Inside Focus The first year of BC women's basketball's post experiment didn't work. Katie Quandt and Mariella Fasoula aim to change that.

Katie Quandt was a basketball player born in the land of hockey. Unfortunately for the Minnesota native, the ice was never that interesting. Having participated in everything from volleyball to shot put, Quandt purposely avoided hockey, largely because, at 6-foot-3, she reckoned that her figure wouldn’t fit The North Star State’s sport of choice.

Thankfully for KQ, as her high school teammates and coaches called her, you can never be too tall for basketball. She has graced the court ever since her parents decided to sign her up for house-league play in second grade, and even then, she was much taller than most of her peers.

Quandt’s height pushed her toward shootaround play at the age of 8. Yet, she often found herself grappling with what her stature would mean.

“Sometimes I felt like, ‘Why am I taller than everybody else?’, and it kind of sucked,” Quandt said. “But it’s also cool, because it makes you different.”

Just as when she rejected hockey, Quandt is known to be different, on and off the court. After all, the Boston College center is one of only two women’s basketball players in Lakeville South High School’s history to play in Division I. Angie Iverson-Ohnstad, Lakeville South’s head coach, saw Quandt mature throughout her final three years of high school. Although she graduated in 2014, Quandt, the school’s all-time leader in blocks, remains a role model for younger players in the basketball program.

Without purely relying on her own play, Quandt piloted her team to success. Complementary to her skill, KQ’s care for her team facilitated a winning atmosphere.

During her senior year, Quandt led Lakeville South to the section semifinals in postseason play—farther than Iverson-Ohnstad had ever taken the team. She towered over most of the opposing centers and power forwards, enabling her to establish a scoring and defensive presence. Iverson-Ohnstad explained that, as long as Quandt was on the court, the team had more flexibility with its play. If all else failed, KQ, was there. In fact, the entire game plan revolved around her.

“Our goal on offense was: KQ needs to touch the ball at least once, every half court possession,” Iverson-Ohnstad said.

I know I’m not the fastest on the team or the strongest, but I’ll always try my best to get better every day. Katie Quandt

But in college, Quandt was no longer taller than everybody else. And, she was joining a perimeter-oriented team that was unfamiliar with consistently attacking the defense inside the paint. Once a double-digit scorer in high school, Quandt’s production has been limited to 4-to-5 points per game at BC.

Regardless, for last year’s Eagles Coaches Award recipient, statistics are trivial. Quandt is completely invested in the team’s needs. If that means distributing the ball, focusing on her defensive play, or just looking out for her teammates on a personal level, she’s all in. This mindset has consistently defined KQ, even when she was Lakeville South’s primary scorer.

“She’s a mother hen—she would always worry about everybody and she wanted to make sure that everybody felt good,” Iverson-Ohnstad said.

Even so, KQ is relatively reserved and leads by example. Whether it’s taking care of Iverson-Ohnstad’s bleacher-climbing daughters in the middle of practice or leading a drill, Quandt shows her teammates how to conduct themselves as people and as players.

As a freshman, fellow center Mariella Fasoula viewed Quandt as an excellent mentor. Fasoula cited KQ’s admirable effort on the court and her willingness to help her adjust to the team’s practice routines.

Not everything she learned in high school helped her out. While she entered BC with leadership qualities and a high basketball IQ, she lacked the fitness level required for ACC play.

Incapable of doing a situp, Quandt immediately faced the harsh reality of NCAA expectations. Rather than surrendering to the pain, like many transitioning college athletes, she kept grinding. Her efforts were seen time and time again during practice. Even if she already knew she was bound to finish last in her sprint line, Quandt would run as hard as she could, at times crashing into the wall of Power Gym.

“I swear her first couple weight room experiences might have been the most harrowing of her whole life, and she never quit,” head coach Erik Johnson said.

Quandt was making a statement, not with her words, but her actions. To compensate for a lack of gifted athleticism, she relies on her work ethic.  

“I know I’m not the fastest on the team or the strongest, but I’ll always try my best to get better every day,” Quandt said.

Offense can come instinctively. But defensive skill is measured by the hours spent working on your craft. Quandt values the art of protecting the basket—it’s where her self-discipline shines. Despite contributing little on the scoring front, KQ proved to be one of the most important Eagles on the roster. She was a symbol for what was to come.

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In Johnson’s mind, Quandt was the foundation of BC’s transformation—she was the Eagles’ first step toward becoming bigger on the inside. The next part of the equation: Fasoula.

Aside from sharing the same position, Fasoula and Quandt are as different as two players can be. Fasoula, a Greek native and daughter of former NBA player and FIBA Hall of Famer Panagiotis Fasoulas, has grown up with an innate knack for putting the ball in the basket.

Point guard Stephanie Jones marvels at Fasoula’s polished play and demeanor. As a floor general, Jones has the best seat in the house when it comes to watching No. 34 work in the paint.

Especially famous for her finesse around the rim, she is most notable for her ice-cream scoop, something she has been mastering since her senior year of high school. Fasoula reverse spins toward the basket and dishes the ball into the net. A vast majority of her uncoachable moves were developed away from the States.

Johnson observed that international players often come to the United States more game-ready than American-born players. Having already played for the Greek national team, Fasoula didn’t have to make the dramatic adjustments that college basketball demands from high school stars like Quandt. Still, Fasoula outperformed Johnson’s immediate expectations. He knew she’d be good eventually, but he had no idea how dominant she would be from the start.

Once Fasoula scored 23 points and hauled in nine rebounds in BC’s road victory over Purdue, seven games into the 2015-16 season, Johnson understood what he had on his hands. As the runner-up for ACC Rookie of the Year, Fasoula averaged 15.4 points per game against ranked opponents. She effectively established a tag-team scoring threat with 3-point specialist Kelly Hughes.

Fasoula is a gifted inside scorer who also has a mid-range game comparable to Hughes’s.

“You don’t see kids who shoot the ball like that,” Johnson said.

But as talented as Fasoula is, she didn’t start showing flashes of the kind of player she is today until her high school years. As a result, the beginning of her journey was riddled with adversity. On occasion, coaches advised her parents to move her away from the sport and ignored her in practice. Even now, she uses these memories as motivation.

Fasoula no longer has to worry about being overlooked. Johnson sees her, now paired with Quandt, as the face of this Eagles team.

That the Quandt-Fasoula duo is composed of two starkly dissimilar players may raise questions for some. But in Johnson’s mind, it is the perfect mix.

“You don’t have to have a homogeneous group of individuals,” Johnson said. “I love that they have very different approaches.”

Last year, in their first season together, Quandt and Fasoula split time at the five. Fasoula put up bigger numbers than her older teammate. Yet tensions never flared. Jones sums up their chemistry succinctly: “They’re homies.”

As far as the scoring distribution goes, the two couldn’t care less—that’s just the Eagle way.

Defensively, we’re going to have two towers on the inside. Erik Johnson

“I want five unselfish scorers,” Johnson said. “I want five players, who all can score, but they don’t care who scores. And the two women that you’re talking about, Katie and Mariella, they’re great with that. Mariella’s not scoring because it makes her feel good. She’s scoring because we need her to score. And that’s what she can do best for the team.”

The addition of Fasoula was a step toward producing a dominant inside-out offense. But without a true power forward, Johnson had to improvise all of this past season. He took Ellen Awobajo and Emilee Daley, both of whom are natural guards, and played them at the four. Effectively, Quandt and Fasoula stood as the only bigs on the court for the Eagles.

Now, with incoming power forwards Emma Guy and Georgia Pineau, who stand at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-1, respectively, BC will finally feature a balanced interior. Not to mention that Shannon Ryan, who is listed at a team-tallest 6-foot-5, will join Quandt and Fasoula at the center position. Ryan may not earn too many minutes this year, but the fact that she is on the roster shows Johnson’s commitment to this offensive philosophy. This increased depth on the bench will vastly help.

Quandt and Fasoula spent almost all of their time in the paint this past season. But with the incorporation of Guy and Pineau, the centers will be rotating more often in the half-court offense. Occasionally, they will even have the opportunity to pull up from 12 or 15 feet out.

Instead of solely relying on Quandt and Fasoula for inside production, BC will always have a power forward-center tandem on the court that has the size to compete with any interior in the ACC. Previously, the Eagles only played one traditional “big man” on the court at a time, which was a disadvantage when it came to boxing out defenders on the glass. With many possible power forward-center combinations at Johnson’s disposal, BC will have a more commanding existence in the hole.

“Defensively, we’re going to have two towers on the inside,” Jones said.

Last year, the Eagles won 12 of their 13 non conference games. But when they hit ACC play, they dropped several close contests, including five that were decided by six points or less. Johnson points to one reason why his team could not finish during crunch time: rebounding, a problem he feels will be solved this year.  

“I think we’re going to be that team that is going to be tough to keep off the boards,” Johnson said.

Outworking opposing teams on the boards can lead to fast-break opportunities and second-chance shots. Plus, it allows BC to control the pace of the game. All of the above can determine the fate of a one-possession game.

The fourth-year head coach wants his perimeter players to understand that throwing the ball inside collapses the defense. And he wants his power forwards and centers to realize that, if the defense caves, outside shooters will be left open. Johnson’s offense has bought into this inside-out mentality.

At times, Johnson plans to play Quandt at the four and Fasoula at the five. But, most likely, this will not be the default starting formation. Rather, it will be used only for specific matchups. Still, having the two on the court together is bound to confuse the opposition.

“But having just two big bodies, like who are you going to guard?” Fasoula said. “That gets the ball inside. One of us has to attract some attention. And that doesn’t mean that if we get it, we have to score. If we get it, two big bodies on the court makes everyone as a guard open up, so that gets us shots from our guards and more rotations of the ball.”

BC hasn’t had a winning season in six years. Perhaps it’ll take the Quandt and Fasoula-led interior to see over that statistic. Embracing the identity of the inside-out game, the unlikely duo will attempt to lead the Eagles out of the ACC’s cellar. Sooner or later, we’ll find out if the task is taller than the players pursuing it.

Featured Images by John Quackenbos / BC Athletics

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About Andy Backstrom

Andy is the assistant sports editor for The Heights. He is from the suburbs of Philly, but has been an Arizona Cardinals enthusiast since the first grade. Every so often, he'll replay Super Bowl XLIII on Madden to exact revenge on his father's beloved Steelers. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyHeights.