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Cardinal O'Hara's Molly Rullo commits to Drexel, following family's legacy

11/16/2023, 6:45pm EST
By Josh Verlin

By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Molly Rullo was raised in the Daskalakis Athletic Center. 

The daughter of Jim Rullo and Maureen (Michaels) Rullo, both former Drexel hoopers, has been around the school’s University City gym since before she could walk. Her early memories celebrating amongst the streamers when the Dragons won the 2013 WNIT, just six years old when Hollie Mershon lifted Drexel past Utah for the program’s first major postseason title. She watched Bailey Greenberg dominate the CAA from 2016-20, celebrated when Hannah Nihill and Keishana Washington led the way to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2021. 

As she grew up, developing into one of the area’s best ballplayers in her own right, with more than a dozen schools extending offers, her parents made sure she knew her college decision was her own. 

All roads led back to 34th and Market anyways. The Cardinal O’Hara standout junior ended her recruitment early, announcing her commitment to Drexel on social media Thursday evening. 

Cardinal O'Hara 2025 wing Molly Rullo verbally committed to Drexel on Thursday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Quinnipiac, Saint Joseph’s and Bucknell made the strongest push out of the double-digit schools that offered her, all interested in the 5-foot-10 wing, who’s established herself as one of the better two-way players in the area during her underclassman years of high school. But they couldn’t overcome all the built-in intangibles that Drexel held. 

“Ultimately, what set Drexel apart was being closer to home, the environment, the city that they play in, the history,” Molly Rullo told CoBL by phone Wednesday evening. 

Both Jim and Maureen emphasized how much they hadn’t pushed their oldest daughter towards their alma mater. Molly confirmed they didn’t just stay out of it, they encouraged her to keep her options open for as long as she could.

“They made me really open my eyes to a lot of other schools besides Drexel,” she said. “They made me go out and visit a couple of schools where I didn’t think I was interested at first, they allowed me to see the whole process for what it was and I’m very happy for that.”

But there’s no denying the lifelong impact they’d had. And so while Molly narrowed her list of schools down, taking visit after visit, Drexel stayed at the forefront. Eventually, that front-running status became too much to ignore, and Molly told her parents she was ready to call head coach Amy Mallon and make it official. 

They, obviously, weren’t complaining.

“I just told her that I had a great experience at Drexel, your dad had a great experience there but this is your experience,” said Maureen Rullo, who scored more than 1,200 points in a Drexel uniform from 1996-00. “All along, my only goal was that she went through the entire recruiting process and she was open minded about it. At the end of it now, we can say that she was, and the fact that she kept coming back to Drexel, it makes me excited for her.”

“I’m sure the familiarity with being around the program a number of years helped, but they still recruited her hard and showed that they wanted her,” added Jim, who played at Drexel from 1990-94, averaging 11.4 ppg and 4.2 apg as a senior. “I think she handled it very well, she has a work ethic and ability to see things and appreciate opportunity. I think it’s based on style of play and education, and I think it’s a great fit for her.”

Molly Rullo burst onto the high school scene as a freshman at Cardinal O’Hara, starting from Game One on a Lions team that went on to win the Catholic League and PIAA Class 5A championships. Playing alongside future Division I players in Maggie Doogan (Richmond), Sydni Scott (Marshall) and Annie Welde (Villanova), Rullo didn’t need to be a star but was plenty productive — like a 10-point, eight-rebound, six-assist effort in a December win over Rustin, or chipping in eight points in a dominant state title win. 

A young Molly Rullo, right, poses for a picture with her mother Maureen. (Photo courtesy Rullo family)

The next year she became the Lions’ on-court leader, averaging 17 points and six rebounds per game. A high-post threat as a freshman who could get to the rim with ease, she expanded her game out to the 3-point arc as a sophomore, knocking down 38% from deep. O’Hara didn’t win any titles, losing in the Catholic League semifinals (to Archbishop Wood) and PIAA 6A semifinals (to Archbishop Carroll), but Rullo proved herself game in and game out, earning First Team All-Catholic honors as a result. 

Drexel was the first school to offer her, doing so in the summer after her freshman year. Many more followed, including a healthy group of mid-majors that offered this spring after seeing her with her Comets Basketball club on the Under Armour circuit. 

The Dragons staff stayed on Rullo the whole time. Mallon had known Molly literally her entire life, the fourth-year head coach in her 20th season on the Drexel bench, the first 16 as Denise Dillon’s assistant. Making Molly Rullo her top priority in the 2025 class, all things considered, was a no-brainer.

“Coach Mallon told me from the start that this was my [recruitment], she wanted me for me, not because of my parents,” Molly Rullo said. “She wanted me because she liked how I played as a player and a person, and she made that clear from the start.”

At Drexel, Rullo said she’s looking forward to being teammates with a couple former high school foes. Grace O’Neill, a sophomore point guard, is a Comets alum who played at Archbishop Carroll, the two going head-to-head two years back. Laine McGurk, a Rustin product, played against O’Hara each of the last two seasons. Nihill, another Comets and O’Hara alum, is on the coaching staff.  

Going to Drexel will afford Molly Rullo one thing her parents didn’t have. The Dragons’ women are joining the Big 5 next year, one season behind the men. Winning a Big 5 title, she admitted, would “be pretty cool, because they didn’t get to play in it. I’d be the one Rullo to be able to do that.”

Rullo and the Lions are planning on big 2023-24. She’s one of the preseason favorites for PCL Player of the Year, O’Hara one of the squads almost certain to be in the mix for a title with four starters returning, including senior guard Joanie Quinn (La Salle) and a talented sophomore point guard — Megan Rullo.

Oh, yeah. Molly’s not the only ballplayer in her family. Her younger sister, O’Hara’s top option off the bench a year ago, is coming off a big summer of her own with the Comets, a potential breakthrough candidate, just like Molly a year ago. She, too, holds a Drexel offer, with more likely to follow before long.

Molly Rullo learned from her own recruitment. She’s going to let her younger sister make her own college choice, let her go through the process without any influence one way or the other. That being said…

“I just know that I still have two more years of high school with her, my sister’s my sister and I’m not going to force her to go to Drexel or this and that, I’m going to let her have her own process,” Molly said. “But if she does end up choosing Drexel, which I know she loves, I’m totally in for it.”

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