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JUNIOR COLLEGE WOMENS BASKETBALL

SMOOTH OPERATOR: Valley Christian grad awaits opportunity with William Jessup

Lily Hagerty was a star at VCA; now she awaits her chance at the collegiate level
By: Steven Wilson,
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The Lily Hagerty File 

Games Played: 8

Total Minutes: 44

Field Goal: 5-for-13

FG Percentage: 38.5

3-Point Field Goals: 1-for-3

Free Throws: 7-for-11

Total Points: 18

Q&A:

Favorite Color: Red

Favorite Artist: J. Cole

Apple or Android: Apple

Favorite Movie: American Sniper

Favorite School Subject: English

Favorite Food: Mexican

Facebook or Twitter: Twitter

Favorite Electronic Device: Phone

Favorite Animal: Lion

Arguably one of the best basketball players to ever step on court at Valley Christian Academy, Lily Hagerty has been balling since she was young. 

A guard with a nasty jumper and a deadly drive, Hagerty could be mistaken for a young, white Iverson. Her prowess on the hardwood helped the Lions program earn back-to-back CIF Sac-Joaquin Section titles over the past two seasons as she left one of the greatest basketball legacies at VCA.

“Being able to leave Valley with two section titles under my belt was definitely an accomplishment,” Hagerty admitted. “I got used to winning and I didn’t want to change that habit going into college.”

Although she was scouted by a few local programs, first-year head coach Emilie Blate — a Del Oro High graduate — chased Hagerty with a ferocity and got her to sign with William Jessup University.

“Jessup’s record hasn’t always been the best,” Lily continued, “just with their past history and everything, but (Coach) Em has turned that around and we’re doing pretty well going into league play.”

The Warriors sit at 9-3 overall this season in large part because of Blate’s defensive strategy. The team ranks 34th in NAIA Division I in scoring defense as the team is allowing just 60 points per game. Meanwhile, the team’s offense is ranked 40th at 64 points per game. 

As a true freshman, Hagerty is still trying to comprehend the new system as she adjusts to the collegiate level.

“It’s definitely been a change of pace,” she confessed. “Everyone is good at this level. It’s not like you can just roll into a gym and you’re the best player out there. Everyone can shoot, they can all dribble, so you always have to be on your toes.”

While she may have been the best player on the court at the prep level, when compared to the collegiate level, she is still trying to find her niche.

“Most players at this level earned their scholarship and earned their spot on the team, so they’re taking it seriously, just like you,” she pointed out. “I’m not getting that much playing time right now — not as much as I would like — but it’s college, you have to compete for a spot. 

“We have five starting seniors and a lot of upperclassmen, so fighting for playing time is definitely difficult. But I don’t plan on sitting for too long. I just have to work my way up.”

Hagerty has played in eight games this year, but has tallied just 18 total points. She is known for her ability to slice through a defense like a surgeon, but even Hagerty admits her offensive attack has become much more situational this year. She won’t throw up a contested shot just to prove she belongs on the floor, but she won’t pass up an open jumper either. 

“I’m actually a lot more aggressive on offense,” Hagerty confessed. “In college, you have to go get yours if it’s there. You want to make the right pass, but there are times to be selfish too. That’s something that I’m definitely learning.”

In fact, Hagerty has made it a point this season to improve her defense. With Coach Blate’s emphasis on slowing down opponents, the only way the true freshman will see the floor is if she’s the best defender. 

“I’m constantly learning from my teammates and I’m always watching them to see what I could do better or to see what they’re not doing to learn about what I could do,” Hagerty explained. “So now, when I go into a game, I’m not even thinking about offense. It’s all about not getting beat on defense, because if you get beat then you’ll get pulled.”

Part of her offseason training included a routine that focused on defensive drills, strength and conditioning. She put in two hours a day, three times a week — on top of her shoot-arounds — to hone her defensive skills.

“I wanted to be quicker on my feet and I wanted to be able to react to my opponent much quicker,” Hagerty pointed out. “You don’t want to get beat. You never want to be caught out of place. I actually never want to be put on a mix-tape if someone tries to break my ankles — that’s my biggest fear.”

It was early in 2015 when Hagerty planned to add more muscle to her 5-9 frame. Thanks to a series of workout regimes designed by the strength and conditioning coach at VCA, she did just that.

“I actually worked out with Coach DeFiebre,” she said. “He allowed me to join him all summer and if I wouldn’t have done that I don’t know where I would be now. He prepared me very well for the next level. 

“I think a lot of people enter the collegiate level without knowing the right types of drills to condition for the game. But you end up using your legs for everything — running, shooting, rebounding — so that’s what I focused on and I also strengthened my core.”

Hagerty says her plan helped during the team’s initial workouts. While some of her new teammates were winded, she had enough endurance to outlast them and fall back into her basketball routine.

The Warriors coaching staff noticed the improvements. 

“Lily has been making huge strides in practice everyday,” Blate admitted. “She has a passion for basketball that makes her a natural competitor. With Lily's size and strength at the guard position, she is a force on the boards and attacking the rim. She already has a nice release on her shot so once she develops a quicker release, she will be difficult to guard and a threat from the perimeter.”

Although Hagerty hasn’t seen the court all that often, she has become a standout underclassman for Blate, who has formed a formidable program in a very short time and the turnaround has earned the respect of her colleagues and her players. 

“She’s a lot like me actually,” said Hagerty when asked about her coach. “The first time I met her, she was coaching me at a basketball camp I went to over the summer and I found out that she’s very serious. She likes to have fun, but she’s a competitor and she likes to win. She understands the hard work that goes into this game, and that’s something I can relate to.”

Blate, who helped guide Westmont College to the 2012-2013 NAIA National Championship before a coaching stint at Oregon State, will need that winning drive as the league season draws near. 

“It’s a really tough conference,” Hagerty explained. “Vanguard, Masters and Westmont are all ranked teams. Plus, Westmont is Coach Em’s former team, so that’s going to be a big game. I know she wants to win that game.”

While Blate has the Westmont game circled on the calendar, Hagerty has a different matchup circled — the one between her and her younger sister, Rose, who’s a junior at Oakmont High. 

“They both think they’re the best player in the family,” Lily’s older brother Levi said. “Lily has a little more experience, but Rose has the height on her. They haven’t played one-on-one in a long time, but maybe they should schedule that soon.”

For Lily, there’s no question as to who would come out on top.

“I would win,” Lily said with big laugh. “Hands down, there’s no question.”

There’s no doubt that matchup would be fun to watch, but it probably won’t happen until the offseason. After all, Hagerty is still fighting for a starting spot at William Jessup. 

Follow Steven Wilson on Twitter: @stevenjwilson11 or email him at stevenw@goldcountrymedia.com.