Editor’s Note: The article below was originally published on Philly.com by Kate Harman, For The Inquirer.
Maggie Lucas leaped to her feet as the tenor of the game changed. She said “Let’s go,” clenched her fists, and followed with three forceful claps.
The Germantown Academy girls’ basketball team was within three points.
It was the type of enthusiasm and intensity one has come to expect from Lucas, in her first year as an assistant for the Patriots.
It’s the type of demeanor people first became familiar with when Lucas was herself playing for GA, netting 2,197 points from 2006 to 2010.
It is the same competitive spirit that Lucas took with her to Penn State, where she became the only player in school history to record 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, and 200 steals.
It’s the same body language Lucas has displayed for the last two seasons as a member of the Indiana Fever. She helped them to the WNBA Finals last season.
But it isn’t just the fist pumps and the claps, or the patented step-back three pointers that Lucas has made look so easy, that define her.
It’s the prominent smile, the one that lets you know that despite how hard she is working she is enjoying herself just as much.
“I’m just grateful that she has found this little pocket of time in her life to come back and share who she is,” GA coach Sherri Retif said. “Maggie is just an incredible person. She’s very compassionate. She’s very authentic. She’s genuine. She’s not just Maggie Lucas the basketball player.”
So how did the McDonald’s and Parade Magazine all-American, whose No. 33 is the only jersey hanging up in the GA gym, end up on the sideline, alongside her mentor?
Retif casually brought it up one night to Lucas’ parents, Betsy and Al. Later, Maggie texted Retif something along the lines of, “If you need any help, I’d be happy to.”
Retif’s response was, “Great, you can be an assistant.”
The 24-year-old sure wasn’t expecting that answer, but she wasn’t that surprised.
The conversation occurred in August and the team found out just before the season started that Lucas – whom Retif refers to as “legendary” – would be a part of the staff.
“It is the culture of GA basketball – all of these great, great players that played before us,” senior Erin Lindahl said. “For freshmen coming in, it is always exciting knowing one day you could maybe fill their shoes.”
During Lucas’ time at GA, the Patriots won four straight Inter-Ac championships and captured two Independent Schools state titles while compiling a 112-15 overall record.
Her success continued with the Nittany Lions. Lucas led Penn State to three straight Big Ten titles, scoring 2,510 career points – including 365 threes. She also had the distinction of being a two-time Big Ten player of the year and a finalist for the Wade Trophy her junior and senior seasons.
“I’m not the kind of player that is a freak athlete by any means,” Lucas said. “I put the time in at the gym. I work on my skills. I think that is something I can pass on to them.”
So she had the numbers – and immense success – but there was still the first day of practice.
How would it all translate to coaching, teaching?
“I’m surprised how invested I got pretty quickly. How competitive it made me from a coaching standpoint right away,” Lucas said. “It was similar to being a player – you invest time and energy in and want to see great results. It is fun. It is a way for me to stay competitive while I’m taking this break. I really like it.”
The players didn’t know what to expect. Retif heard as much from their parents; and then there was the whispering.
It’s Maggie Lucas.
“She comes in and is one of the most excited people every day and she isn’t even a player,” Lindahl said. “That’s pretty cool.”
“She’s always pumping us up and getting us hyped,” the guard added. “Her energy level is through the roof – it’s amazing. We feed off of that.”
It was noon on Christmas Eve and Lucas was in the Patriots’ gym. She had already worked out earlier in the day and drove the 35 minutes from her home in Narberth.
When she got to campus she called security to let her in. They still remember her.
Lucas was all alone: just her and basketball. But you could still hear it in her voice. She’s was having fun.
View the original article published on Philly.com by Kate Harman, For The Inquirer.