Feb. 19, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin
NCAA.com

Dowling College’s Christie Marrone has been through a lot in the last five years, but nothing has been able to diminish the passion she has for the sport of basketball.

The native of Brooklyn, N.Y., began her roller coaster career on a high note as she earned the team’s Rookie of the Year award as a freshman at Virginia Tech while helping the Hokies to an NCAA Tournament bid in 2005.  When the season ended, however, Marrone’s father Tony became ill and she had to make some difficult choices.

“My dad got sick, and I decided I wanted to be closer to home,” said Marrone.  “Blacksburg was 11 hours from home and it was difficult being away from him for so long.”

Marrone had stayed in contact with then-University of Maryland players Laura Harper and Crystal Langhorne after being teammates at the 2003 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival, and talked to them about her situation.

“When they heard I wanted to transfer, they said ‘why not Maryland?’” said Marrone.  “It was only three hours from home and my dad would be able to attend some games.”

Because of transfer rules, Marrone had to sit out the entire season in her first year at Maryland, but despite that frustration, she had an once-in-a-lifetime experience as the Terrapins won the 2006 NCAA Division I Championship. 

“The first year was tough not being able to play in games and making it count, but I practiced every day with the team and was 100 percent part of that team,” said Marrone.  “When we won the national championship that was huge for me and they made me feel like I was a part of that.”

The next year, Marrone was able to contribute to the squad, averaging 11 minutes in 25 games played, but a stress fracture in March cut her season short and caused her to sit out last season as well.  Despite battling constant injuries, Marrone remained a solid student, and graduated from Maryland last spring with a degree in Criminology. 

“The experience there was unforgettable, and it’s something I can’t even put into words,” said Marrone.  “I learned so much and met some great people.  Our coach was one of the best in the country and I was affiliated with a great university.”

Although her undergraduate work was finished, she was not necessary done with her basketball career.  After discussing her options with the Maryland coaching staff, Marrone received clearance to transfer once again to pursue other academic and athletic opportunities. 

And then she reconnected with Joe Pellicane, who recruited Marrone in high school when he was an assistant coach for St. John’s University.  The two – with the common bond of Brooklyn and basketball -- had kept in touch over the years. 

Pellicane is now the head coach at Division II’s Dowling College in Oakdale, Long Island, about an hour from Marrone’s home.  He welcomed the chance to finally coach Marrone, and offered her a scholarship to complete her basketball eligibility.  It was turned out to be a great situation for both Marrone and the team, which posted an 18-6 record this season after a dismal 9-17 mark last year.

“She brings not only her skill level on the court, but a genuine love for the sport that is contagious,” said Pellicane.  “The kids on our team know what she’s gone through, and know that someone who does not have that great passion would not be here.  They would have gotten their degree and moved forward with their life.” 

Marrone earned a starting position on the Dowling squad, and is contributing 13.9 points per game, which ranks second on the team.  She has been on quite a tear recently, leading the Golden Lions in scoring in five of their last eight games, and contributed 25 points to the team’s win over league-leading Molloy in an East Coast Conference game on Feb. 18.  The Golden Lions are in third place in the conference behind co-leaders Molloy and Queens (N.Y.).

“Just being on the court and being able to help my team out in any way possible is what I want to do,” said Marrone.  “I love the game of basketball and I love making my teammates better.  If that’s scoring 30 points or putting up 15 assists, whatever it takes for our team to win is what I want to do.”

Marrone, who says the difference between Division I and Division II is just a number, is hoping the team’s recent success will give them the confidence for a long postseason run. 

“I have a lot of faith in our team and a great worth ethic,” said Marrone.  “It’s the same work ethic we had when I was at Maryland.  I think we’re capable of doing big things, and we just need to put our minds to it.”

Pellicane is not only proud of Marrone’s contributions on the court, but for what she demonstrates to the team on a daily basis.

“Here’s a young lady who is doing well in graduate school academically, and has a great passion for her sport,” said Pellicane.  “How can you not root for someone like this?  She’s become a terrific role model for every member of our team, including the coaching staff.”