One in a series of player profiles previewing the City Six college basketball season.
Kate Connolly heard a little about this, how her Drexel coaches would occasionally take a little survey of veteran Dragons starters, asking whom did they like being on the floor with, among their younger teammates.
An answer would frequently come back: Kate Connolly.
Not a bad compliment. The definition of a good teammate. Connolly knew her first couple of seasons were about waiting her turn. Drexel had stars. The Dragons won a lot of basketball games. Last season, the 6-foot-1 forward, a Souderton High graduate, averaged 15 minutes a game, but Connolly could hit all the lines on a stat line, averaging 5.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, plus half a steal a game and a block every third game.
For her junior season, those numbers project out to a bigger role. Not that she’s willing to yell out, “Hey, it’s my time.”
"Some people, you want to use the word humble,'' said former Drexel coach Denise Dillon, now Villanova’s head coach. “With Kate, she can’t even acknowledge she’s talented.”
Let’s try it this way … best in her family?
"I think my brothers would get mad at me if I said that,'' Connolly said. “I want to say ‘me’ just to get them mad. But it might have to be my dad.”
Her bio gives the basics: “father, Jim, played basketball at La Salle from 1976-80 … brothers, Mike and Ryan, played basketball at Kutztown University, while brother, Jim, played at Philadelphia University.”
"Growing up, basketball was always the thing to do in my house,'' Kate said. “We didn’t have an actual basketball court. We had an old backboard and rim. My dad would just hold it up in the basement.”
Dad as a literal basket stanchion. That’s a sturdy start to learning the sport. The older brothers baked in the competitiveness.
"I learned something different from each of them, which was nice,'' Connolly said, pointing out that they played different positions, Jimmy more of a guard, Ryan more of a post player in high school. Learning proper hand placement on the ball from Jimmy, an up-and-under move from Ryan.
"The conversation in the house, it’s always been basketball,'' Kate said. “One of the ways we’d always connect. When we were bored, we would just go find a hoop and shoot, work on little things.”
That’s if they weren’t at a game. It could seem like they were always at a game. Dad grew up on Palestra doubleheaders, so he’d take the kids to the old building, often for the Catholic League finals.
"Traveling up to Bloomsburg, to Goldey-Beacom, West Chester — I can’t remember all the places,'' Kate said of watching her brothers. “It was always just one basketball game after another. My high school game on Friday night, a college game on Saturday.”
Tuesday, her game. Wednesday, their game.
"At home, we’ll watch the NBA a lot,'' Kate said. “The Duke-North Carolina rivalry was always big at my house.”
Pro-Villanova or anti-Villanova?
"We’re pro-Villanova,'' Kate said. “My aunt and uncle went there, all my cousins.”
But the Daskalakis Athletic Center is the center of her basketball universe. Her season got shut down by the pandemic when the Dragons were favored to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. The first games minutes away from starting, Kate and her teammates were already warming up when the whole thing was wiped out.
Now, four seniors are gone from that team.
"There are minutes up for grabs,'' Connolly said. “Everyone’s working hard to gain those minutes.”
She has a new head coach, Amy Mallon, except Mallon was the top assistant under Dillon, so the transition feels smooth, "familiar, but incorporating new things as well,'' Connolly said.
Now that Connolly’s a veteran herself, don’t look for her to start getting cocky. That bit about her teammates liking to be on the court with her? Her coaches did mention it last season, and it was taken in the spirit it was intended.
A nice confidence booster, Connolly said.
"I just try to do whatever I can,'' Connolly said. “The things I can control, I try to control at all times.”