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Hendrixson enjoying return to postseason action as Drexel women advance

03/11/2022, 5:45pm EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

For all but one of Drexel’s six seniors, a return to the NCAA Tournament next week would be a second chance at some true March Madness. 

Four of the Dragons’ seniors — Hannah Nihill, Keishana Washington, Kate Connolly and Mariah Leonard — all started in last year’s NCAA Tournament loss to Georgia, not to mention during the team’s run to the 2021 CAA tournament championship. Tessa Brugler, a grad transfer from Bucknell, got to experience the Dance her sophomore year in 2018-19 when the Bison won the Patriot League championship, a three-point loss to Florida State in the opening round ending that experience.

Maura Hendrixson (above) is playing in her first postseason in three years. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

That leaves Maura Hendrixson — better known to her teammates as ‘Furm’ — as the only one who hasn’t gotten a chance to experience the biggest state in college basketball, giving the Dragons an extra reason to pull for the back-to-back titles in Philly this weekend.

“I definitely think it’s a big driving force for us,” Washington said. “Furm hasn’t played in the tournament, so we want to get a win, not just for her but for the team, for the program, and she obviously plays a big role on this team.”

After missing last year’s postseason due to a torn ACL, the 5-foot-9 senior guard and Cardinal O’Hara grad is back on the court and playing a key role this time around for Amy Mallon’s top-seeded Dragons, who are into Saturday’s CAA Tournament semifinals after dispatching Hofstra 60-39 on Friday afternoon.

“It definitely is very exciting,” Hendrixson said. “I haven’t played in the conference tournament literally since my freshman year: sophomore year COVID, junior year I got injured. It’s definitely really exciting, I feel like it’s been three years in the making.”

Hendrixson, who grew up in Garnet Valley, helped O’Hara to two Catholic League championships and an appearance in the state semifinals her junior year. She got the nickname ‘Furm’ from her middle name, Furman, her mother Marie’s maiden name; when Nihill, her teammate at O’Hara, got to Drexel one year before Hendrixson, the nickname beat her to the school.

“I got to Drexel,” Hendrixson said, “and day one, they were like ‘your name’s Furm,’ and I was like ‘okay!’”

She immediately jumped into the rotation at Drexel, playing in 26 games (with two starts) as a freshman under Denise Dillon, averaging north of 17.6 mpg. Her playing time dropped slightly the next season, though she still made 27 appearances (two starts), before moving into the starting lineup full-time as a junior. 

Through the first 18 games of the 2020-21 season, Hendrixson was averaging 6.6 ppg and 3.0 rpg while shooting 34.7% from 3-point range, a key role on a team that featured Nihill and Washington as its two primary bucket-getters. She had 76 assists against 20 turnovers, a 3.8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio which was third-best in the entire country.

Hendrixson passes the ball upcourt during Drexel's 60-39 win over Hofstra in the CAA women's quarterfinals on Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

But on Feb. 27, the Dragons’ second-to-last game of the regular season, she went down with an ACL tear in her right knee, ending her season and putting her senior year in jeopardy. It was the first major injury of Hendrixson’s career.

“I never really go to the training room,” she said. “It was a totally different change of scenery for me.”

She put off surgery for a month in order to experience the CAA tournament and NCAA tournament with her teammates, rather than having to stay home and recover during one of the program’s high points. 

After rehabbing all summer, Hendrixson missed the first six games of the 2021-22 season due to her recovery, making her season debut on Nov. 30 with 14 minutes against Dartmouth. She made one start, in the CAA opener against charleston, but has otherwise been the Dragons’ sixth woman, albeit playing much bigger minutes than she did as a freshman or sophomore.

In Drexel’s win over Hofstra, Hendrixson played 24 minutes, dishing out six assists — one short of her season high — with three steals without a single turnover, her four points almost an afterthought to her overall effort. Her plus-minus of +27 was by far the highest on the team.

In 23 games, Hendrixson’s got 64 dimes and 25 turnovers, a 2.56:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

“Honestly, it’s just fun to me to be able to make the great pass and to be able to see something,” she said. “Also watching on the bench, too, I see so many cuts that are open, so when I go in, I use that to my advantage, because I saw it already in the game. I just like passing the ball; I’m a scorer, I can be, but I just like the pass-first mentality.” 

Hendrixson (above) put together a team-high +27 in 24 minutes of action Friday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

On the season, she’s also averaging 3.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, and 2.8 apg. More importantly, the Dragons are 21-2 with her in the rotation.

“She’s been tremendous,” said Mallon, the CAA’s Coach of the Year in her second year as head coach after 16 as an assistant under Dillon. “You look at our stat lines since she’s returned to the lineup [...] we knew that was something she’s capable of, she came right back and she picked up where she left off. 

“There’s nothing that makes us happier than her being on the floor,” Mallon continued. “When you’re around this team, you see the impact Maura has, and to see her be part of this first game, in this tournament, I know everyone’s just really smiling in the locker room, just overjoyed with the fact that she’s on the floor again, and she’s doing a tremendous job.”

If Furm has any negative thoughts about her injury, the recovery, her move to the bench — any of it — it doesn’t show. 

“All my teammates had to step up, so I think it was an opportunity for them,” she said. “We all came together, and it was great; I was very excited to see my teammates all succeed and I feel like it was just meant to be, because we won the championship. At that point, I was just happy that our team won.”

She’s got another year of eligibility if she wants it, though she said no decision on that has been made one way or the other, that conversation waiting until after the season has ended, whether that’s in the NCAA Tournament or in the NIT, the Dragons guaranteed a spot there due to their regular-season title.

This month might be the end of Maura Hendrixson’s basketball career, and if it is, she won’t regret a thing. But she’d like it to end with at least a couple more wins, one more trophy celebration, on her home court on Sunday afternoon.

“I’m really just enjoying it and just being on the floor with my teammates,” she said, “because I know how fast it can get taken away from you.”

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