Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
She was always very good, very attentive for her age. Molly Rullo would sit at the edge of her chair, her short baby legs dangling from the edge, watching her dad conduct his practices then as Malvern Prep’s head coach. Jim Rullo was smart enough to generously ply his oldest daughter with a bag of pretzels and some sippy drinks.
When she could, Molly would slide on to the court and mimic what the players were doing. She sometimes would get frustrated because her shots couldn’t reach the rim.
Molly Rullo (above) has jumped right into a big role for Cardinal O'Hara as a freshman. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
That’s where it started. That’s where the new generation of the precious Rullo family basketball heirloom was stirred and created. And it’s starting anew again with Molly as a 5-foot-10 freshman at Cardinal O’Hara.
Jerry Rullo, Molly’s grandfather, is in the Temple ring of honor and was on the first NBA champion 1946 Philadelphia Warriors. Her grandmother, Eileen, won three Catholic League championships at Hallahan. Her father, now Neumann University’s head coach for nine years, starred at Malvern Prep and Drexel, and her mother, Maureen, was a 1,000-point scorer at Drexel.
Now it’s Molly’s turn.
She played a role in O’Hara moving to 5-2 overall with a comfortable 59-40 victory over West Chester Rustin on Wednesday night, chipping in with 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Molly is going to play an even greater role as the season progresses. The gritty part of the game, rebounding and defense, comes from dad. Scoring comes from mom.
It’s a nice combination, mixed with a healthy dose of hoops genetics and an acumen that coach’s children often possess.
It’s why Chrissie Doogan, O’Hara’s coach, had no trouble assigning Molly to Rustin’s best player, Drexel-bound junior Laine McGurk, who finished with a game-high 21.
“Molly is a kid who I can’t take off the court, because she’s unselfish, she shoots when she’s open and gives it up when she’s not open,” Doogan said. “She can defend every position on the court and she rebounds. She goes after offensive rebounds, she goes after defensive rebounds and she plays within herself.
“She doesn’t try to do too much. We’re actually trying to get her to do more. But she plays within her abilities. You can tell she is a coach’s kid and both her parents were Division I players. Our first game last week in D.C., Molly covered the No. 15 sophomore in the country and held her own. She plays with no fear. It was a very welcome high school basketball experience for her.”
Rullo (above) is a multi-sport athlete, playing field hockey in the fall, and now starting on the defending PIAA Class 5A state champs. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Molly, who started for O’Hara’s varsity field hockey team in the fall, says she’s adjusted to playing girls older than her and staying lower. She also openly admits she still second-guesses herself, but her comfort zone is growing.
“I’ve been around basketball my whole life, since birth, it seems like,” Molly said, laughing. “I think we have the pieces to get back and win the (Class 5A) state championship. We just have to put the work in, and I can see us getting there. It’s cool to think about.”
But Molly does admit one thing: She doesn’t remember much about her genesis to the game.
That’s where her father, Jim, fills in the blanks.
“I literally got the Malvern Prep job when Molly was born, and she would come to the games, and two or three years in, she would come to the weekend practices and part of it,” Jim said. “She enjoyed being around the game and seeing the friendships and relationships being around the game.
“Molly was good. I’m not going to lie, I would bring a bag of pretzels and some drinks, and during breaks, Molly would come out to the court and try to get shots off.
Jim Rullo (above) has been the head coach at Neumann University since 2013. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“It was a fun environment. The experiences with her, it’s one of the main reasons why I got into coaching. Molly’s head was as big as the ball, and she had this funny, little giggle. When she started to get her shots to the rim, you saw a light take off. My big thing with her is that she enjoys playing, and we stressed it’s a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, but when you surround yourself with good people, it’s a blast.”
As for the Rustin game, O’Hara never trailed. The Lions led 38-16 at halftime and Doogan emptied her bench. Maggie Doogan, the Lions’ Richmond commit, scored a team-high 16, with Marshall commit Sydni Scott adding 15 and senior Anne Welde chipping in with 14. Rustin junior Lola Flynn added 10 for the Golden Knights (4-3).
“It was tough, we were excited to get these matchups and after a week without any court time, we were happy to be here,” Rustin coach Lauren Stackhouse said. “Lola did well, getting to the hoop and getting some steals. We wanted to keep fighting all the way until the end. We wanted to compete. This is a great opportunity for us.
“Taking these kinds of matchups early will be really helpful for us moving forward. We have aspirations to go to districts and these are the kind of games you play now. Our goal is to compete against every team we play with. We learn from these games more than any other games.”
West Chester Rustin: 8 | 8 | 9 | 15 || 40
Cardinal O’Hara: 24 | 14 | 11 | 10 || 59
Rustin: Laine McGurk 21, Lola Flynn 10, Riley Stackhouse 4, Laney Costin 3, Elizabeth McGurk 2
Cardinal O’Hara: Maggie Doogan 16, Sydni Scott 15, Annie Welde 14, Molly Rullo 10, Joanie Quinn 2, Carly Coleman 2
Archbishop Carroll moves to 5-3 with easy win over Episcopal Academy
In the nightcap, Archbishop Carroll got off to a shaky start, but gradually pulled away from Episcopal Academy to win 57-34. The Patriots moved to 5-3 with the victory, while Episcopal dropped to 6-3.
Carroll’s Drexel-bound Grace O’Neill led all scorers with 20 points, followed by Brooke Wilson’s 13 and sister Taylor Wilson’s 12.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.