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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Molly Watson- She Took Galesburg by Storm

In 1997, Galesburg played Taylorville in the semi-finals at State. That session set an IHSA record for largest attendance. (It should be noted since going to four class system and the resulting lower attendance, the IHSA no longer releases attendance figures.) This game was a huge draw for several reasons. By teams were highly rated teams from one school communities with rich basketball tradition. Galesburg had been to State the year before, so there had been a build up of excitement. And both teams obviously were solid with lots of good players. But the added factor was Molly Watson (Molly Fordyce today).  

Molly Watson (Molly Fordyce today) was without any doubt the most popular athlete that Galesburg High School has had since I have been in Galesburg. The best part of the story is that she deserved all of the admiration she got. She was talented, exciting to watch, and extremely humble. She was a high school superstar that didn’t act like a high school superstar.

The first thing that separated her was her size. She was 5’4” (she claimed). When Coach Bruno first saw her, I remember him saying something I never thought of but it was true. He said some players can dominate because of their lack of size.  He saw her as someone who could be so annoying with quickness and ability to get up and under an offensive player. Coach Bruno was absolutely right. It was ALWAYS a mismatch when she guarded someone, they just did not want the ball. She was lightning quick and physically stronger than her opponents.

Molly had a HUGE advantage, she had two players ahead of her who were two of the hardest workers I have ever had. When Molly was a freshman, Sara Wood was a sophomore, and Bonny Apsey was a junior. Those two stayed every day after practice for 30-45 minutes working on their game, and in the off-season they each had their own workout routines. With their work ethic, they gave Molly the green light to do the things she wanted. Molly was a great athlete and a great worker.

One summer, we had a tourney at GHS. An opposing coach had his team stay overnight. Molly was going to work out in the morning before we played. So she was coming over at like 7am. The opposing coach asked if he could have two of his really good guards work with her. I said that would be fine. I remember the two other girls coming out of the gym after a half-hour, dripping with sweat and saying that was really an intense workout. They didn’t realize that Molly had just paused to get a drink but she was in there for another hour.

It was interesting to watch Molly go through the college recruiting process. Her mother, Peggy Watson should run a seminar for parents on how to handle coaches. When coaches came for home visits, Peggy knew just how to ask things to find out exactly what she wanted to know- very subtle.

Molly had a coach on the phone tell Molly how many threes the coach wanted to have her kids take in the summer each day. (Realize for us this was pre-System with no Gun.) The coach said her players were going to take 100 threes every day plus do another shooting workout, and a ball handling workout. Later in the summer, I asked Molly what her workout routine was. She immediately said, I am shooting 200 threes every day. I asked her where she came up with that number. Her reply, “The college coach said that her players were taking 100, I figured I wanted to be able to say I was working twice as hard as any of them.”

In the summer before her senior year, it seems like there were about 4-5 state schools interested in her, plus some other DI schools. But they were all slow to pull the trigger making an offer. Coaches would talk to me and they would always say they really liked Molly but they weren’t sure, she was just a little short. On a trip to Maine West, Coach Bruno of DePaul watched her play once or twice. Back then the college coach could talk to the high school coach. He told me, “We want her and I am going to offer her a scholarship.” Doug Bruno is so well respected nationally as a coach, once word got out that he was making an offer, some of the others decided too late they would offer.

Theresa Grentz and Illinois had shown no interest in Molly. In a ironic twist, DePaul played Illinois at the United Center. Molly scored the winning basket at the end of the game on a play called “Streak.”
Where are you and what are you doing now?
I am living in Granger (next to South Bend) IN. with my family. I am currently a stay-at-home mom. I like to think of myself as the Director of Household Operations!  I love my job because it allows me to see my children grow each and every day. This is definitely the toughest job I have ever had, but it is also the most rewarding!
Tell me about your family?
My husband, Brian, is the Associate Director of Tickets for Athletics at the University of Notre Dame. He in charge of overseeing any ticketing issues directly related to football and women’s basketball at Notre Dame.
Brian and I have two children, Luke (2) and Macy (8 months). Luke is a typical 2-year old. He has amazing energy and is into anything and everything! Luke has quickly become a Fighting Irish fan. He has already attended several ND basketball games and two ND football games in his young life! Macy is trying hard to keep up with Luke. She loves watching him run circles around her!    
As you look back on your high school playing days- what are your fondest memories?
Wow. That’s tough to pick out the best memories. In general, I look back on my high school playing days and I can’t believe how awesome it was.  I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I had unbelievable teammates and coaches who motivated me to be the best player I could be.  It was great to be a part of team that wasn’t afraid to believe in something before it had ever been achieved. Thinking about the first time we went to the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, etc. still gives me chills. The best part is that I was experiencing this with my best friends. We worked hard, but we sure had a lot of fun doing it!
You had a great career at DePaul. What are some your best memories of playing at DePaul?
This is also tough one.  First and foremost, playing at DePaul was a dream come true for me. As I look back, I realize how fortunate I was to earn a scholarship to DePaul. I played for one of the best coaches in NCAA Division I Women’s basketball and I competed against some of the top players in the country. I traveled the country and went on a European tour.  However, the best part of playing at DePaul was that I was given the opportunity to compete and play the game I love at the highest level of NCAA basketball for four years!
What is the best part about being a DI player and the worst part of being a DI player?
Best part – competing at the highest level, free education (no debt!), traveling the country, free gear, signing up for classes early, being a role model, all the people you meet.
Worst part – not having much free time to yourself, early morning workouts, traveling the country, injuries, losing games.
Was it good or bad being surrounded by brothers?
I love having four brothers! It was definitely rough at times growing up, but I like to think that they toughened me up a bit!  I have learned so much from all of them and they have all been there to support me at different times throughout my life.
Your dad was a coach, how did that work? Would you ever want to coach your children?
I was very fortunate to have a father who coached. He used to bring my brother, Jordan, and I to practice with him. My dad would rarely allow us to join in the drills with the team. Instead, he told us to practice dribbling up and down the court on the sideline. Jordan and I would dribble all night and would always find ways to compete against each other. We looked forward to the end of practice when the team would do sprints. This is a drill my dad would always allow us to participate in. He would tell the team that if they couldn’t beat us in their sprint, they would have to keep running. 
Neither of my parents ever pushed me to practice or forced me to do anything with basketball or any other sport. However, whenever I did need help or ask for advice, they were both right there for me. My dad is an excellent teacher of the fundamentals of basketball and many other sports as well. I was so fortunate to have this teaching right in my own home. If my children decide that they want to participate in basketball or any other sport, I would love to coach them.  I would much rather sit on the bench than in the stands!
How has becoming a mother changed your perspective on sports?
It definitely makes me appreciate my parents more than ever before!  I realize now all of the sacrifices they made for me and my brothers to participate in sports. 
I also have a newfound appreciation for spouses and other family members of those directly involved in athletics. Since my husband works in sports, I see firsthand how much athletics can take away from family time.
You were extremely hard working, what motivated you?
I was very fortunate to be surrounded by positive people in my life who believed in me.  This gave me the confidence to dream big as an athlete, a student, a person.  I truly believe that hard work is contagious.  I was lucky to grow up in a family of hard workers!  I saw how hard my parents worked to support my own family. I saw three brothers ahead of me and one behind me achieve great things in athletics and academics. I was surrounded by teammates and coaches who also had the confidence and belief that we could achieve great things together.  Once we started having success as a team and as individuals, we were motivated to work even harder!
The best part about growing up in Galesburg was________.
the people, the slow pace, everything was five minutes away.


  1. thanks Molly! You were fun to watch play,but more importantly you have been even a better person,and have set a good example for future basketball players.My daughter was out at Bracken golfing ,and some guys were talking to her about basketball.She only knew David S. and one the other men asked her who was her favorite GHS basketball player she said Molly Watson. David later asked her if she knew who that guy was,and she said no. It was your dad and I am sure he was proud,but once again thanks your Legacy lives on.

  2. Molly is one of my all-time favorite Streaks. Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

  3. I have a daugher coming up through the ranks that has the athletic talent to be pretty good. I try to teach her fundamentals, teamwork, work ethic and other things that are important to success. I love stories like this that I can share with her. It is good for her to set goals and work hard like Molly. I hope players like Molly stay connected with the program so that young players coming up can hear their experiences. GREAT STORY.