Mt. Hebron alum Mallon returns a hero Former star a hit at basketball camp

July 04, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

Amy Mallon's illustrious basketball career finally has come full circle.

For four years, Mallon dazzled Mount Hebron High School's fans and opponents with her skills, amazed her coach with her endless supply of desire, and in the process led the school to three consecutive state championships.

Fresh from a terrific college career at the University of Richmond (Va.) and St. Joseph's University (Pa.), Mallon recently returned. On Friday, she was the guest speaker at Hebron coach Dave Greenberg's annual Viking Backers Basketball Camp.

While captivating about 100 elementary and middle-school girls with a talk about the importance of the work ethic on the court and in the classroom, Mallon demonstrated an exercise and shooting workout, then signed autographs in the gym she once ruled.

"It still gives me chills to come back to this gym," said the 5-foot-10 Mallon, looking tanned, trim and ready to dominate another game.

This is where it all began for Mallon. As a fifth-grader some 12 years ago, she took part in the first of many Viking basketball camps. That first camp initiated a journey in which she would become one of the most revered players in a line of great Hebron performers. It also marked the start of her close friendship with Greenberg.

"I've always wanted to come back and speak here," Mallon said. "He [Greenberg] has been a coach and a friend to me. He's one of the best high school coaches in the country, because of the way he teaches fundamentals and the little things. And he taught us life skills. I didn't realize how much he had done for me until after I left. I'm loyal to him."

Greenberg, feeling the nostalgia of the moment, returned the compliment.

"The greatest competitor, male or female, that I've ever coached. She just refused to let people beat her on the court," Greenberg said. "Amy did all of the dirty work. She'd get the key rebound, she'd make the key steal, she'd hit the key shot. Amy took over every big game. She played with the most heavily recruited player we've ever had [Justine Chaverini], but this kid [Mallon] was the heart and soul. It was her team, no question about it."

From her freshman year, Greenberg could tell that Mallon had the marks of greatness. She had the ideal combination of height and quickness, of power and finesse.

Mostly, though, what set Mallon apart was fanatical desire and blue-collar toughness. No loose ball was too meaningless to dive after. She'd go through a brick wall to grab a rebound. So, the opponent has a player with a hot shooting hand? Mallon's in-your-face defense invariably would put a stop to that.

As a four-year starter from 1984 to 1988, she became the school's second-leading scorer with 1,313 points. The Vikings were 91-10 in those years, including an astounding 73-5 run when Mallon led them to state titles as a sophomore, junior and senior. In her senior season, the Vikings went 26-0 -- their only perfect season -- and Mallon set a school record with 315 rebounds.

Mallon was just getting started. She signed a full scholarship with Richmond, and recognition continued. As a freshman, despite coming off the bench, she nearly led the team in rebounds. Over the next two seasons, she made the All-Colonial Athletic Conference team and the All-CAA Tournament Team. She led the team in rebounding as a junior.

Mallon decided to transfer to St. Joe's when Richmond coach Stephanie Gaitley accepted a job there. She wound up her college career last winter with her best season.

In 29 games, Mallon had 19 double-doubles. She led the team in rebounding (10.5), and was second in scoring (17.3) and assists (4.0). She was named to three All-Tournament teams, two All-America teams, the Atlantic 10 Conference First Team and was named the Big Five Most Valuable Player, among schools including St. Joe's, LaSalle, Temple, Penn and Villanova. In four seasons, she never missed a game.

The ride isn't over for Mallon. While working toward a master's degree in health education, she has decided to pursue a professional basketball career in Europe.

She and her agent, Steve Mixx, mailed highlight tapes to coaches throughout the continent earlier this year, and hope to be fielding offers in the next month. An assistant coaching job awaits her at St. Joe's whenever Mallon wants it.

In the meantime, Mallon will continue to speak at basketball camps this summer.

As girls surrounded her in search of obtaining an autograph on Friday, Mallon looked at Greenberg standing across the court and was reminded once more of her roots.

The moment in their coach-player relationship that stands out most in her mind?

"The day he threw me out of a practice when I was a freshman. We were doing a box-out drill, and he said I wasn't working hard enough," she recalled. "Then he made me run some sprints and said I still wasn't working hard enough, so he told me to get out and come back when I was ready to work hard enough. I remember thinking that maybe he's right.

B6 "When I become a coach, I want to coach like him."

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