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Northam: Siegrist poised to lead Villanova to new heights

10/25/2021, 9:00am EDT
By Mitchell Northam

Mitchell Northam (@primetimeMitch)

(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2021-22 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 9. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season, click here.)


Maddy Siegrist (above) took a risk by coming to Villanova more than three years ago. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

When Maddy Siegrist was entering her senior year at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie, New York, she was a good basketball player, but not a highly sought-after prospect. She was absent from ESPN’s Top 100 rankings in the class of 2018.

Still, she was twice named as the Poughkeepsie Journal Player of the Year, and twice named to the all-state team. Schools from the MAC and Ivy League came calling, and Seton Hall and St. John’s offered her scholarships for hoops too. Villanova came last, in September 2017.

“Villanova was my biggest offer out of high school,” Siegrist told City of Basketball Love recently. “This was my risk school. This is the one that was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know.’”

Siegrist visited the Main Line campus and became infatuated with it. But then-head coach Harry Perretta – then in his 40th season on the job – was blunt with her on his assessment of her skillset. He didn’t make any promises and he didn’t sugarcoat anything. Perretta said to Siegrist: “You’re probably not going to play a lot. We’ll see how you do, but I’m not sure.”

It was somewhat refreshing for Siegrist, and it didn’t deter her. She committed just days later.

“Every other school tells you what you want to hear – you’re going to be great; you’re going to play a lot. This was the only one that didn’t,” Siegrist said. “I’m not sure if I took that as a challenge, but I loved the school, I loved the girls. So, I decided, you know, let me try it. Let’s see. I hope it works. I hope I am good enough to play here. It’s such a special place.”

Fast forward four years later, and Siegrist is well beyond being just good enough to play at Villanova. She’s one of the best players in the Big East.

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Siegrist led the conference in scoring and rebounding, a feat that’s only been accomplished by two other players ever: Angel McCoughtry and Rebekkah Brunson. That’s pretty good company, considering McCoughtry is a two-time WNBA scoring champion and Brunson has won five WNBA titles.

For Siegrist’s efforts last season, in which she averaged 22.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per-game, she was named as a First Team All-Big East selection, to the All-Philadelphia Big 5 First Team, Big 5 Player of the Year, an honorable mention All-American by the USBWA, and she was a finalist for the Katrina McClain Award, given to the top power forward in the country.

So, to address Perretta’s initial concerns: Yes, Siegrist is playing a ton. And yes, she’s become crucial to Villanova’s success in women’s basketball.

But Siegrist transforming from an unheralded recruit to a stat-stuffing star in the Big East didn’t happen overnight. It required long hours of practice, focus, and her being able to identify what she needed to get better at.

Siegrist used her redshirt year to her advantage, extending her range out to the 3-point arc. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The blessing-in-disguise redshirt year

When she began her career at Villanova in 2018, one area where Siegrist knew she needed to improve on was her shooting from 3-point range. In high school, she only registered 12 made shots from behind the arc.

“I didn’t really have to take them because I was so much taller than everyone else,” said Siegrist, who checks in at 6-foot-1. “It was just easier for me to drive to the basket or post-up. So, that was something my redshirt year that I really emphasized. I just went up and shot every single day. Because it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, I just had to get comfortable shooting it.”

Redshirting as a freshman was not in Siegrist’s plans for college. In fact, she was adamantly opposed to the idea of it.

But then, in the preseason, Siegrist broke her ankle. The injury required surgery and three screws. The doctors told her she’d be out through January, but she never really believed them. Once she felt up to it, Siegrist was back in the gym, working.

“The biggest thing that motivated me that year was that I was going to come back. It wasn’t a big deal to me” Siegrist said. “That’s the mentality I had.”

Siegrist was wrong. She didn’t come back that season and she did take a redshirt year. However, that self-made motivation paid off for her. Siegrist kept shooting, and shooting, and shooting. Eventually, the three-point shot became natural for her.

As a redshirt freshman the following year, Siegrist made 62 3-pointers, quintupling her total from high school in just 31 games. Siegrist also led Villanova in scoring and rebounding that season and was named Big East Rookie of the Year.

Practicing her shooting from behind the arc is now something that Siegrist finds very relaxing. She’ll go into the gym with a Shootaway Gun, pop her ear buds in, and drift off with music and made three’s. Her Spotify library is pretty diverse, ranging from Taylor Swift to loud mid-2000’s hip-hop to classic rock from the 1970s; the latter is what her dad would play in the car when taking her AAU road trips.

“Once my coaches had confidence in my 3-point shooting ability, then obviously my confidence went up too,” Siegrist said.

The COVID offseason

When the 2019-20 season came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic, Siegrist didn’t stop working. She didn’t have her teammates or coaches to train with, but she did have a hoop and four younger siblings.

And when she wasn’t dunking on her kin, Siegrist worked on conditioning her mind and her body.

“We just played basketball in the yard. There was nothing else to do. And I really think I was able to just focus on my fitness, just being in such good shape that I didn’t have to get taken out,” Siegrist said. “And from a mental aspect, just be smarter… That’s one thing with Coach Perretta and Coach [Denise] Dillon – they want your mind to be more tired than your body. That’s probably where I took the biggest stride.”

And when her siblings weren’t around to play against, Siegrist would enlist her father for a game of one-on-one. George Siegrist, who stands at 6-foot-6, played basketball at Marist, logging 75 appearances for the Red Foxes from 1987 to 1991.

“We’d play inside-only, because he can’t guard me on the outside. He’s too slow,” Siegrist says with a laugh. “So, when we play in the post, I get killed, because he’s so much bigger and stronger. That definitely has helped me too.”

When Siegrist returned to practicing with the team ahead of the 2020-21 season, things were different at Villanova. Not only did the program have a new head coach for the first time in more than four decades with Dillon taking the reins, but Siegrist had new responsibilities.

Mary Gedaka had graduated, and her 17.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per-game were gone. And with Gedaka gone, who was going to have the ball in their hands in the crucial moments?

Around Villanova’s third game last season, Siegrist realized: “Oh my gosh. It’s me.”

Siegrist thrived in those moments and Villanova leaned on her heavily. According to HerHoopStats, Siegrist led the Big East in usage percentage with 32.1% mark. She was also fifth in the league in offensive win shares with three, and 32nd in the nation in PER with a 32.8 rating.

“The more comfortable I got with those situations at practice, then in the game it was nothing different,” Siegrist said. “You try to get a good shot on the rim. If it goes in, great, you’re going to win.”

For Siegrist, those shots went in more often than not last season, and Villanova won more games than it lost. In Dillon’s first season on the job, the Wildcats went 17-7 overall and 9-5 in Big East play. Villanova went to the WNIT and beat UMass and Florida before bowing out to nearby Delaware in the quarterfinals.

Denise Dillon (above) enters her second season at Villanova after spending 17 years as the head coach at Drexel. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Bigger goals

This past summer, the players got to know Dillon a bit more. Without a real offseason in 2020, the whole team are sort of freshmen in a way. They’re still learning Dillon and she’s still learning them.

“We have a really great relationship. She’s definitely a player’s coach,” Siegrist said of Dillon. “If you have any input or see something during games, you can just run over to her and talk about it. She also pushes you every day in practice, like, to the limit.”

Siegrist said she worked on her mid-range game this offseason and tried to improve on her ability to create off the dribble. In the classroom, she’s aiming to graduate in December with a bachelor’s in communication. In the spring, she’ll start working on her master’s in education.

On the court this year, Villanova’s sights are set higher. The Wildcats want to go back to the NCAA tournament, a stage they haven’t been on since 2018.

“You don’t want to leave it up to chance, especially with Connecticut back in the league,” Siegrist said. “We have a really tough non-conference (schedule)… You win one or two that maybe you’re not supposed to win, and all of sudden you go from, ‘they could go, they could not go,’ to ‘they’re going to go.’ That’s where we’re at. We just want to put ourselves beyond a reasonable doubt.

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