Sister act has long run in Needham
Katie, Christine, and Maddy Ganser speak fondly of their time in the backyard of their Needham home, playing games of one-on-one, and sharing their triumphs and frustrations as high school and college basketball players.
All three were coached at various youth levels by their mother, Connie Crowley Ganser, a former player at St. Columbkille’s High in Brighton who founded Needham’s Metrowest Basketball League entry seven years ago.
Katie, a sophomore at Merrimack College in North Andover, and Christine, a freshman at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, were standout players at Needham High for coach Kim Benzan. Their younger sister, Maddy, is the starting point guard for the Rockets this season as a sophomore.
“They’re totally unselfish players who never ask how many points they’ve scored,’’ said Benzan, who played the point for Bill Gibbons at Holy Cross. “They just want to win basketball games, and they are committed and dedicated in achieving their goals. I’ve been tough on them at times to get them there, but none of them ever complained.’’
Christine, a 6-foot-1 forward, was the Bay State Conference’s Player of the Year last season and a member of the Globe’s Super Team. Katie, a 6-foot- 1 guard/forward, was a two-time conference all-star at Needham High.
“I’d love to be playing with Christine again in college, but we felt it was time to establish our own identities. We’re best friends and we talk every day,’’ said Katie, a two-time captain at Needham. “As teammates, Christine was more of the power player and I was more of a shooter, passer, and creator. Both of us get back to see Maddy play as much as we can.
“All three of us still have fun playing in the backyard. We’ll play one-on-one until someone starts winning and the others start losing, usually with a lot of banter thrown in. We’re all so close and supportive of each other. I don’t like to see either of my sisters lose, or have to get over an injury.’’
Merrimack head coach Helen Williams describes Katie as “a great player with a high basketball IQ. She works very hard in season and in the offseason, which has helped her improve and will make her a key contributor to our program.’’
Gibbons, meanwhile, said the more he saw Christine play in high school, “the more she intrigued me. Kim raved about her. We use her coming off the bench, and she’s our best rebounder and definitely a pleasant surprise for us. What’s really neat is seeing her sisters and their family come to her games.’’
For Connie and her husband, Allen, keeping up with the busy schedules of their three daughters requires a great deal of time driving to gyms across the region. Text messages are always flowing with updates.
“Two weeks ago, our kids played eight games and we were able to get to five of them,’’ said Connie, who teamed up with her older sister, Kathy, on the basketball team at St. Columbkille’s.
“I loved the game as much now as I did then,’’ said Connie, who got Christine and Katie started in the Needham youth basketball program when they were in kindergarten and first grade. “I feel passionate about youth sports, and coaching in Needham is a way to give back to a town that has given so much to the girls.’’
Christine had the opportunity to play on the Needham varsity with both of her sisters.
“We made the South sectional finals two years ago when Katie was my teammate,’’ said Christine. “We had to beat Newton South in overtime and I remember getting a hoop to put us up by a point and Katie hitting a big 3-pointer in overtime.
“And last year it was fun to watch and help Maddy during her freshman season. It’s great to be seeing Maddy emerge as a leader this season, and being able to play with both my sisters has been the highlight of my basketball career.
“We also have the greatest mom ever. When she coached us she stressed the fundamentals — shooting, passing, and dribbling. She built the foundation for us.’’
Their mother comes from quite the basketball family.
One of Connie’s cousins had three sons play Division 1 college basketball: Bill and Mickey Curley at Boston College, and Matt at Boston University. Another cousin, Frank Powell, played at Holy Cross. Connie’s sister, Kathy, had twin sons, Steve and Mike Zieja, who led Hopkins Academy in Hadley to the state Division 3 final in 1999, and went on to play at Amherst and Saint Anselm colleges, respectively.
Maddy Ganser said she is proud to have her two older sisters return home to watch her play for the Rockets.
Benzan said Maddy “has really turned the corner this season, but I have just one regret . . . boy, would I like to have Christine and Maddy together for one more year.’’
Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.