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Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist was no freshman fluke. The Wildcats expect even better. | City 6 profile

Siegrist was the Big East rookie of the year. Her new coach, Denise Dillon, expects her to take her game to the next level.

Maddy Siegrist was the Big East rookie of the year.
Maddy Siegrist was the Big East rookie of the year.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

One in a series of player profiles previewing the 2020-21 City Six college basketball season.

Maddy Siegrist can hear it still, the big recruiting pitch from former Villanova coach Harry Perretta.

“Villanova was my last offer, September of my senior year,” Siegrist said. “Harry told me I wouldn’t play until my redshirt junior year. Every other coach, they told you exactly what you wanted to hear. He was like, ‘Yeah, you’re a little skinny, your shot’s not good enough.’ “

So she committed to Villanova. No sweet-talking required.

“He came to a game my senior year; I had a good game,” Siegrist said. “He was like, ‘You know what, you might actually play earlier than I thought.’ "

Siegrist did, in fact, sit out her first year. She broke her ankle in the preseason, and by the time she could have been back, a collective decision was made for her to sit. She did get on the court last season, ahead of Perretta’s initial prediction.

Her performance? How’s Big East rookie of the year sound? Siegrist, a 6-foot-1 forward, jumped to the head of the class, leading Villanova with 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds a game, sending Perretta to retirement with a better-than-expected 18-13 final tally.

“She’s a gym rat -- she loves the game, she loves talking about the game, even about pro games, certain players,” said new Villanova coach Denise Dillon, familiar with Siegrist’s game from her former seat on Drexel’s bench. “I have always said, players who want to try what they view in other games -- that takes players to another level.”

What’s the next level?

“The conversations we’ve had, ‘You’re not a secret anymore,’ " Dillon said. “Everyone knows what you’re capable of.”

Also part of the conversation …

“Defense is something, her understanding, her speed and her length allows her to be a predominant defender,” Dillon said.

Other than all that praise from the head coach, why did Siegrist choose Villanova? She saw the fit, liked the team when she visited. She thought it was the highest level program that had gone after her.

“Villanova was a risk,” Siegrist said. “It was a much riskier situation. But if anything happened” -- if she really wasn’t good enough to play on the Main Line -- “I wouldn’t have regretted it. I thought the Big East was the highest level I could play and still impact the game.”

Siegrist had expert help in her decision-making. Her father George had played at Marist and been a Marist assistant men’s coach under Dave Magarity. Didn’t hurt her knowledge base either.

“In skill groups, you see her recognize double-teams, she’s a strong passer,” Dillon said. “She moves so well.”

A goal this season: To be better off the dribble.

So who and what does she watch? NBA, check. WNBA check. How LeBron James could dominate a game without taking all the shots. How Breanna Stewart operates. What Oregon was doing as a team. What her own team was doing.

“I watched all our games from last year, probably too many times,” Siegrist said of life during the pandemic. “The worst part, I know how they end.”

With Connecticut back in the Big East, Siegrist watched a lot of the Huskies, too. She expects Villanova will run more under Dillon, letting the defense create some offense. She’s working on establishing better defensive position so she doesn’t foul.

One thing she already established, a comfort level talking with her coaches. She could give it back to Perretta a little bit.

“Does it drive you crazy that I created an offense so complex that you guys score every time?” Perretta joked to her one time.

“Does it drive you crazy that I don’t understand it but I’m able to score off it?” Siegrist remembers saying back to him.

Yeah, she picked the right spot. No risk at all, it turned out. A year ago, she was getting ready to play her first college game. Now, she’s a captain. Rookie to veteran.

“So weird,” Siegrist said. “I’m, like, one of those with the most game experience. That’s a position I didn’t really think I’d be in now, but I’m grateful for the opportunity.”