by Tom Pedulla –
Abby Conklin, a senior point guard at Irvington, possesses a deeper understanding of the essence of her sport than the National Basketball Association’s shot-crazed stars.
“The best thing is making a good pass,” she said. “It’s team ball and not being selfish.”
Conklin’s selflessness goes a long way toward explaining why Irvington captured its sixth state championship last season, routing Section 5 representative Midlakes, 71-38, in the Class B title game at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y. The Bulldogs finished 29-1.
Her ability to make passes that fellow senior guard Nikki May describes as “insane” goes a long way toward explaining why she is looking forward to a Division 1 college career. She has signed a letter of intent to play for Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack, N.J.
“She knows exactly where to pass the ball, when to pass it,” May said.
When junior center Grace Thybulle was asked whether Irvington could have won it all in 2019 without Conklin, she replied, “Definitely not. She was the catalyst to our success.”
Gina Maher, the school’s legendary coach, knew early that Conklin had the potential to develop into a special player. She kept her on the varsity as a freshman and watched her grow through lessons taught by the coaching staff and also by girls in the upper classes.
“She just keeps getting stronger and stronger. She works really hard at the game,” Maher said. “She loves basketball and the whole idea of making herself better.”
Conklin dreamed of playing for Maher when she was growing up in Irvington. It was everything she hoped for – and more.
“She’s a second mother to me,” she said of Maher. “She always seems to have answers. She’s always there for you.
“If I text her, she’ll respond a second later. If I have a question, she’ll give me a call. She’s always been there. To play under her all four years, I don’t have words for it,” Conklin added.
Conklin embodies the kind of player Maher seeks to develop with her ability to lift the games of her teammates. She sees the court extremely well and has a knack for anticipating the action. She knows where each teammate needs to receive the ball on the offensive end to be most effective.
“She’s so dedicated to the game and to the team,” May said. “Being next to her and seeing her grow for four years has just been awesome. She’s amazing.”
Teammates know what they can expect from Conklin game after game.
“She’s always been so consistent and steady. She always just performs,” Thybulle said. “She’s a great leader on the floor because she is able to lead by example and keep the nerves down.”
Conklin’s makeup is close to ideal.
“If she misses a shot, she doesn’t let it upset her. She knows the next one is going in,” Maher said. “I think that is why she is so consistent. She doesn’t let it get into her head.”
Conklin was an All-League and All-Section performer as a junior. She showed the way with the state title on the line. She netted a game-high 20 points, including five three-pointers, to go with five steals, four assists and three rebounds.
As Conklin winds down her high school career, it appears unlikely that her team can repeat. The graduation of three seniors, coupled with a spate of injuries, has been hard to overcome.
Whatever the outcome, Conklin earned a state championship no one can take away.
“It meant the world,” she said of bringing the trophy back to Irvington.