Johns Hopkins University women's basketball coach Nancy Funk has been coaching for 30 years and said few players have impressed her more than Kristin Phillips, a Tower Hill graduate.
It's not just that Phillips, a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward, has improved significantly in the second half of this season, especially as a rebounder. Funk said her value to the team goes beyond the court.
"Kristin is one of the most quality individuals I have coached," said Funk, who has 501 career wins, 375 at Johns Hopkins. "She has tremendous integrity, is team-oriented and gives you every ounce of energy she has in every game and practice."
Phillips, a second-team All-State player in 2005, started just four games but emerged as the team's top reserve. She averaged 8.5 points a game, fourth on the team, and 7.7 rebounds a game, third on the team. The Blue Jays finished 14-9 overall, 12-6 in the Centennial Conference. They were part of a four-way tie for third place but fell short of the five-team playoffs due to a tiebreaker.
Phillips pulled down a Hopkins record 13 offensive rebounds in a January win at Swarthmore. In a 30-point win over Haverford on Feb. 3, she had a game-high 18 points and nine rebounds.
"I really didn't know I had that many rebounds or even think about it until Megan [assistant sports information director Megan O'Brien] looked it up for me," Phillips said of her record performance.
"We have three, four players in the post rotation, and our coach tells us to hit the boards hard. [Senior] Julie Miller and [junior] Andrea Dodrill helped me so much. I have the most fun playing with them."
Funk said the 13 offensive rebounds showed Phillips' determination.
"Kristin said she had so many because she had to rebound many of her own misses," Funk said. "Kristin has a lot of mobility and really good hands. Another thing she does well is tip the ball and keep it alive. She's so smart in there and knows how and when to get good position."
Phillips said she worked hard to become a more assertive rebounder this season.
"I tried to be more aggressive and go up with two hands for the ball," Phillips said. "I get position before the ball goes up. I seem to have a nose for the ball. Bix Bush, my coach at Tower Hill, taught me a lot and prepared me for this level. He taught me things like help defense, stressing fundamentals and how big it was to do the little things right."
Funk said the addition of Kristen Snell to coach the post players made a big difference for Phillips.
Phillips showed potential last season, but sustained a stress fracture in her right foot late in the year that put her a little behind at the start of this season.
"She was a definitely a little tentative until she got inside and started to mix it up," Funk said. "She's solid now down in the block. She hit the weight room in the offseason. Her strength has a lot to do with her strong play inside."
Said Phillips: "This year, I was stronger and I felt good. I wanted to play with confidence and keep my composure."
Phillips said a strong family support system is a key component in her success at Johns Hopkins.
"I want to thank my parents, [Leslie and Paul] and my sister, Callye, who is a sophomore at Tower Hill," Phillips said. "My dad comes to every game, and my sister and mom came as often as they can. I appreciate their support. It helped me so much."
Funk said she is determined to get her team back on track next season and expects Phillips to play a major role. The Blue Jays have won 20 games 10 times and made eight trips to the NCAA Division III tournament under Funk.
"I look for her to step up and play a bigger leadership-type role," Funk said. "We knew a lot about her and recruited her in high school. She's also an outstanding student. We certainly won at both ends with Kristin. Like I said, she's quality all the way."Contact Jack Ireland at 324-2808 or email@example.com