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PW alum Kaitlyn Flanagan jumps right into major role with Holy Cross

01/17/2023, 11:15am EST
By Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson (@ADrobinson3)

The ball was securely in the hands of Kaitlyn Flanagan.

That the ball, after two emphatic dribbles into the floor, found its way into the Holy Cross freshman’s hands after a thrilling comeback win over Lehigh last Wednesday was not all that surprising, not with the way Flanagan has started her college career. As soon as the Plymouth Whitemarsh graduate committed to the Crusaders, it seemed only a matter of time until she found a way to make an impact.

Flanagan’s not only making an impact, she’s become such a key piece to the Crusaders’ 14-3 (6-0 Patriot League) start, they can’t get her off the floor.


Kaitlyn Flanagan (above) has been a starter at Holy Cross all season. (Photo courtesy Holy Cross Athletics)

“I definitely came up with no expectations at all,” Flanagan said by phone a day after HC’s thrilling comeback win over the Mountain Hawks. “I want to do whatever I can or whatever the team needs me to do, so I’ve been really appreciative of the opportunity I’ve gotten so far and I’m just trying to do what I can with it.”

What Flanagan is doing with that opportunity, as of Saturday’s 66-50 win over Lafayette, is playing a team-high 29.9 minutes a night, scoring 6.0 points per game and doling out 3.23 assists per game as the starting point guard for the Patriot League co-leaders. She’s started all 17 games this season, partially necessitated by an early-season injury to Cara McCormack - who broke her wrist the first day of school but has since returned to the lineup, and the team can’t imagine her not being in that spot going forward.

Holy Cross head coach Maureen Magarity was effusive in her praise of the first-year point guard. The third-year Crusaders coach knew she was getting a college-ready player in Flanagan but even she couldn’t have anticipated putting so much on the freshman so quickly.

Of course, Magarity has only done it because Flanagan has been able to handle it.

“We knew Flan was going to come in and help us but we just didn’t think she’d have to play 30 minutes right off the gate but when that happened with Cara, she had to play,” Magarity said. “We knew what type of player she was, but having the ball in her hands so much as a freshman starting point guard is a really tricky, tough role to handle and she has handled it with such confidence and grace, too.

“She makes mistakes just like everybody but she’s so coachable and has such a high IQ and defensively, she’s been super-impressive. Even the speed of the game, playing at the college level, her athleticism is something we absolutely loved. She’s a great soccer player, she’s quick to the ball, just really quick laterally and that to me is just as impressive as how she’s handled running the offense as the point guard and all her assists, her defense has been tremendous for us.”

Flanagan was the engine of last year’s dominant 34-0 Plymouth Whitemarsh team that won the program’s first PIAA title following District 1 6A and SOL division and tournament titles. She averaged just 7.7 ppg as a senior at PW but like she’s done so far in college, had the ball in her hands and made everything go, a calm and collected conductor emitting poise and control.

(Photo courtesy Holy Cross Athletics)

On the AAU level, Flanagan was part of a loaded Comets roster that has now-freshmen either starting or contributing to their teams in the Big East, A-10, CACC and CAA among others. She’s found a lot of lessons from both her prior teams paying off early on in college.

“As far as PW goes, defensively, it was a big stress our coaches put on us was defending one-on-one and that has helped me in college for sure. I definitely still have a lot to learn about team defense and rotations and things like that but the on-the-ball stuff really helped me coming out of PW,” Flanagan said. “With the Comets, playing with a lot of guards really helped me get comfortable playing off the ball so I don’t always need to have the ball in my hands. We have another great point guard in Cara who can bring up the ball and I don’t feel super out-of-place, I can play off of her and I think that comes from playing AAU with the Comets.”

Holy Cross, which won the Patriot League regular season title in 2021-22 before ending its campaign in the first round of the WNIT, definitely had some question marks coming into the 2022-23 season, chiefly how to replace last year’s Patriot Player of the Year, Avery LaBarbera. Magarity joked that she wasn’t quite sure who Flanagan would be passing the ball to out of the gate, but all the incoming freshman was worried about was doing what was asked of her.

For every player moving up to a new level, there’s a “welcome to” moment where all the differences seem to finally catch up to and hit them at once. Perhaps sensing this freshman had something different about her, Flanagan’s teammates made sure hers came before the games even counted.

“It came over the summer when we first came up for summer session and I was playing pick-up with the team. Playing against those players, we have a bunch of leaders on our team who were really challenging me off the bat and I think they were also trying to help me out and show me the way a little bit so that was definitely that kind of moment for me,” Flanagan said. “Then there’s the speed and just the skill in the defenses we’re going against. At first it showed with some of the turnovers I was having. 

“The adjustment has been, some of the passes that were there in high school aren’t going to be there at the college level and you’re going to have to work the ball around a little more to get those looks you want.”

Magarity’s father Dave — who coached Army’s women’s team from 2006-21 — is a Philadelphia native and she still has family ties to the area, so she and Flanagan have bonded over that and the first-year guard has also earned a very important seal of approval from within the program.

“I have two young daughters, they’re in fourth and first grade and they just idolize her. That's all they talk about ‘Flanny, Flanny, Flanny,’” Magarity said.

“I just feel so lucky to have the opportunity to coach Kate, she’s one of the best kids I’ve ever been around and coached, she’s just a really, really special person. She’s one of those types of kids you only get the opportunity to coach a couple of times in your career.”


Kaitlyn Flanagan (above) was an integral part of PW's unbeaten state title team a year ago. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

As Holy Cross continues its season and starts seeing Patriot League teams a second time, Flanagan knows those opponents will have more of a book on her. She and the coaches have already started working on the next steps, little tweaks here and there or a different look just to  add more to her arsenal.

Flanagan said she’s already working more off the ball with McCormack back in the lineup, whether it’s acting as a screener or cutter and she has the freedom from the coaching staff to be an option offensively. Teams have tried to play off Flanagan already, and to keep herself productive and able to set up teammates, she knows she’ll need to be a little more scoring-minded moving forward.

“That’s what we need from her, she made some big shots in our American game, coming off the ball screens and making a defense have to guard her now because her midrange game, I think, has really improved since she’s gotten here so we’re going to need her to continue to be a scoring threat and knock down shots when she’s open,” Magarity said. “Her scoring lately - even in practice - she makes plays sometimes, in transition especially, where she has that next gear where she’s so quick and gets to the rim, her first step off of ball screens when she gets to the rim we go ‘Woah, Flan, you can do that,’ and a lot of that coming along could have just been the transition to the college game.”

Magarity sometimes has to remind herself that there are three freshmen on the floor in crunch time, with Mary-Elizabeth Donnelly and Meg Calahan joining Flanagan as first-year contributors for the Crusaders, speaking to the overall talent the program feels it has with this class. As good as Flanagan has been — the guard has three games with six or more assists already — Magarity also knows how much she’s been asking of her.

The college season is vastly different from high school, from the amount of games, the travel, longer games and so on and Magarity said she’s mindful of all the minutes Flanagan has already logged. In Saturday’s 16-point win over Lafayette, Flanagan played a season-low 16 minutes and any chance the team has going forward, the staff is going to look to get the freshman a break so she’ll be more fresh for the latter stages of the season.

“It’s her poise too, I’ve put her in some pretty tough situations,” Magarity said. “Early in the season, I think when people played us and knew we graduated Avery, they’re thinking ‘ok, freshman point guard, let’s press them and zone them, mix up the defenses,’ and she just didn’t get rattled. I think that’s what I love most about her, she doesn’t force things, her IQ is so great, she very rarely turns it over.”

While she’s traded Plymouth Meeting for Worcester, Massachusetts, Flanagan still feels plenty plugged in at home. PW coach Dan Dougherty traveled down to Loyola to see her play on Jan. 8 and watches all her games, as he does with all the Colonial alumni currently playing in college while assistant coach TJ DeLucia - who also coached Flanagan in soccer - has a text before or after every game and Flanagan is extremely grateful to know that support is always there.

That the ball ended up in Flanagan’s hands at the end of the season’s defining win, clutched firmly in her control amidst a raucous celebration, only seemed fitting. After all, she’s the one Holy Cross wants to have to ball now and plenty more over the next three years.

“It's really cool to be here now and at this moment, I’m just trying to stay present with it and realize it’s something I’m working toward but there’s also a lot more to do,” Flanagan said. “I’m really excited to be on this team with these teammates and these coaches and I think we have the opportunity to do something special, so I’m just really excited about that.”


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