Anna DeWolfe is averaging 22.1 points per game this season as a sophomore guard at Fordham University. Vinny Dusovic photo/Courtesy of Fordham athletics

Stephanie Gaitley has been coaching college basketball long enough – this is her 36th season overall, with 671 career wins – to know talent when she sees it.

So when the Fordham University coach first saw Anna DeWolfe, then in her freshman year of high school, playing for the Maine Firecrackers AAU team, she made recruiting DeWolfe a high priority. “We offered her (a scholarship) her freshman year,” said Gaitley.

DeWolfe didn’t accept the offer at first, but eventually she did. And everyone is quite happy.

Now a sophomore guard for the Rams, the 5-foot-8 DeWolfe has become one of the nation’s most prolific scorers. She is averaging 22.1 points per game, placing her among the top 20 in NCAA Division I. She is also indefatigable, averaging 37.9 minutes, which ranks eighth in the nation.

Fordham is 11-3, and Gaitley doesn’t hide her appreciation for what DeWolfe is doing.

“I think she’s special,” said Gaitley. “When your team has success, you often ask, ‘What’s the reason for that?’ Obviously, Anna is one of the main reasons.”

DeWolfe leads Forham in scoring, minutes played and steals (19), and she’s second on the team with 44 assists. She has matured into the leader Gaitley hoped she would become after the departure of Bri Cavanaugh, last year’s Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.

Anna DeWolfe has scored more than 20 points 10 times this season, including a career-high 34 against Hofstra on Dec. 18. Vinny Dusovic photo/Courtesy of Fordham athletics

“Absolutely she has,” said Gaitley. “We came into the season asking, ‘OK, who’s going to step up?’ And Anna did. We actually challenged her the first couple of games of the season. At the end of games, we told her that she had to take over. It was new territory for her.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations. I told her the reins are yours and whatever call you want to go to at the end of the game is OK. We talk a lot about those things.”

Taking over games is nothing new for DeWolfe. She did that from the time she stepped on the court at Greely High in Cumberland as a freshman until she graduated in 2019 with 1,948 career points and back-to-back Class A state championships her final two years.

She had a strong freshman season at Fordham, averaging 12.6 points and making the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team. But DeWolfe knew she had to get better and become stronger if she was going to be successful.

So when the coronavirus pandemic shut down all sports last spring and colleges sent students home, she began working out. She lifted weights four times a week in the basement of her parents’ home in Cumberland, working with her trainer via Zoom. She played pick-up games when she could, seeking out other college players such as Emily Esposito, Mackenzie Holmes, Gracie Martin and Brooke Obar.

“I think the biggest thing for me, going from last year to this year, is that I feel I got stronger,” said DeWolfe. “With that comes confidence. And, just having a year under my belt helped. Having gone through everything I did last year, I put what I learned into this year.

“My freshman year, I think I could have done more if I was stronger. I think I held my ground pretty well. But I saw, especially on the defensive end, the need to get stronger and quicker. There’s always room for improvement in every phase of the game.”

Anna DeWolfe won Class A state championships in her final two seasons at Greely High. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

DeWolfe is grateful that Gaitley takes the time to make her better. The two train together often, with Gaitley focusing on something different each day. “It might be specific skills I want her to improve on, or it might be based on how I think the opponent is going to defend her,” said Gaitley.

Whatever it is, DeWolfe has blossomed. “It’s confidence,” said Gaitley. “Now that she kind of has the green light, she says, ‘The coach believes in me.’ That’s big.”

DeWolfe has scored more than 20 points 10 times this season, including a career-high 34 against Hofstra on Dec. 18. She went over 700 points in her Fordham career in a recent 56-53 win over Rhode Island, which was also Gaitley’s 200th win in her 10 seasons at Fordham.

Gaitley believes there’s another reason for DeWolfe’s success: she’s comfortable at Fordham, which is located in New York City in the Bronx. “The team likes each other, we have great chemistry,” said Gaitley.

And DeWolfe has family with her. Older brother Shane, a junior, is a team manager. He participates in practices as a member of the scout team, often guarding his sister.

“Shane gives her the hardest time bringing the ball up, he really challenges her,” said Gaitley. “It definitely makes her better. It’s really a win-win for both of them. Her being here helps him, him being here helps her.”

And not just on the court. They are there for each other off the court as well.

“It gets so competitive between the two of us,” said DeWolfe. “But then we’re off the court, getting food together, It’s really special to have him here.”

DeWolfe and her teammates are just glad to be playing. The Rams have had three games canceled and four postponed because of COVID-19 concerns.

“Having the unknowns this year can be challenging,” she said. “You can prepare the whole week for a game and then something happens and you have no idea who you’re playing. You just have to stay focused and be prepared for whatever challenge is thrown at you.”


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