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Among Stars, Tubridy Consistently Shines

By Ryan M. Donovan, Contributing Writer

Ask Scottie Pippen, Vivian Vance, or Samwise Gamgee the same question and you’ll likely get the same answer: it’s not always easy playing second fiddle to an icon.

As Americans we want to Be Like Mike, we Love Lucy, and we make Frodo the Lord of the Oscars—but we tend to push to the periphery the supporting cast who put our stars in orbit.

Harvard women’s basketball co-captain Tricia Tubridy is such a player. Often lost among the big names and big games of Hana Peljto and Reka Cserny, Tubridy has quietly but consistently contributed to the Crimson’s cause during a prolonged period of dominance that has included two Ivy League titles and a 26-game Ancient Eight win streak.

Despite the lack of attention, Tubridy has handled her role on the team well.

“It can be frustrating sometimes. Everyone wants to score and everyone wants to be the one who goes out and gets 25 points a game,” says Tubridy. “But whenever you get to play with someone for four years, you start to learn how they like to play, and you adjust your game to each other. Over time it really becomes a lot of fun to play together.”

Crimson coach Kathy Delaney-Smith says Tubridy has been instrumental in the success of the women’s hoops program over the last four years.

“Her strength for four years has been her humbleness and her willingness to accept what she needed to do for the team,” Delaney-Smith says.

Such accolades may not always make the headlines, but contribute just as much to winning league titles as do points per game or blocked shots.

THE PRIDE OF THE CRIMSON

“When you’re younger you don’t dream of being the consistent player, you dream of being the star player.”

Ironic words from Tubridy, as they exactly describe the kind of consistency that has come to define her career. Among history’s overlooked heroes, perhaps there is a better analogy to be drawn. One thinks of the “Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig, who toiled for many years in the shadow of Babe Ruth before leaving his own indelible mark in the game by setting a consecutive games played streak that wouldn’t be broken for nearly half a century.

Tubridy’s stretch with the Crimson has been no less remarkable. As a freshman she played in every game and even started 10, a feat made all the more impressive by Delaney-Smith’s usual practice of keeping first-year’s minutes to a minimum. Despite her youth, the coach felt Tubridy possessed certain talents that she couldn’t afford to waste.

“She brought a level of poise to the team at a time when we really needed that,” Delaney-Smith says, “and when we made the decision to shift her into the starting line-up, I felt like it was a really positive addition.”

Over the next three years Tubridy became a permanent resident of the Crimson’s starting five. In her sophomore season, she started 27-28 contests, and as a junior or senior she has yet to miss a start.

Delaney-Smith believes Tubridy’s durability can be directly attributed to her no-nonsense attitude and work ethic.

“She’s just a really tough kid. If she has injuries you never know about it. She’s just one of the tougher players that I ever coached—no issues, it’s all just about playing the game.”

But while her playing time remained a constant, Tubridy was forced to make some adjustments to her game in order to accommodate the burgeoning success of Peljto and Cserny.

“I just thank God Reka is a third-year because it gave me a chance to get my career started,” Tubridy says. “I used to be a much bigger offensive force than I am now. When Reka came in the changes flowed naturally. I had to become more of a perimeter player. Kathy never sat me down and says ‘you’re not going to get as many shots,’ but it was an easy transition while we were winning.”

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

It’s refreshing to see an athlete as humble as Tubridy, but despite her deferential nature her career statistics make a case for a standout who has been far more than just a role player on a dominant Crimson squad.

For starters, Tubridy is the only women’s hoopster in Harvard’s history to notch a triple-double. The feat came last season in a matchup with Brown. But to hear Tubridy tell the story, it seems like just another day at the gym.

“All the points came in the first five minutes,” Tubridy recalls, “and I know the offenses well so the assists come easy. On this team I see the court really well, and it’s pretty easy to tell when people are going to cut and where they are going to be. And I just love to rebound, especially on offense.”

Any player would love to rebound if she did it as well as Tubridy. Despite limited action down low, she averages 5.3 boards this season, and was second on the team with 7.2 during her junior campaign.

In many ways, though, Tricia Tubridy has been a surprise to the coaches who recruited her. Changing positions in Division I is no small task, but Tubridy handled the transition with relative ease.

“I was quite surprised that she became such an accurate shooter, and that was definitely not in the scouting report coming out of high school,” notes Delaney-Smith.

The coaches knew little of Tubridy’s shooting touch for good reason.

“I had never even hit a three in my high school career,” Tubridy laughs. “But I came in and the coaches says ‘All of our guards shoot threes, so start shooting.’ So I took some extra shoot-arounds and worked on it and figured out that I really liked to do it.”

Liked it, and excelled at it. As a junior, her 38.2 percent shooting from behind the arc was good for fourth in the Ivies, and although her percentage has dipped to around 30 percent this season, Tubridy remains a formidable threat from the outside.

FOR LOVE OF THE GAME

So what will Tubridy leave behind as her final collegiate season comes to a close—besides of course X rebounds, Y points and Z assists?

Who better to ask than Tricia herself:

“I think they’ll remember my rebounding and my communication, but beyond that I have a lot of fun playing and I try to let my teammates know. I just enjoy every minute of it and I think that’s something that you want to remind people of,” Tubridy says.

“We’re here for us—there’s no scholarship, no reason to go to practice everyday except love of the game.”

Her coach agrees, but of course, says the things that Tubridy won’t.

“The fact that she works so hard to be an offensive rebounder even when she doesn’t have the height to do it is a statement about what a blue-collar worker she is,” says Delaney Smith.

“I’m going to miss Tricia as a basketball player and as a person. Some players’ moods go up and down, but not Tricia. You never know when she’s having a bad day, she’s just so constant,” Delany-Smith adds.

“She’s a coach on the floor, and she’s the most verbal of all my players and has done that for four years. She knows the game so well that she has valuable insight to share with the team.”

The icons have their place in the record books. For the rest of us, we can look to the consistency of Tricia Tubridy, knowing that the same work-ethic and adaptability that are available to all of us are what makes her a star.

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Women's Basketball