Hewitt: Maddy Siegrist Poised to Lead WBB to March and Beyond


Graydon Paul

Maddy Siegrist goes in for a layup. Siegrist broke the all-time Big East record with 50 points against Seton Hall on Saturday.

Owen Hewitt, Co-Sports Editor

Shelly Pennefather was the best basketball player that Villanova had ever seen. She scored 2,408 total points, averaging 20.6 points and 10 rebounds per game over her four seasons as a Wildcat.  

But, Pennefather never got to play on a larger American stage like the NCAA Tournament. Such a stage simply didn’t exist. When Pennefather graduated from Villanova in 1987, women’s basketball in the states was still very much in its infancy. The WNBA was not established until a decade later, in 1997. No other stateside league has ever made it more than five seasons before folding. So, Pennefather went to play in Japan and eventually became a cloistered nun in the Order of Saint Clare.

Pennefather is the past of Villanova basketball. A past that is certainly worth celebrating, but she is not the present. The present of Villanova basketball belongs to senior forward Maddy Siegrist. This is not a revolutionary statement by any means. Anyone who has been paying any semblance of attention over the past four years would agree, especially after her 50-point record-breaking performance vs. Seton Hall this past Saturday.

But, what Maddy Siegrist is going to have the opportunity to do in the future, both near and distant, is what will be essential to Villanova’s program.  

Let’s start with the immediate future. Siegrist will follow up a 50-point performance this Saturday, a first for all of Villanova basketball, by playing against St. John’s. Then, the ‘Cats will have their shot at No. 6 UConn. Siegrist will lead the squad into a contest against what seems like the Big East’s Goliath.  

The thing is, Villanova, thanks in no small part to Siegrist, doesn’t feel like David anymore. The ‘Cats are ranked No. 14 in the nation, just eight spots behind the Huskies. The ‘Cats brought down the Huskies in Hartford, just last season, and have an opportunity to take them down again, this time at home in front of a sold-out crowd at the Finneran Pavilion for a share of the Big East regular season title. The ‘Cats haven’t claimed the Big East title, outright or a share, since Pennefather’s senior season in 1986-87. The importance of that game can’t be understated. 

Looking ahead at the next 30 days, Siegrist will have a chance to cement her legacy even further as the greatest basketball player in Villanova history. She will compete at the Big East tournament and look to claim the ‘Cats’ first postseason title since 2003. If the ‘Cats can keep their current pace, they will in all likelihood host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, creating a clear path for the ‘Cats to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Playing on the second weekend of the tournament is also something they haven’t done since 2003, when they reached the Elite Eight as a two seed.  

Siegrist’s opportunity to star in both tournaments will affect the more distant future, as her WNBA draft stock will rise even higher as she plays in more high-profile games. ESPN’s WNBA mock draft has Siegrist as the 11th pick. That mock was published on February 8th, before Siegrist’s 50-point performance. If Siegrist continues her current form, she could have the opportunity to be a high-profile rookie for a WNBA squad.  

Siegrist has the potential to become a star at the professional level in the U.S., an opportunity that Pennefather was not afforded. That’s exactly the reason that Siegrist’s future is so exciting. She has the potential to become the first WNBA star from Villanova, just as the womens’ game is becoming more and more high profile.  

Siegrist, already the face of Villanova basketball, has the chance to become the face of a WNBA franchise. First, with any luck, she’ll lead a deep tournament run for the ‘Cats.