Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)
Erin Doherty had just finished a solid freshman season. She appeared in 27 games in her first college season at Catholic University that saw the program advance to the Landmark Conference Championship Game. The Haverford High product made an immediate impact but all the momentum she generated during that inaugural season was squashed when the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down.
As the early days of quarantine began to waste away, her father came to her with some much-needed good news. The courts at Highland Park, which is a short walk from Marple Newtown High School where he works, were not boarded up like so many in southeastern Pa. and the game became her escape during a time when so many were looking for one.
Doherty and her father went every day, and he would rebound as she discovered new ways to become a more effective player.
“I was really fortunate to have a court at that time when a lot of other people didn’t,” Doherty said. “I used that to the best of my ability, and while it was tough to get stronger since all the gyms were closed, I focused so much on my skill work. That helped me develop as a basketball player.”
Haverford High product Erin Doherty announced she was transferring from Catholic to Drexel last month. (Photo: Catholic University Athletics)
It was the first familial domino to fall on a road that would lead her to become one of the top scorers for the Cardinals and now the latest addition to the Drexel Dragons, where another family member once played. The 5-foot-7 guard committed to Drexel on March 26 and will be a welcomed addition as the Dragons program is in the midst of a major transition with several players, including the departure of the second all-time leading scorer, on their way out.
She credits her time at Highland Park with her dad as the first stop of the path to her future home, the Daskalakis Athletic Center or “The DAC.”
“I grew a ton between my freshman and sophomore year because I had so much time on my hands to get better,” Doherty said. “Coming in from high school, I was primarily a three-point shooter and that was how I viewed myself, but over my time at Catholic, my ability to get to the basket has grown a lot. I’ve become a much better passer and defensively, I’ve gotten quicker and stronger.”
Prior to beginning her final season at Catholic University, Doherty put her name in the NCAA transfer portal in November as she would be graduating in the spring.
“I wanted to get my name in there while also focusing on my final season at Catholic,” Doherty said. “Before basketball was even a thought, I knew I wanted to get my master’s degree somewhere that offered a one-year accelerated program and I also wanted to be in Philadelphia since it’s where I’m from.”
She narrowed her search to Drexel, St. Joe’s and La Salle, all of which had 12-month master’s programs. There was already an established relationship with La Salle head coach Mountain MacGillivray as Doherty played with his daughter, Chiara at Haverford High. The two played together when Chiara – now playing at D-III Franciscan University of Steubenville - was a sophomore and Doherty was a senior. While she emphasized MacGillivray is “building a super successful program after they had been rebuilding for the last couple years,” Drexel was always at the top of her list.
“What really drew me to them was how they stayed in contact with me throughout the entire season and head coach Amy Mallon was always checking in with me, congratulating me on certain wins, and complimenting me on the way I played,” Doherty said. “They really took an interest in me as a player and a person. They’re losing a lot of their scoring and that’s a talent that I have, so I think they were drawn to that.”
In the same way her father was instrumental in helping her develop into a Division I prospect, her aunt, Karyn Connors had a major part to play in her decision to choose Drexel and will be with her throughout this transition in her final collegiate season. Connors played at Drexel for two years but prior to that she starred at Cardinal O’Hara under legendary head coach Linus McGinty. She was one of five Division I starters on the 1999 Philadelphia Catholic League championship team that included Trish Juhline (Villanova), Bridget Scanlan (Drexel), Amy Dessart Mager (Loyola University Maryland) and Kara Cassidy (Quinnipiac). Connors scored 15 points in that title game on the campus of Temple University as the Lions finished 24-4 and claimed their fourth title in five years.
Early in her high school career, Connors was teammates with Kristen Clement, who scored 2,256 career points and won three Philadelphia Catholic League titles before moving on to play at Tennessee for Pat Summit where she was part of the 1997-98 National Championship team that finished 39-0. Connors avg. 2.7 ppg in 46 games with the Dragons then finished her career at Holy Family University, where she avg. 6.2 rebounds and shot 34% from the three-point line.
Being able to dissect the differences between the D-I and D-III game with Connors is already paying dividends for Doherty in her preparation for what’s to come.
“We talked a lot about conditioning and getting myself in the best shape possible so I’m not feeling fatigued when I start playing,” Doherty said. “That will be huge as I establish myself as a new member of the team. Also getting my strength up and making sure I’m at the same level as these girls who have been in a Division I program for three to four years now. With D-III, we’re not on the court for the same amount of hours that they are and there’s different rules, so I want to adjust to the heavier workload.”
Another connection between Connors and Doherty is that both played for the Philly Lady Runnin’ Rebels AAU program; Connors played for program founder Bill McDonough Sr. and Doherty played for his son, Bill McDonough Jr. The Rebels have produced a plethora of talented prospects over the years, most recently Laine McGurk, who will be Doherty’s teammate next season. McGurk is West Chester Rustin’s all-time leading scorer with over 1,700 points and led the Golden Knights to their first-ever District 1-5A title and first PIAA state playoff appearance in program history.
Doherty is coming off a senior season where she averaged 12.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists while knocking down 34 three-pointers on 35.4% from behind the arc. She erupted for a career-high 30 points, including eight three-pointers, in a loss to Drew University on Feb. 18 then tallied 20 points in her final Cardinals game against Elizabethtown. The two-time All-Landmark Conference selection led Catholic University to a 38-14 record over her final two seasons and finished with 920 career points.
Even though she committed to Drexel in March, Doherty did not visit campus until April 6 when she was home for spring break. She had conversations with Mallon and assistant coach Belle Koclanes for several months then was finally able to meet fellow assistant Stacy Weiss during her visit. With the increased exposure to the Dragons program, Doherty’s interest continued to peak.
“They’ve had so much success within the program, and I only have one year left, so I want to make the most of it,” Doherty said. “I love to work hard and get better, and Drexel is a place that I think I can do that.
After completing her high school career with a 17-9 record as a senior and receiving interest from Holy Family, Cabrini and Muhlenberg College, Doherty committed to Catholic University in Washington D.C. joining a multitude of teammates who went on to play at the next level in Lindsey Lane (Chestnut Hill College), Erin Kelly (Immaculata University) and Sara Walsh (University of Scranton) under head coach Lauren Pellicane, who recently led the Fords to a 27-2 overall record and the 2023 District 1-6A title game.
Now, she’s back in the area where she will see a lot of familiar faces. She was teammates with Drexel junior and Archbishop Carroll alum Erin Sweeney during summer leagues growing up and “we were always around each other.” She played against Brianne Borcky in the Central League when Borcky was at Garnet Valley. “We played each other every year and those were always good games.” She is also one of the more notable players returning to the area, joining St. Joe’s commit Bridget Monaghan, a 2022-23 D3hoops.com First Team All-American who scored 1,275 career points at Scranton. Doherty stressed that “it will be fun to go against her a little bit” in the Big 5, which Drexel will officially join next season.
As she prepares to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in finance in May, Doherty is starting to grasp what the transition to D-I is like, but even more so what she will be called upon to do with Keishana Washington moving on to the WNBA. Washington – who signed a training camp contract with the Minnesota Lynx last week - closed out her career with a 43-point barrage against Fordham in the first round of the WNIT, setting a new benchmark for points in a single game and surpassing her previous mark of 42. She finished third nationally with 27.7 ppg this season and finished her career second all-time in points (2,363) and field goals made (883). More importantly, Drexel was 110-41 in her career with three regular-season Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) championships and one CAA tournament title.
Washington and fifth-year guard Maura Hendrixson, the former Cardinal O’Hara standout who avg. 5.6 points and 7.8 assists this season, are gone and Doherty will be a key piece in helping the Dragons keep a recent place that includes six consecutive 20-win seasons and nine straight postseason appearances. She joins an incoming class with another O’Hara standout in Amaris Baker, the Harcum College product who avgeraged 27.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists on her way to NJCAA D-II First Team All-American this season and finished with 1,002 points in two seasons.
She is eager to contribute but most of all, she is looking forward to being a mentor and leader on a team that will certainly need one.
“In conversations I’ve had with the coaches, they’re looking for maturity and someone who has been through the college basketball experience and take the underclassmen under my wing to help them navigate life as a college basketball player,” Doherty said. “I’ve really developed some strong leadership skills and I know what it’s like to be a part of a good culture. That’s one way I can positively contribute to the program.”