A Local Superstar Comes Back Home — To Play for the Other Team

The crowd in East Hartford, Connecticut was stunned into silence. The 8,500 people in Gampel Pavilion weren’t accustomed to seeing their team lose on its home floor. With zeroes on the clock, the scoreboard read:

Villanova 72, UConn 69

Even in a down year for the Huskies, they weren’t supposed to lose to a conference team at home. UConn hadn’t lost a league game since 2013. Coming into the Villanova game on Feb. 9 of this year, the Huskies had played 169 games without losing to a conference foe.

One of the Villanova players felt right at home against the blue-chip pedigree that UConn always offers. A six-foot-one forward who came into the game averaging 25.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest.

She flashed the ability to score at all levels, playing in the paint and on the perimeter and drawing at least one defender wherever she went.

In this game, she couldn’t quite put up her usual scoring numbers, but her 17-point, 12-rebound double-double played a critical role in getting her team over the finish line.

Her name is Maddy Siegrist and she’s coming back home to Poughkeepsie, New York to play against her hometown school on November 7.

Being a legacy student won’t really help you at Marist. But at some schools, your last name can be the difference between an admission and a rejection letter. With plenty of scholarship offers on the table, Maddy didn’t exactly need an extra edge to go to college. That said, she would have been a second-generation Red Fox.

Her father, George, a 6-foot-6 forward who graduated from Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park, was a member of the men’s basketball team from 1987-91, playing his freshman year alongside a 7-foot-4 senior named Rik Smits, who was fresh off two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with Marist.

George was unlucky to spend his first two seasons as part of the teams that were banned from postseason play because of NCAA violations that occurred under former coaches Mike Perry and Matt Furjanic.

His best season was his junior year, when he played in all 28 of Marist’s games and averaged 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per contest.

After he graduated, George eventually moved onto Dave Magarity’s coaching staff as an assistant, where he remained until the spring of 2004.

It was during his early days on the coaching staff that he met his now-wife Virginia, who went to Marist to study psychology and was a member of the cheerleading team. 

The marriage brought four children — Maddy, the eldest, followed by George III, Caroline, and Patrick— in a span of six years, which ensured a competitive environment for the many pick-up games the siblings played in the family driveway.

“My brother George and I are a little over a year apart,” Maddy said. “We competed at everything and anything. I think it drove my parents crazy, but we were always pushing each other. I was taller than him until the eighth grade, and then he shot up and those one-on-one games in the driveway really picked up.”

The younger George was no slouch himself, growing to six-foot-four and playing high school basketball before joining his sister in Philadelphia by attending the University of Pennsylvania.

One trait that all hyper-competitive people share is that they hate to lose. Sometimes, that still shows at the highest levels of sport, but Maddy credits her mother with helping her learn to put her emotions in check from a young age.

“My mom was a cheerleader, not a basketball player,” Maddy said. “So she always emphasized being a good teammate. When I was a lot younger, like in second or third grade, I used to cry after every game we lost. And my mom was like, ‘if you keep crying after you lose, you’re not going to play.’ She also told me those backyard games weren’t world championships and she always helped keep me grounded.”

For Maddy, it didn’t all come naturally. Yes, she had the height but the skills needed to be developed. She was actually dropped to the “B-team” in seventh grade when she was playing CYO. Still, the dream of playing in college remained. She just had to work at it.

Good thing there was a former Division I player in the immediate family. 

“My dad and his basketball knowledge has helped me so much,” Maddy said. “He knew I was going to be tall but he also wanted me to develop guard skills. He always made sure I was working on my shooting and my dribbling just so I could be more versatile… It didn’t click at first but he always gave me the confidence that it was going to be alright.”

The Siegrist patriarch just wanted to make sure he instilled good, solid values in all of his children.

“We just wanted all of our kids to be part of a team sport,” the older George said. “We thought it was important they be involved in a team and for them, growing up in a sports-oriented family, it was a great way to experience all the hard work that goes into being successful. We’re happy with them being involved in team sports because they developed a team mindset and great work ethic.”

During her four years at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie, things began to click for Maddy.

“She came in and started as a freshman but she was still pretty green,” Lourdes coach Al Viani said. “But she got better, exponentially better, every year. You usually don’t see that but Maddy always worked hard at practice. She wanted to win every drill.”

If the name Viani sounds familiar, that may be because his daughter Julianne played at Marist for three seasons from 2005-08 and was a member of the team that made the Sweet 16 in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Another of Viani’s daughters, Jenna, played at Villanova.

They also played high school basketball at Lourdes, where they were coached by Brian Giorgis.

Giorgis left Lourdes to take the Marist job ahead of the 2002-03 season and set about building Marist women’s basketball into one of the best mid-majors in the country. Maddy remembers what it was like to grow up around the program.

“Watching Rachele Fitz was like a wow moment for me,” Maddy said. “I wanted to be just like her and I remember that my coach told me to watch her since we were the same position. I was mesmerized.”

Since Maddy grew up attending games and summer camps at Marist, it was only fitting that she received her first Division I recruiting letter from her hometown school which followed that up with a scholarship offer during her junior year.

“I still remember getting that letter and how excited I was,” Maddy said. “Marist was great. I love coach Giorgis, I love everything about it. For me, it came down to whether I wanted to stay here or pursue opportunities somewhere else.” 

Marist was not the only school interested in Maddy as her numbers and accolades began to pile up by her all-important junior year. After being an all-Section 1 player the previous season, Siegrist’s numbers vaulted up to 21 points and 12 rebounds per game which resulted in her being named the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Player of the Year.

By this time, the recruiting process had really picked up. Maddy wanted to remain in the Northeast so her parents could watch her play in person. The question she faced was, “should I stay or should I go?”

It came down to five schools: Marist, Villanova, Fairfield, Saint John’s, and Seton Hall. 

Poughkeepsie is like many towns in Upstate New York. If you grow up there and don’t take the chance to get out, you might end up there forever.

In the end, despite it being the final school to offer her a scholarship, Villanova’s pedigree and the fact that it was far enough from home without being too far sold Maddy on the Wildcats.

“It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Maddy said. “I remember it weighing on me so much before I chose Villanova. Coach Giorgis was so classy about it all. I remember calling him to say that I’d committed to Villanova and he was a class act. It made me feel so much better.”

Even though her parents were former Red Foxes, they were still proud of their daughter’s decision.

“It would have been great for her to play for Coach Giorgis,” George said. “But sometimes you want to have the experience of playing away from home. Overall Villanova’s been a great choice… Maddy’s very happy with her decision and we’re happy with the choice, too.”

Caroline, Maddy’s younger sister, made it three Siegrist children going to college in Philadelphia, joining Maddy at Villanova where she is in the nursing program.

After capping her high school career with another Poughkeepsie Journal Player of the Year, this time averaging 32 points and 13 rebounds per game, it was time for Maddy to embark on her college career.

Things didn’t exactly start out well. In the fall of 2018 during the preseason, Maddy broke her ankle in the preseason and took a redshirt for the 2018-19 season.

“It was tough because I had never really been hurt like that before,” Maddy said. “It sidelined me for a while but I was lucky to have my family and my coaching staff really help me along during that time.”

The missed season proved to be a blessing in disguise.

Not only did it allow Maddy to put things in perspective, but once she was healthy enough, she got back into the gym to hone her craft.

The one knock in her game was that coming into college, she was not much of an outside shooter. When you were dominating the games at the high school level there was not much of a need to shoot from more than a few feet away.

Now, against high-level Division I competition, she needed to add that extra dimension. She proceeded to hit 62 three-pointers in her redshirt freshman year and averaged 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. It was safe to say that she made the adjustment.

“I think things began to click for me as soon as I came back from the injury,” she said. “I came back in the spring and I really began to feel comfortable once I felt that the coaching staff really started to believe in me.”

It would be easy to go on and on about Maddy’s eye-popping stats. The fact is, she is one of, if not the best, college basketball players to come out of the Hudson Valley.

In this pre-season alone, she has been named the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, the Big Five (Philadelphia schools) Preseason Player of the Year, and was on the short list of players who received votes for the AP preseason All-America Team.

She’s coming off a season that saw her average over 25 points and nine rebounds per game and earn a spot as a third-team All-American. This summer, she competed for the USA as a member of the three-on-three team.

The list of honors goes on seemingly forever, but here’s what you need to know — Maddy Siegrist is back in Poughkeepsie (to play, at least) for one night and one night only.

“I’m so thankful the coaching staff was able to put this game together,” Maddy said. “It means the world to be able to come back and play one more time. I’m so excited for this to happen.”

At least one of her parents has made it to her games where fans were allowed. But this one will take on a special meaning.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to see Maddy play in McCann in front of her hometown,” George said. “This game is going to allow her to play in front of people she’s never played in front of before, and of course, it’s special for us as her parents to see her in Poughkeepsie.”

The McCann Center is normally filled with supporters sporting their red and white, but when Villanova and Maddy Siegrist come into the Fox Den in early November, you can expect to see a lot of blue in the stands. 

Viani may have spoken for a lot of people in Poughkeepsie when he said, “I’ll be there. If I can get a ticket.”

Edited by Ricardo Martinez and Isabella Cicinelli

Photo from Villanova Athletics

Author: Jonathan Kinane

I'm a senior from Syracuse, NY, studying sports communication and journalism. I consider myself a die-hard Syracuse University sports fan, but I also follow the Knicks, Giants, and Yankees in the professional ranks. Sports and writing have long been my passions and I am excited for another year with Center Field.

One thought

  1. Wonderful written and researched article on Mandy Siegrist . Journalistic gem with facts and tidbits that made your article show your abilities to be a sports journalist at the next level. Have followed her career and can’t wait to see how she has developed.

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