2) is on an 11-game winning streak and has taken over sole possession of first place in the CAA with a 6-0 record.
“What we both bring is important, like she is very good on the defensive end so I trust that if she gets a steal, then I’m taking off and she knows once she gets that steal, I’m gone,” Washington said. “That trust, that connection, knowing each other’s strengths and just building that bond over the years is the key to our success.”
But that chemistry wasn’t there in the beginning, according to Washington.
“Honestly, I did not envision this success when we first met,” Washington said. “Over the years I think that’s grown. I also think that’s us maturing as players and as people. Kind of realizing what both of our strengths are and how we could use our strength to work to our advantage”
Washington and Nihill complement each other’s game.
“Hannah is a relentless defender,” Mallon said. “Keishana has a little bit of a smoother style. She’s more like the quiet process on the floor, but she’s also going to compete to win.”
Their growth on the court can be partly credited to competition in practice.
“At first when they were guarding each other, I didn’t know how much they liked it,” Mallon said. “But late last year they realized that they made each other much better. Now they realize that this is a good thing for their development.”
Their battles in practice can get “pretty intense,” according to Mallon.
“Sometimes I have to put them on the same team because they battle, and I think that’s for the respect of one another,” Mallon said. “I think having a backcourt like that, that works hard every day, you have everyone else now following their footsteps and saying, ‘Hey, this is what we need to do to be successful.’”
Drexel will try to extend its winning streak to 12 on Friday at Elon (10-5, 2-3). The Dragons are going into the game with the same message they bring into every other.
“We have a hashtag ‘no doubt’ when we step onto the floor,” Mallon said. “We are prepared to handle anything we may face.”