NEWARK – Karen Conlin remembers playing basketball for the Ursuline Academy in the early 1970s in a uniform better suited to the classroom than the gymnasium. She described it essentially as a sweater, with her white button-down school shirt underneath. Oh, and the belt. I can’t forget the belt.
“Most of the time when our coach called a time out, it wasn’t because we had a defensive strategy to review. It was because we had to go chase a belt that had fallen in half court, ”Conlin said Nov. 23 during a dinner at the Embassy Suites in Newark.
Conlin was speaking upon his induction into the Delaware Basketball Hall of Fame. She was one of three basketball personalities with Catholic school roots to honor.
She said basketball had been “the center of her life,” from her playing days, transporting her daughters to and from practices, to traveling with friends to watch the NCAA tournament. She has marveled at the changes in the game since her days at the Ursulines under the tutelage of longtime Raiders coach Laura Capodanno.
“Women’s basketball has come a long, long way in the five decades since I’ve played,” she said. “You just have to look at the skills and strength of the women who play today. Watch the crowds that show up for these games. And look at the pro league which now allows young girls to dream of becoming professional basketball players. “
She had hoped to meet one of the other inductees, Khadijah Rushdan, a 2007 St. Elizabeth High School graduate, who was unable to attend. Rushdan played for the Vikings at a time when high school girls’ basketball was gaining the attention of sports fans across the state of Delaware.
“The clashes she played with Elena (Delle Donne, Ursuline class of 2008) were unprecedented. And we don’t need last names for either. We know who we are talking about, ”she said. “It’s interesting to think that these two superstar high school basketball players played for little Catholic schools three miles apart and became stellar varsity basketball and international basketball players, but it all started. here in Delaware. “
Conlin had many people to thank for his success, including his late parents and three younger brothers. In addition to Capodanno, she cited the late Helen Doherty, a 1954 Ursuline graduate who played several sports and founded the Ursuline basketball program; and Mary Ann Hitchens, longtime coach and athletics administrator at the University of Delaware.
She also thanked her teammates, “many of whom are still my best friends today”.
In a post-induction interview, Conlin described his time with the Ursulines as “the best four years of my life. I tell everyone I meet.
She said she had the option of playing at a girls-only school, where there was no competition for attention or court time with a boys’ program.
“In many ways the education of the Ursulines has been a very stimulating time for me. I thank the teachers and in particular Ms. Capodanno for instilling in me the confidence to be the best in whatever I have chosen to be, ”she said.
Conlin’s excellence in basketball continued at the University of Delaware, where she played for Hitchens. She set a Blue Hens record of 4.9 assists per game and became the program’s second-highest scorer. The Blue Hens have competed in four AIAW tournaments while she was there. She also played softball.
After graduating, she received a master’s degree in plant pathology from the University of Georgia and worked in Cleveland, Ohio, as a research biologist. She attended Ohio State University dental school in the mid-1980s and returned to Delaware. She continues to practice dentistry in North Wilmington.
The other two inductees with Catholic school connections include the aforementioned Rushdan, who was the first athlete in Delaware history to be named to the All-State First Team five times. She is also a three-time female basketball player of the year. She graduated as the state’s all-time top scorer with 2,464 points and was an all-American McDonald’s and Parade star. St. Elizabeth played four state championship games in her five college seasons, winning in 2007.
She attended Rutgers University, where she was part of the All-Big East First Team and placed 21st in career scoring, seventh in assists and third in free throws. She was 15 years olde overall selection in the 2012 WNBA Draft and spent a season playing abroad in Israel. She returned to Wilmington as an assistant coach at St. Elizabeth and is now in her fourth season as an assistant coach at Division I University of North Florida.
The other inductee is Will Sheridan, who attended and played basketball at St. Peter Cathedral School in Wilmington. Sheridan, the son of two Wilmington cops, was drafted twice in all-states at Sanford School, averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks per game. He was the State Player of the Year in 2002, when the Warriors won the State Championship, and he was a member of the First Team of the Decade.
Sheridan played for Jay Wright at Villanova University, where he was the top rebounder for the 2006 Big East champions. He was a starter for three years for the Wildcats and ranks 23rde in rebounding Wildcats history, 35e in interceptions and eighth in blocks. Sheridan lives and works in Delaware.