The “big man on campus” is a term of endearment given to an important and well-known person, especially at a school. Typically the big man on campus is the quarterback of the football team, a track-star, or even a well connected socialite. However at Villanova, the big man on campus is not even a “man” at all.
Madison “Maddy” Siegrist is the ultimate big baller on campus and has a laundry list of accomplishments in her three and a half years at Villanova that mere mortals could dream of.
Perhaps her biggest accomplishment to date came just 20 days into the new year as Siegrist surpassed women’s basketball record-holder Shelly Pennefather (2,408 points) and men’s basketball record-holder Kerry Kittles (2,243 points) to officially become the all-time leading scorer in Villanova University history with 2,463 points (and counting).
The Siegrist hype train has already left the station, but if you’d like to join the conversation, here you will find a good place to start.
It may seem like Siegrist was a natural hooper from birth, which would have been an easy assumption if you were to look at her long list of accomplishments or rack up buckets in her many high-scoring nights, but according to her – surprisingly — that was not always the case.
“I was just tall, I was so raw,” said Siegrist, with a wry grin, thinking back to her days growing up. “I would go [on a] fast break and clank the layup going a million miles an hour.”
She can’t help but smile thinking back to her pre-high school Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball days. While she may not have been a middle school maestro, she does specifically remember a time in seventh grade where everything clicked for her.
“I actually made the ‘B-team’ in seventh grade,” Siegrist said. “I remember saying to my dad that I don’t ever want to get cut again.”
Siegrist started putting in the work in the eighth grade and by her freshman year in high school, she had made the varsity team. That was only the beginning. Siegrist would go on to earn four varsity letters, three all-league selections, two all-state nominations and two player of the year selections. In her senior season, Siegrist averaged 32.7 points and 13.1 rebounds while tallying career highs in points (45) and rebounds (22). She had six forty point games.
“Keep working hard, everybody runs their own race,” Siegrist said of what her advice would be to her younger self. “It’s different, but if you just keep with your goals and you keep on your path, you’ll get to where you want to go.”
Although Siegrist was as decorated as they come, Villanova was the only major conference school to offer her coming out of high school. Becoming a Wildcat would be a big leap for Siegrist, but she says she could not be happier with her decision.
“I remember how scared I was coming, nervous I wasn’t going to be good enough,” Siegrist said. “I have always believed in myself and I thought I was good, but just to have come here and it worked out, you know, after the first year I had redshirted, I had no idea how it was going to turn out. All I wanted to do was impact the game in a positive way.”
The decision to attend Villanova was a reach for Siegrist, with a real possibility that she would not get a lot of playing time early in her career. The option to redshirt was never really in the cards for Siegrist, however she dealt with a bout of adversity in the preseason – a fractured ankle that required surgery and three screws would sideline Siegrist her entire freshman year, whether she accepted the news or not.
“I just told myself I was going to come back that year,” she said. “I was like ‘I’m pulling the redshirt, I don’t care, I’m going to come back in December’. Obviously, I didn’t and a lot of people advised me against that. But coming back from that injury, I was shooting every day, I was arm-biking everyday, there were things I was doing to ensure I could come back. Realistically, it would not have made any sense, but that is what pushed me through.”.
The hype began to build as fellow teammates were raving about Siegrist’s improvement post-injury, and when it was finally time to step on that court Siegrist proved everyone’s speculation. The hype was real.
Siegrist would go on to start 28 of the 31 games she appeared in her freshman year. She would average team highs in points per game (18.8) and rebounds per game (8.9) in over 35 minutes of action every night. Those numbers would be good enough to garner unanimous BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, First Team All- Conference honors, and a freshman scoring record with 586 points.
While there was no telling just how high Siegrist’s ceiling was yet, she could not have asked for a better start to chase the scoring record. The ESPN top ten freshman said she was aware “a little bit” of the scoring record, but it was “so far away.”
“I never looked that far ahead, it was such a high number,” Siegrist said of potentially surpassing Pennefather’s record. “It wasn’t until probably the beginning of [this] season that you start realizing you’re kind of close.”
Pennefather set the record upon graduating in 1987, a mark that stood for over three decades before Siegrist took the crown in 2023. Pennefather and Siegrist have a unique relationship off the basketball court.
In 1991, Pennefather retired from pro basketball, turning down a six-figure salary – the highest for any women’s basketball player at the time – to become a nun. She joined the Poor Clares order at their monastery in Alexandria, Virginia. On June 6th 1997, six years after entering the monastery as a novice, Pennefather, now known as Sister Rose Marie, took her final vows as a nun.
While visits are rare, Siegrist spoke to Pennefather about a variety of topics outside of basketball. It was an experience that was obviously very meaningful, in speaking with her, the tone of her voice changed to display the amount of gratitude and appreciation she has for Sister Rose Marie. In their conversations about life, basketball and everything in between, there was one thing that Sister Rose Marie said that really took Siegrist aback.
“I don’t need them in here, why don’t you go get them all,” said Sister Rose Marie to Siegrist in reference to her records.
“I was so stunned,” said Siegrist “At the time, I just remember thinking oh my gosh I can’t believe she just said that to me.”
Looking back on it now, it is unfathomable how far Siegrist has come on and off the court from their first meeting. Her faith has grown just as her basketball prowess has, and records that seemed so far away are now in the rear view mirror.
Siegrist said she is not sure what her message to Sister Rose Marie would be just yet, and understandably so. One thing she is sure of is that a letter in the mail will be heading her way soon.
“I definitely have to write to her,” Siegrist said in a grateful tone. “Just, you know, thanks for all the prayers.”
Maddy Siegrist will be cemented in the history books of Villanova forever, but the job this season is nowhere close to finished. Looking back on everything she has accomplished thus far, Siegrist has done more in her relatively short time at Villanova than most basketball players achieve in a lifetime.
I had the chance to sit down with Maddy Siegrist last evening to discuss her journey, her record(s), and so much more! Stay tuned for a feature story and other exciting news in the coming days pic.twitter.com/xPkGLczRox— Tommy Godin (@tommygodinjr) January 27, 2023
“It’s been like a storybook, honestly, I couldn’t have written it any better,” Siegrist said. “There’ve been so many people that have impacted my life at the school whether they’re on the staff, or in the community, like the vice president, there’s so many people that have really impacted my journey here. I just think about all the people that have supported me and I’ve made connections forever, and knowing that I will always have a home at Villanova is pretty cool.”
What’s next for Siegrist and the women’s basketball program? Right now it is all about finishing out the regular season and preparing for the postseason. As it stands right now Villanova is a top 20 team in the country and threatening to make some real noise come March. As for Siegrist, while she has the scoring record that she is only going to continue to build on, the rebound record is in sight as well. She is currently second all time in program history with over 979 rebounds to her credit.
The next chance to catch the women’s team will be Saturday, Feb. 11 against Seton Hall at 1 p.m, then again the following Saturday, Feb. 18 against UConn at 2:30 p.m.
To stay up to date with Maddy and the Wildcats here are some accounts you definitely should be following to do so. Stay tuned on my twitter as well for a chance to win two tickets to see Maddy and the Wildcats take on the DePaul Blue Demons on Wednesday February 21st, 2023 at 7:00pm.